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South Alabama launches School of Marine and Environmental Sciences

The University of South Alabama will begin a new era of coastal education and research with a newly created School of Marine and Environmental Sciences. Plans call for new undergraduate and graduate programs to complement the existing degrees that have been offered by the department of marine sciences.

“We can make a much larger impact by developing younger scientists,” said Dr. Sean Powers, director of the School of Marine and Environmental Sciences. “We can use the draw of the marine world to attract good students to South.”

A proposal for the new school within the College of Arts and Sciences was submitted in the fall and approved on Friday by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

South is the only four-year state university in Alabama that is near the Gulf of Mexico. Many of its marine science faculty members are also senior marine scientists at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, which offers marine programs for 23 public and private colleges.

“It is with great enthusiasm that we announce the establishment of the School of Marine and Environmental Sciences,” said Dr. Andi Kent, interim provost and senior vice president. “The school capitalizes on our strategic location on the Gulf Coast, and allows us to expand opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students in these areas. It will help further our mission to provide exemplary educational opportunities with extraordinary faculty and leading research in the field.”

This fall, the School of Marine and Environmental Sciences will move from the lower level of the Life Sciences Building to the second and third floors of the Education Outreach Building on Clinic Drive, east of the Glenn Sebastian Nature Trail on the north side of campus. There will be 20,000 square feet of space, which will include a teaching auditorium, classrooms and laboratories.

Four professors of environmental science will be hired over the next four years. The School hopes to draw 80 new undergraduate students.

Marine science researchers at South bring in $5 to $7 million a year in new research grants, Powers said. A new school will make that kind of work more prominent on campus. It should help recruiting, too.

“Our faculty does research from Alaska to Antarctica,” said Powers. “We have an international reputation. We want to bring new students to South, students who wouldn’t have come without these programs.”

In addition to the School of Marine and Environmental Sciences, the Alabama Commission on Higher Education approved an interdisciplinary Ph.D.  program in chemical and biomolecular engineering at South.

(Courtesy of the University of South Alabama)