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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI to offer new undergraduate minor in oceanography

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

KINGSTON, R.I. – July 5, 2006 – The University of Rhode Island has a long-standing reputation for excellence in a wide range of academic programs in the marine sciences, with its Graduate School of Oceanography being the most prestigious.

But until now, the oceanography program was only open to graduate students. Beginning in the fall, undergraduate students will be offered the opportunity to earn a minor in oceanography for the first time.

“For all students, regardless of major, a minor in oceanography will instill knowledge of our planet’s dominant surface feature, an appreciation of its role in controlling the environment, and a comprehension of the importance of environmental protection and sustainability,” said Mark Wimbush, associate dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography and coordinator of the minor. “Whether or not a student is a science major, the oceanography minor will produce a scientifically aware and engaged citizen who understands the critical role of ocean science in society.”

The new minor was approved by the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education in May. Numerous other marine-related academic minors have been available at URI for many years.

URI has no plans to offer an undergraduate major in oceanography because, as a terminal degree, a bachelor’s degree in the field does not lead to a promising career path, nor is it appropriate preparation for a graduate program in oceanography, according to Wimbush. Students intending to pursue graduate study in oceanography are encouraged to major in one of the basic sciences or engineering at the undergraduate level.

“An undergraduate minor in oceanography is an excellent supplement to students planning careers in marine-related fields like environmental protection, marine policy and aquaculture,” Wimbush said. “It’s also great preparation for those planning to pursue graduate work in oceanography. And it provides another option for those students with a personal interest in the subject.”

Students who register for the minor must enroll in 18 credit hours of coursework from among a select list of 48 courses taught by the departments of chemistry, geosciences, marine affairs, oceanography, biological sciences, mechanical engineering, ocean engineering and environmental sciences. Most of the courses are offered at URI’s Kingston campus.