Majors Added in Marine Sciences, Environmental and Sustainability Sciences

Posted on March 25, 2022
Lance Crawford

Dr. Sean Powers, right, professor and director of the School of Marine and Environmental Sciences, walks the halls of the school's renovated 20,000-square-foot campus facility at its dedication last year. data-lightbox='featured'
Dr. Sean Powers, right, professor and director of the School of Marine and Environmental Sciences, walks the halls of the school's renovated 20,000-square-foot campus facility at its dedication last year.

The Alabama Commission on Higher Education has approved two new undergraduate programs in the School of Marine and Environmental Sciences. South students are now able to pursue bachelor’s degrees in marine sciences and in environmental and sustainability sciences. 

“USA is uniquely positioned geographically and intellectually to help train the next generation of marine and environmental scientists,” said Dr. Sean Powers, director of the School of Marine and Environmental Sciences. “We have a world-renowned faculty of marine scientists and, as the only 4-year public university in Alabama with daily access to the coast and ocean, USA is a natural place for both programs.”

Powers cites growing student demand and interest in marine and environmental sciences as the catalyst for adding the two majors. They are the first offered by the program, which traditionally has focused on graduate education and research. The University also has invested heavily in resources, including new faculty hires and the renovation of the Education Outreach Building on the north side of campus that now houses a teaching auditorium, classrooms and laboratories.

The majors are open to new students and also will be offered to current South students. Academic advisors can work with those students to adjust their course schedules to fit the program.

“When I began at South, I chose marine sciences as a minor,” said Leah Townsend, a junior from Tuscaloosa. “When I found out that a new marine science program was opening for undergraduate students, I immediately knew I wanted to change my major to this program.”  

The bachelor’s degree in marine sciences addresses society’s need for specialized understanding of the marine environment and provides opportunities to explore coastal and ocean environments. It is designed to prepare students for tackling challenges and opportunities presented by the “blue economy,'' which encompasses a broad range of job opportunities related to the marine environment, allowing graduates to pursue careers in government, academic, commercial and industrial settings.

The bachelor's program in environmental science and sustainability addresses the need for a broad understanding of the natural world and its interaction with the demands of human development. A fundamental component of environmental science is its interdisciplinary essence and how this integrative approach can be used to develop mutually beneficial solutions to some of society's most pressing challenges.  

“We have built a tremendous number of partnerships with state, federal, industry and environmental organization to give us undergraduates experiential learning that will prepare them for jobs. Job growth in environmental and sustainability sciences is forecasted to be very high,” Powers said.

Students will have direct access to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, providing a unique educational experience as well as experiential learning opportunities. Nearby natural marine laboratories include the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. 

Tabor Smith, a sophomore from Wetumpka, planned on getting a concentration in marine sciences. New courses in the School of Marine and Environmental Sciences will give him broader options.  

“One of my issues with marine sciences is that I haven't been exactly sure which field of marine sciences I'd want to pursue,” Smith said. “With the new major, I'll be able to take more classes in this field, which I believe will help me narrow down what exactly I want to do.”

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