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Released July 31, 2003


HANCOCK COUNTY - Graduates of The University of Southern Mississippi's hydrographic science master's program will put their new knowledge immediately into practice following graduation ceremonies Friday.

The nine graduates of the class of 2003 will disperse in many directions. Four of five naval officers in the class will leave the following week to survey Iraqi-Kuwaiti territorial waters to assist in the delivery of humanitarian aid there.

The Southern Miss Hydrographic Science graduate degree program was established in 1999 to teach the science of charting seas, lakes, rivers and other bodies of water.

Lt. Cmdr. Robert Witzleb said he and his fellow officers are excited at the prospect. "The types of data, coupled with the environment in which it will be collected, certainly represent varsity hydrography," Witzleb said.

"Although I am still a fledgling hydrographer, I feel that the hydro course, and most notably the summer survey portion, have greatly increased my knowledge and my confidence," said Lt. Richard Kennedy.

The summer field project allows students to put into practice all the information absorbed in the classroom. "The (field) project provided an opportunity to learn from your mistakes before heading out to the operational world," Kennedy said.

Capt. Philip G. Renaud, commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) based at Stennis Space Center, said Southern Miss provides the educational foundation that ensures success in the field for the Navy's Fleet Survey Team.

"NAVOCEANO conducts military hydrographic and oceanographic surveys around the world in support of Navy requirements," Renaud said. "These requirements are related to safety of navigation, assured access, freedom of navigation, and warfighting effectiveness. The Southern Miss Hydrographic Science Program provides our operational hydrographers with the essential foundation knowledge necessary to effectively and efficiently perform these Navy surveys."

Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Gilless will also graduate this Friday and will join his NAVOCEANO colleagues headed to the Middle East shortly thereafter.

"I have obviously learned a lot," Gilless said. "But more importantly, I have been introduced to Southern Miss' cream-of-the-crop hydrographers."

Other graduates in the class of 2003 will return home to countries like Peru, Sweden and Tonga.

"We are both returning to Sweden in the middle of August," said Stigbjorn Nilsson, referring to himself and colleague Ulf Olsson, both captains of survey vessels with the Swedish Maritime Administration.

"Both of us will be returning with new knowledge and ideas that will have a large impact on our future work," he said.

The following students are scheduled to graduate Friday at Reed Green Coliseum in Hattiesburg: Lt. Cmdr. James Buchanan (NAVOCEANO); Sub Lt. Siua Fifita (Tonga Defense Service); Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Gilless (NAVOCEANO); Lt. Richard Kennedy (NAVOCEANO); Giovanni Morris (NAVOCEANO); Stigbjorn Nilsson (Swedish Maritime Administration); Ulf Olsson (Swedish Maritime Administration); Lt. Cmdr. Jaime Valdez (Peruvian Navy); and Lt. Cmdr. Robert Witzleb (NAVOCEANO).

The Southern Miss Department of Marine Science is strategically located at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, home to the world's largest population of oceanographers and hydrographers. The department offers both master's and doctoral degrees in marine science and a master's degree in hydrographic science.



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August 18, 2003 5:16 PM