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Southern Miss Joins Second Cohort of Gulf Scholars Program

Thu, 10/06/2022 - 03:00pm | By: David Tisdale

Bettering the ecological health of the Gulf of Mexico region through education is the focus of a professor’s project at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Gulf Park that has received the support of a prestigious five-year $450,000 grant from the National Academies Gulf Research Program (GRP). 

“The Gulf Scholars Program provides an opportunity to reach undergraduate students — many of whom have home ties to the Gulf region — and engage them in rigorous education and training on issues that directly impact their own communities,” said Karena Mothershed, senior program manager of the GRP’s Board on Gulf Education and Engagement. “We hope this program inspires students to envision a future in the Gulf region and work to make it an even better place to live, work, and thrive.” 

Dr. Rebecca Powell, an associate professor of English at the Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach, was awarded the grant to establish the Southern Miss Gulf Scholars Program and Certificate, which will be housed in the USM School of Coastal Resilience. The interdisciplinary program will prepare students to address challenges at the intersections of social, environmental, and energy systems to ensure a safer, more resilient, equitable, and sustainable Gulf region.

The centerpiece of the program is the Gulf Impact Project, designed to address sustainability and resilience challenges within the region through coursework, mentoring and faculty development, while also cultivating partnerships with community, industry, and government entities to create and promote student learning opportunities concerning sustainability and resiliency of the Gulf region. 

Southern Miss Gulf Scholars will have opportunities to participate in service-learning, research, fieldwork, alternative service breaks, and community internships, with the bulk of the grant supporting student research, fieldwork, and learning. To achieve this, the program will leverage existing university resources to facilitate research and community-based inquiry projects led by faculty and community partners through curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular pathways. 

Dr. Powell believes the many pieces of the program (curriculum building, pathways, mentoring, events, experiential learning, community partners) will build the capacity of the university, the region, and Gulf Scholars to creatively meet future and present challenges. 

“We want to inspire and prepare undergraduate students to create a more equitable, just, and resilient Gulf of Mexico region through developing inquiry and its service-learning projects built on the foundations of sustainability and interdisciplinary thinking,” Dr. Powell said. “The Southern Miss Gulf Scholars can help create the next generation of leaders, thinkers, and researchers on the Gulf Coast. 

“This program is the first USM Coastal Operations endeavor to truly involve every school of the USM Coastal Operations, and we’re thankful for the opportunity to plan, think, and strategize how we might best serve our students and region.”  

The Southern Miss Gulf Scholars program will begin accepting student applications in Spring 2023.  

Learn more about Dr. Powell and the School of Coastal Resilience at