USM Battles Misconception About Its Campuses - - The News for South Mississippi

USM Battles Misconception About Its Campuses

A blue blob began creeping over South Mississippi, overtaking every street, building, and house in its path.

"This allows you to see individual buildings. You can see the individual destruction", said Conrad Johnson, a chief scientist at USM. "Most of all the harbor's completely destroyed."

The blue was actually Katrina's storm surge, as seen through a 3-D virtual reality model. The technology is part of the Visualization Center at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County.

"You may not know you're in flood zone C," said Johnson. "What this allows us to do is actually put a picture up that shows you the buildings, the roads, the streets and how the water can affect you."

The USM research program and others are still going strong, despite misconceptions that some Southern Miss campuses are closed.

"It's disappointing," said USM Provost Dr. Jay Grimes. "It's there and we have to deal with it, Some of the travels I've taken since Katrina, I will hear things like, 'The Gulf Coast Research Lab was destroyed wasn't it?' Well, it isn't destroyed. It's alive. It's well. It's doing research. The facility here at Stennis is alive and well and we're educating students. We're doing research."

Fifty employees currently work at Stennis, and every year, about 600 students sign up for classes. As the work force grows at Stennis, and when the new NASA Shared Services Center opens on the property, USM expects the enrollment to jump.

"We'll not only have increased numbers of students," said Dr. Grimes. "But we'll, down the line, have at least a couple more buildings on this site."

As the campus grows and the programs catch national attention, leaders hope that will put USM back on the map. For now, the USM branch in Long Beach is holding classes in a former Gulfport hospital. The campus will be rebuilt, and the university is looking for land on the Coast to expand.

By: Trang Pham-Bui

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