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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI, Sea Education Association partner to send students on a SEA Semester

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

135-foot sailing ship to dock at URI pier Oct. 7 for public tours, ceremony

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – October 3, 2005 -- A 135-foot sailing vessel,the SSV Corwith Cramer, will dock at the University of Rhode Island pier at the Narragansett Bay Campus on Oct. 7 to participate in a series of events to celebrate a partnership between the University and Sea Education Association (SEA). The Corwith Cramer is one of the most sophisticated research vessels under sail in the United States.

The public is invited to tour the steel brigantine from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and from 2:30 to 4 p.m. A brief ceremony formalizing the partnership will take place at 2 p.m. (Note: The vessel is not wheelchair accessible.)

The partnership between the two institutions will allow URI students to spend a semester at sea learning navigational skills, studying oceanography and conducting marine science research, after a six-week shore component. Previously, the program was only available to URI students through another institution, and they could not apply their financial aid from URI.

Unlike agreements between the Sea Education Association and other universities, the partnership agreement with URI will also enable graduate students to participate as assistant scientists, receive at-sea teaching experience and conduct research. URI faculty members will also be invited to participate.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for URI students to seamlessly participate in this unique program without losing their financial aid or needing to transfer credits from one institution to another, which often limits participation in study abroad programs,” said Dennis Nixon, associate dean of URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences who has been involved in the program for nearly 20 years. “We’re making this 18-credit program an official part of the URI curriculum so more students can participate.”

Undergraduate students studying marine biology, marine affairs, natural resources science, environmental science, geological oceanography and fisheries will likely make up the bulk of the students registering for the program.

P.J. Petrone, a 2000 graduate of URI, was so excited about his experience with SEA Semester that he is now the organization’s assistant dean of admissions. “I knew it would be the adventure of a lifetime, and the credits were applicable to my major,” he said. “What better way to immerse myself in marine science than to study the ocean in an interdisciplinary fashion on a deep-sea sailing vessel.”

The SEA Semester program, which began in the 1970s, accepts 50 students per semester; 25 go to sea on each of its two vessels. They spend the first six weeks of the semester in classroom study at the SEA campus in Woods Hole, Mass. preparing for their sea component and studying oceanography, maritime studies and nautical science, followed by a six-week cruise expedition in the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean.

While aboard, students participate in everything from cooking and cleaning to operating and navigating the ship. They also take classes in practical oceanography and conduct original research. The program offers a unique opportunity for undergraduates to study the ocean using sophisticated instruments to answer the questions posed in their research projects.

“This is a vessel specially constructed for this purpose,” explained Nixon. “It’s well maintained, has the highest level of seamanship and an excellent safety record. And it’s an academically rigorous program as well.”

Many URI alumni have gone on to work and teach aboard the ship after graduating. The dean of SEA, Paul Joyce, is a URI alumnus, and more than a half dozen other alumni have worked for the organization in various capacities.

URI President Robert L. Carothers and the president of Sea Education Association, John Bullard, a former mayor of New Bedford, will participate in the signing ceremony.

To download pictures of the Corwith Cramer go to the website