LONG BEACH, Miss. (WLOX) - One Mississippi university will put more focus on the Gulf of Mexico with the hopes of expanding a market that’s already quickly growing.
The University of Southern Mississippi will now focus more on the “blue economy” with its Gulf Coast Studies program.
The university will focus on studying sustainable use of Gulf resources and how to better support the blue businesses already here along the Coast, as well as potential businesses that could come in the future.
USM leaders say South Mississippi needs to focus more on research, infrastructure and investments in order to be a big player in the growing industry.
“We’ve been pioneers in a lot of things. The growth of the blue economy over the next decade, going from $380 billion to $3 trillion, I mean, that’s huge. A lot of that is going to be in technological advances," said Dr. Kelly Lucas, the director of USM’s Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center
The focus also gives the university a higher chance to keep young and educated students in Mississippi after they graduate.
USM first began offering classes in Biloxi in 1947 and has since expanded its operations to include multiple campuses, including the Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, the Marine Research Center at the Port of Gulfport; and, the John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County.
It is the only dual-campus university in the state and is significant economic driver across the Coast, bringing more than $115 million each year to the coastal economy, as well as creating and supporting more than 1,200 jobs on the Coast.
The university will continue to put more money and resources into supporting the coastal campuses. The goals of the program, according to USM’s website, is:
- Understanding the Ocean and Coasts – which encompasses ocean and coastal ecosystems, from the coastline to the ocean’s surface to its deepest depths;
- Improving Coastal Resilience – which encompasses sustainable community development in the face of hazardous weather events, shifting climate conditions, and associated social, economic, health, and ecological impacts; and,
- Supporting the Blue Economy – which encompasses the economic conditions and opportunities unique to businesses, industries, and government services that derive economic benefit from ocean and coastal resources.
This work will not only position the Gulf Park Campus to serve as a hub for academic instruction in key fields, but it will also enhance the university’s work to elevate innovation and research across the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Academic programs based on the Coast will be realigned under three academic schools, which will each be led by a faculty director based on the Coast. Those schools will house programs in the fields of business and professional studies, ocean science and engineering, and policy development and humanities, among other areas.
The focus will be on strengthening existing programs that support local, regional, national and international demand, and on the development of innovative new academic programs to meet the evolving needs of the coastal maritime sector.
Examples of key academic program growth areas that will be created or expanded on the Coast include ocean engineering, logistics, hydrography, cybersecurity, policy analysis, and an MBA concentration focused on the Blue Economy, among others.
Academic programs that are currently located in Hattiesburg but are specific to the strategic goal to the Coastal Operations program, such as marine biology, will relocate to the Coast. In addition, some programs that no longer have high demand for in-person instruction on the Coast may be converted to fully online formats, delivered on the Coast in executive or hybrid formats, or relocated to the Hattiesburg campus.
As of now, no program changes will happen until Fall 2021.
To learn more about how USM is “Charting Our Coastal Future,” visit the university’s website.