Keeping Up with Demand

Posted on June 7, 2024
Lance Crawford


Responding to a surge in undergraduate enrollment as well as steady gains in its graduate programs, the Stokes School of Marine and Environmental Sciences is expanding to accommodate the growth.

The University of South Alabama held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, June 7, 2024, to celebrate an $8 million, 13,000-square-foot expansion on the first floor in the Educational Outreach Building. The newly renovated facilities, which bring the total space dedicated to the School to more than 32,000 square feet, include additional areas for teaching, research and student study.

“A world-class education requires world-class faculty and facilities,” USA President Jo Bonner said. “The University of South Alabama and the Stokes School of Marine and Environmental Sciences provide our students with both.”

The on-campus facility originally opened in December 2021, with approximately 20,000 square feet for laboratories, classrooms and a teaching auditorium. The undergraduate program began in Fall 2022 with an initial cohort of 57 students, exceeding expectations at the time. This fall, enrollment is projected to reach approximately 250 students.

“It’s exciting to see so many students interested in the marine sciences recognize the unique opportunities offered at the University of South Alabama,” said Dr. Andi Kent, USA executive vice president and provost. “This expansion of the Stokes School of Marine and Environmental Sciences is another example of our commitment to providing our students with the best learning environment possible.” 

The expanded facilities include a state-of-the-art environmental analytical lab for research and student training, capable of conducting a wide range of chemical analyses, including emerging contaminants like pharmaceutical pollutants and “forever chemicals.”

A 600-gallon circular aquarium featuring marine life from the Alabama coastal environment serves as a focal point in the first-floor lobby.

The expansion was funded through an $8 million dollar investment from the University, state agency partners and private donors, including a $2.5 million gift from Dr. Steven and Angelia Stokes and a $2.5 million grant from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act via the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Governor’s office. 

“Our faculty will utilize these new facilities along with the amazing natural laboratory of the Mobile Tensaw River Delta, the Bay, the fertile crescent of the Gulf of Mexico and the facilities at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab to train the next generation of scientists who will solve the most pressing problems facing coastal ecosystems,” said Dr. Sean Powers, director of the Stokes School of Marine and Environmental Sciences. “Simply put, there is no better place to study marine and environmental sciences than the University of South Alabama.”

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