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USM’s Gulf Scholars Program Sets Students Up for Success

Mon, 09/11/2023 - 12:51pm | By: Gabriela Shinskie

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) provides students with various opportunities to thrive in the blue economy. The Southern Miss Gulf Scholars Program (GSP) does just that, preparing undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds to create a more resilient and sustainable Gulf Coast.

The program launched with seven initial cohorts. To be considered for the program, each student had to be a USM undergraduate, have at least two semesters remaining and have good academic status. Students can choose three different paths within the program called the curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular.

The curriculum pathway includes six hours outside of the Gulf Scholars major and requires 12 hours of class work. The co-curricular pathway includes two extracurricular activities along with six hours of class work. The extra-curricular pathway requires a Gulf Impact Project proposal, journals and two experiences.

Gulf Scholars ProgramDr. Rebecca Powell is an associate professor of English and director of the Gulf Scholars Program at the Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach. Her goal is to give students opportunities through place-based courses that benefit the Gulf Coast.

“The Gulf Scholars Program has a mission to prepare undergraduates to create a better Gulf Coast,” Dr. Powell said. “Our goal is to make a more just, equitable and livable Gulf Coast.”

The GSP provides students who want to live in coastal regions the opportunity to learn from researchers, faculty and staff who are striving to make the area a better place to live.

“We want undergraduates, particularly undergraduates who want to live and stay here on the coast, to start that work,” Dr. Powell continued. “USM is doing so much work to make the Gulf Coast a better place to live.”

Ramona Chambers is a USM senior at Gulf Park and majoring in criminal justice. She applied and was accepted into the Gulf Scholars Program in the spring of 2023. Chambers is enjoying her time in the program and sees it as a major networking opportunity.

“It’s a good program and I want to give back to the community and do more,” said Chambers.

Natalie Santiago is also a USM senior at Gulf Park and has been a part of the program since the spring of 2023, majoring in marine biology. She grew interested in the program after Dr. Powell spoke to her class.

“I’ve really gotten to grow my communications skills,” said Santiago. “This program really offers students to learn and grow as leaders on the Gulf Coast.”

Dr. Powell also encourages USM faculty to incorporate place-based experiential courses around the Gulf to give students hands-on work. Many classes are in business and marine biology but are all gulf centered. Each student is paired with a faculty mentor to provide information on graduation, funding opportunities, work-study programs, research and field work.

“We are also helping them think about the interaction between the environment and its people,” said Powell.

Dr. Jacob Breland, associate vice president for academic affairs in Coastal Operations, is part of the GSP Advisory Student Support.

"The Gulf Scholars program represents an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to helping our students understand issues and address real-world challenges of living in a Gulf zone,” said Dr. Breland. “I commend Dr. Powell for her leadership in this space and look forward to the next opportunities for students that this will lead.”

The GSP is funded by the National Academy of Sciences Gulf Scholars Program. Learn more about the Gulf Scholars Program and how it is creating a sustainable Gulf Coast.