Dr. Bennett's Speeches: Marine Technologies Economic Forum

June 5, 2014

Good morning everyone, and thank you, Chad, for that introduction.  I am pleased to have the opportunity to personally welcome each of you to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast and to The University of Southern Mississippi.  I am confident that today’s session will include meaningful dialogue about research and economic opportunities along the coast, and I thank you for joining us.

The University of Southern Mississippi was founded in 1910 and is a leader in higher education not only in the state of Mississippi and the southern region, but also throughout the country.  We are at the forefront of academic programs and research, specifically related to marine sciences, polymer sciences, music education, and nursing, just to name a few, and we offer more than 140 undergraduate majors and more than 200 graduate degree programs.

Our students engage in undergraduate research that results in real-world solutions to current problems, and they excel in achieving national scholarship recognition.  In fact, last year one of our students was the only Truman Scholar identified within the state of Mississippi, and two other students accounted for two out of three Goldwater Scholarships that were awarded to students at Mississippi universities.  Just a few weeks ago, a student from here on our Gulf Park campus was named as the only 2014 Truman Scholar in the state.

Through our designation as the state of Mississippi’s flagship marine science institution, The University of Southern Mississippi certainly understands the importance of the Gulf coast to our state’s industry partnerships, energy economy, and potential for future growth and development.  Our robust operations along the coast, to include our Gulf Park campus here in Long Beach, our Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, and our Department of Marine Science, housed at the John C. Stennis Space Center, provide us with unique opportunities to impact the coastal region not only as an educational incubator for future scientists and business leaders, but also through our existing economic and industry partnerships that connect our faculty’s cutting-edge research with “real world” needs.

I would like to provide you with a snapshot of all the work we do along the Gulf Coast:

  • More than 300 of our faculty, researchers, and students are based at centers along the Gulf of Mexico associated with our Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, Department of Coastal Sciences, and Department of Marine Science.
  • We are proud to house the state of Mississippi’s RESTORE Research Center of Excellence in our Center for Gulf Studies, where we coordinate collaborations with all four Mississippi research universities to seek solutions to future energy problems with resources found in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • And we are honored to serve as the first Mississippi university to be the primary site for a National Science Foundation  Industry and University Cooperative Research Center in Marine and Ocean Science.  We lead the Science Center for Marine Fisheries alongside our partner institution, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, to unite science and practice in order to develop effective solutions for everyday problems.

Our proximity to the Gulf coast and our physical presence in the field, combined with academic and industry partnerships, allow brilliant minds to immerse themselves in their research as they predict ocean currents that impact oil and gas extraction; improve sustainable resource management in partnership with the fisheries and tourism industries; and devise logistic strategies to transport energy resources from the Gulf of Mexico to other parts of the state and nation.  Our students also gain hands-on experience with leading academics in the field and graduate as scholars who are in high demand by institutions and industries involved in coastal resource management and energy development. 

Many of us love marine life, good seafood, and the ocean – and our partnership between the academic community and marine industries across the nation will help ensure the future of each.  I am excited about these initiatives and others that comprise The University of Southern Mississippi’s contributions to coastal resource utilization and our institutional commitment to forging economic partnerships in coastal knowledge creation.  We as an institution will remain focused on advancing work along the Coast as we move forward into the future.

I appreciate your willingness to set aside this day to discuss the potential for greater academic, economic, and industry partnerships in this region, and I look forward to a coordinated effort to enhance the marine technology sector here on the coast.  I want to extend a special thanks to The Honorable Phil Bryant, Governor of the State of Mississippi, and to Mary Erickson, Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.  The University of Southern Mississippi appreciates your commitment to growing the coastal region and your involvement in today’s event.  Your participation symbolizes the importance of this collaborative effort at the state and national levels, and we thank you for your time and your support.

Again, welcome.