The University of Southern Mississippi is expanding it's campus at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County.
Officials broke ground on what will become a Marine Science Laboratory on Tuesday. The new facility will give students a chance to obtain advanced college degrees in some specialized fields. A ceremonial dig into the earth signaled the official start of construction on USM's new Marine Science Center at Stennis Space Center.
"This is a historic moment for all of us this is the first permanent facility that the State of Mississippi has provided here at Stennis for higher education," USM Interim President Aubrey Lucas said.
The $3 million, 17,000-square-foot Marine Sciences building will house classrooms and laboratories for USM graduate students seeking degrees in Oceanography and Hydrography.
"What we've acquired over the last couple of years in building 1020 has just been wonderful," USM Dean of the Marine Science Jay Grimes said. "It's allowed our faculty and staff and students to have the accommodations that they need in terms of their offices, but it didn't provide the badly needed laboratory space and class room space that we need to conduct our teaching and research."
Hydrographers map the ocean floors so Navy vessels can navigate the sea safely. Many of the students at the marine science center will be naval personnel already working at Stennis who are pursuing advanced degrees.
"Hattiesburg is an awfully nice place a very pleasant place for a campus, but it's a long way away," Navy Capt. Phil Renaud said. "Having this Department of Marine Science here on Stennis Space Center just a few yards from the Naval Oceanographic Office brings so much power to our partnership."
Officials say USM's expansion at Stennis won't stop with the new Marine Science building. Future plans call for an entire marine science complex at Stennis. The new Marine Science building is expected to be ready for students next summer.
By Al Showers