Gazebo Gazette

The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Coastal Operations granted special access to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) students for STEM in the Sound Day, enabling the group to engage with faculty scientists and engineers aboard the research vessel Jim Franks.

USM specializes in providing students with unique learning experiences working side-by-side with University educators through hands-on experiences in the Mississippi Sound. This unique adventure was held on Friday, Nov. 11.

While aboard the vessel, students learned how remote underwater vehicles operate and studied coastal environments. They conducted water quality sampling and analysis, interacted with researchers and faculty members to observe uncrewed maritime systems at work, and take a turn at remotely operating one.

“Students have a heightened awareness about important topics like community resilience and ocean sustainability when they are enjoying a day on the water,” said Dr. Jessica Kastler, Director of USM’s Marine Education Center. “Most of the students who participated are interested in science and the ocean. But they may not be aware of the range of ocean science careers. This event was an opportunity to help these students find the path to move forward in specific USM degree programs that will position them for success.”

MGCCC students received one-on-one time with educators, scientists and engineers experienced in the natural sciences (marine science, hydrographic science, geoscience, and environmental science). They also discovered how societies are becoming increasingly more dependent on the oceans.

“It was a wonderful experience for me and our other instructors and students,” said MGCCC math instructor Bryan Daniels. “I talked with the students to get their feedback about the field trip, and they truly enjoyed the experience. One thing they really seemed to enjoy was the chemical activity – testing oxygen levels. Of course, it was awesome that they were able try their hand at driving/controlling the autonomous vehicles.”

Dr. Jacob Breland, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Coastal Operations, notes that employers across the Gulf Coast are having a difficult time finding enough highly skilled workers to hire – particularly in technical occupations.

“The Stem in the Sound field trip was a chance for USM to encourage a greater number of students to select ocean and coastal career pathways available on the coast at our Gulf Park campus,” said Breland. “We look forward to helping MGCCC graduates transition to USM to build a love for lifelong learning not only in technical fields but also in business, humanities, and social sciences.”