This award provides funding to initiate a master's level graduate program in Marine Sciences and further develop an educational partnership between Savannah State University (SSU), a Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), and Skidaway Insitute of Oceanography (SkIO), an oceanographic research institution. This program will greatly expand the opportunities for minority students to conduct marine research at a graduate level while attending an HBCU. SSU and SkIO have collaborated for the past three years to develop a highly successful program in marine science for undergraduate students. The existing program includes opportunities for SSU undergraduates to complete research internships at SkIO and for SkIO faculty to teach at SSU. Both institutions have benefited greatly from this program, which was initiated with funding from NSF/HRD. In recognition of the growth and success of the undergraduate program, the University System of Georgia (USG) approved a new M.S. degree program in marine science at SSU. USG will provide new faculty lines and funds for construction of a new building in support of this program. This award provides funding to initiate the M.S. program while additional state resources are brought on-line and while funds for graduate students are sought via traditional research awards. The program could provide an important model for successful collaborations that will increase minority participation in science.
Joint funding for this program will be provided by NSF's IGERT program and the Office of Naval Research (ONR).
The intellectual merit of this program lies in the development of a collaborative graduate education program between an HBCU and a major marine science research institution. Such collaboration will be unique to this field and may provide a model for such efforts, both in geosciences and other scientific fields. Two important societal impacts should be realized from this award. First, a unique graduate program in marine sciences will be established and should become institutionalized within five years. Second, if this program is able to attract minority students who either would not have attended graduate school or who would have gone into other fields, it should greatly increase the number of minority students receiving Master's degrees in ocean sciences. The link to the IGERT program strengthens the possibility that ultimately these students may choose to continue in the field of geosciences for a PhD. Since the percentage of minority students who receive Master's degrees in the "physical sciences"* is about 2.8% (NSF Publication #00-327, Table 4-6), and the number of students who receive PhD's in ocean or marine sciences is typically one or two per year (NSF Publication #00-327, Table 4-12), this program could have a very important impact on diversity of ocean sciences graduates within a five to ten year time-frame.