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GenSea: A New STEM Workforce Program Brings Gen Z to the Sea

Wed, 02/02/2022 - 15:46pm | By: Van Arnold

On a GenSea field trip to the Marine Research Center, Tara Skelton demonstrates to engineering students from Moss Point HS the tools emergency responders must choose from to clean up an oil spill at sea. (Photo credit: Heather Richey, School of Ocean Science and Engineering, USM)

On a GenSea field trip to the Marine Research Center, Tara Skelton demonstrates to engineering students from Moss Point HS the tools emergency responders must choose from to clean up an oil spill at sea. (Photo credit: Heather Richey, School of Ocean Science and Engineering, USM)

Mississippi’s coastal corridor remains a vibrant economic driver for the state. A sector dubbed the “Blue Economy” contains the standards like shipbuilding and oil exploration along with newer offshoots such as companies who develop robotic marine exploration tools or renewable energy resources.

Additionally, multiple government agencies — NOAA, NASA, and more — employ highly technical staff in their Mississippi offices.

The job opportunities are growing, but do today’s students know they exist? This is where GenSea comes in. Thanks to the generous support from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation, the Center for Science and Mathematics Education and the School of Ocean Science and Engineering at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) are leading this new partnership.

GenSea professionals are spreading the message about the array of well-paying STEM careers in the Gulf South region along with a pair of new USM programs — Ocean Engineering and Hydrography — that prepare students to walk right into excellent careers after graduation.

“Most people have no idea these emerging fields exist at all, much less that they exist in our back yard. What’s more, USM offers multiple degrees in these fields. On top of that, USM is the only university in the country to offer Hydrography,” shared GenSea Director of Communications & Curriculum Tara Skelton.

GenSea provides interactive field trips for high school students from all over the state free of charge to tour USM’s cutting-edge training and research facilities and engage in hands-on STEM projects. If students are unable to travel, the GenSea teams will visit classes across the region to share information and activities, either virtually or in person.

Events are not limited to the school year. Over the summer, GenSea will host teacher development opportunities to learn about coastal growth and STEM career opportunities with CEU credits. GenSea will also work with USM scientists and industry partners to sponsor paid summer internships for students interested in learning more about these fields.

Dr. Julie Cwikla, Director for both GenSea and the Center for Science and Mathematics Education, noted, “GenSea is opening the world of coastal careers for Mississippi students and teachers. The next decade will see a surge of STEM career opportunities across the coastal counties. We are grateful to the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation and their vision to help prepare the region for economic growth, expansion, and education.”

For more information, visit: https://usm-gensea.org/