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New doctoral program will be another milestone for CCU

By Paul Gayes, Ph.D., Director,  Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies

Coastal Carolina University is fast approaching a major institutional milestone. Through the vision and leadership of President DeCenzo, the University Trustees, a highly supportive legislative delegation and many others, Coastal Carolina University is moving forward in developing its first doctoral degree program.

The marine science Ph.D. program will build upon the historic niche that marine science has developed as a signature institutional focus area and upon the research capacity of the University’s Burroughs and Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies. It will also leverage strong collaborations with a range of existing programs on campus as well as with Clemson University, the Savannah River National Laboratory and others working to advance interdisciplinary understanding of our complex coastal system.

The expansion of marine research and education is a natural extension of the growing expertise, research and academic program that have flourished over the years. It is driven by increasing societal need to better understand and manage our coastal natural resources as important drivers of our economy and way of life. The coastal zone exists at the interface of the land, ocean and atmosphere. Each of these subsystems is dynamic and influences the coastal zone through complex interactions. The new program will provide needed focus on these interactions as an integrated system, seeking to better understand and predict the behavior of key resources and drivers. It will also continue Coastal’s long history of providing new scientific understanding of regional and national resource management efforts.

Blurring the lines between basic and applied research and education has long been a hallmark of the marine sciences at Coastal. Alumni often cite this as having been a key to their continued success beyond graduation. Over the last several years, the Center for Marine and Wetland Studies has developed several million dollars of state-of-art instrumentation and computational software and hardware through externally funded research grants. These resources and studies have helped bring the best science available to bear on coastal environmental issues important to the state – steadily expanding access and educational opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students. The Ph.D. program will focus expanded expertise, state-of-art instrumentation and technological applications on pressing natural resource issues. As a result, we will continue to better train the next generation of coastal scientists, who will contribute solutions to technical issues that challenge our region and nation.

More than 50 years ago, the surrounding community came together to establish Coastal Carolina College to help serve and advance this region. Today, Coastal Carolina University is a much larger and more comprehensive institution and truly a positive force enriching the region in many ways. The Coastal Carolina community is again coming together to support the University as it strives to become ever better and more meaningful to our students, the region and the nation in developing its first doctoral degree program.

The final establishment of the doctoral program is dependent on the approval of the program by the S.C. Commission on Higher Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Please check the University websites over the coming year as the new Ph.D. program begins taking shape, and consider making plans to come home to campus to participate in this watershed event for the university.

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