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Rhinehart Earns USM Service Learning Award

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 09:10am | By: David Tisdale

Kenneth F. Rhinehart, a longtime instructor of environmental science in The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) College of Arts and Sciences, was presented with the USM Center for Community Engagement’s Outstanding Service-Learning Faculty Award for 2018-2019 in May.

Rhinehart works with numerous USM faculty members who dedicate their time to innovative teaching methods that combining service and learning into the University’s curriculum. The Outstanding Service Learning Faculty Award recognizes a USM faculty member who demonstrates teaching excellence through student learning experiences that address critical community needs. 

Rhinehart, who joined the USM faculty in 1991 and has taught more than 2,000 students since, says he believes “A university is to serve the community; and, like studying nature, the best place to start is your backyard.” Employing that philosophy, he and his students have performed thousands of service-learning hours over the years, including a complete tree inventory of the Hattiesburg campus that found it had more than 60 tree species.

Recent work by his classes includes quantifying to precise numbers the health effects, reduction of air pollution, and carbon storage performed by our trees. Another result of the efforts of his students engaged in service-learning activities is the groundwork they laid for USM becoming a Tree Campus USA, an elite distinction presented by the Arbor Day Foundation.

A USM alumnus who earned a master’s degree from its Geology program, Rhinehart is a charter member of the USM Tree Task Force. In 1999, Rhinehart became one of the first faculty members to engage in online instruction at USM. In 2002, he received an award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to compose online environmental science activities used by students around the globe. These activities are published in "Environmental Science Activities for the 21st Century.”

His master’s thesis focuses on the surface geology of Mississippi’s Adams and Wilkinson Counties, which lead to citations in geological journals and the Mississippi Office of Geology book "The Geology of Mississippi." Inspired at an early age through his fascination with the geology of his native Wayne County, Rhinehart continues to enjoy participating in geological activities there, and is currently helping University scholars studying the abundant scientific research interests found in Wayne and Greene Counties.

“This recognition of Ken’s outstanding work as a service-learning faculty member at USM is long overdue,” said Christy Kayser Arrazattee, director of the Center.

“Ken’s steadfast commitment to engaging his students in environmental stewardship outside of the classroom for the past 15 years is a testament to his personal dedication to students, and to the environment.” 

For information about the USM Center for Community Engagement, visit For information about the USM College of Arts and Sciences, visit