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Released June 24, 2003


HATTIESBURG -- The University of Southern Mississippi has been selected to offer a graduate degree program in geography at NASA's John Stennis Space Center starting this fall. Administered by the Department of Geography, the degree focuses on advanced training and student research in geospatial applications, remote sensing, and geographic information systems (GIS).

The geography department at Southern Miss was selected as the best fit for students at Stennis after several universities in Mississippi and Louisiana presented their programs to the Center's Policy Board on Higher Education.

A 36-hour program, the master's will offer all of its classes at Stennis, where the majority of students are employees there seeking to continue and upgrade their education.

"Southern Miss is providing a one-of-a-kind opportunity for employees at Stennis, as well as for potential students living in southern Mississippi," said Dr. Clifton Dixon, professor and chair of the geography department.

"It is an excellent association when skilled employees can apply their work experience to graduate opportunities. The outcome will result in some of the best graduates in geospatial technologies anywhere in the U.S."

The graduate program will utilize faculty from Southern Miss' geography department, who will be at Stennis teaching, advising students and assisting with graduate research. These types of graduate opportunities in geospatial applications, where private and government agencies link with state institutions, exist in only a few locations in the United States. Because of the proximity between Southern Miss and Stennis, students who participate in this program are given the opportunity to complete a graduate degree while working for some of the most prestigious geospatial contractors. Typical employers include Lockheed Martin, NASA, the Naval Oceanographic Office and Boeing.

Hattiesburg Provost Dr. Tim Hudson said Southern Miss is committed to serving the higher education needs of Stennis. "We want to be a partner in advancing the capacity of that wonderful community of professionals," Hudson said.

He added: "As a geographer myself, I am delighted to see the growing use of contemporary geographical techniques to find solutions for problems and to create new opportunities for economic development."

This program will greatly assist Stennis in becoming a world-class center for remote sensing and GIS applications, said Dr. David Powe, chair of the NASA Stennis Space Center Policy Board on Higher Education. "The Center of Higher Learning and The University of Southern Mississippi have shown great initiative in bringing their master's program in geography to Stennis to meet the needs of our resident agencies," he said.

The collaboration between Southern Miss and Stennis will result not only in graduate degrees, but also in the further extension of sponsored research between the university and contractors at Stennis, as well as with NASA.

"The Center of Higher Learning and our participating universities strive to meet the educational needs of Stennis Space Center," said Dr. Peter Ranelli, director of the Center of Higher Learning. "This new degree program is a perfect example of this. We are very excited about working with Southern Miss to offer such a high-quality program."

The geography degree program meets the spirit of Southern Miss's goals, including economic development and interdisciplinary collaboration. Demand for persons with skills in geospatial technologies is high and will likely continue to grow in the near future. Mississippi is a national leader in technology transfer of geospatial research to the private sector, and the degree program will help strengthen this position. Moreover, geospatial technologies are a cornerstone for innovative and effective regional planning commissions and economic development agencies.

"We believe the opportunities presented by this association, in concert with other programs at Southern Miss that focus on geospatial technologies, such as the Gulf Coast Geospatial Center, places Southern Miss among the premiere research programs in geography with respect to opportunities for receiving education and performing research in remote sensing, GIS and related technologies," said Dr. Jerry Griffith, professor of geography at Southern Miss.

Geography is known for being a broad discipline with important ties to other natural and social sciences. As such, this degree program will foster interdisciplinary research in such areas as biology, ecology, and coastal, hydrographic and marine sciences. This mix of expertise ties into NASA's Earth Science Applications in such areas as coastal, carbon, and water management, as well as agricultural competitiveness, community growth, disaster preparedness, homeland security and ecological health. Southern Miss's Department of Geography is prepared to work with NASA Stennis to meet the educational and research needs in these areas.

For information concerning the program, applicants can contact either Dr. Dixon at the Department of Geography at Southern Miss ( or 601-266-4729) or Mr. Keith Long at Stennis ( or 228-688-7662).


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM