National Science Foundation Grants $699,998 to UMES for New PSM Degree

  • Friday, July 16, 2010

                                                                                        

                                              

    PRINCESS ANNE, MD-July 14, 2010-The first of its kind in the nation, a Professional Science Master's Degree in quantitative fisheries and resource economics will be offered at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore this fall in collaboration with state and federal agencies, especially the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA NMFS).

    "Professional Science Master's degrees represent the current trend in graduate education to include graduate degrees geared toward the needs of industry.  The emphasis is on workforce development with three-month internships with agencies as part of the degree requirements in lieu of a thesis," said Dr. Jennifer Keane-Dawes, interim dean, School of Graduate Studies at UMES.  "Of the PSM degrees offered in the U.S. (about 151), UMES' will be the only one in this academic area and only the second Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to offer a PSM degree."

    Funded by a $699,998 grant from the National Science Foundation, the innovative program is designed to address projected shortages in the number of scientists working in fisheries stock assessment in the U.S. over the next decade.  A report submitted to Congress by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Education in 2008 predicted the shortage and recommended nine courses, many of which are currently missing from fisheries science curriculums, be added as essential courses to fisheries graduate programs across the nation.

    The new PSM program is geared to meeting the staffing needs of federal agencies such as the NOAA NMFS, the USDA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state agencies, universities, consulting firms and international aid agencies. 

    "Since UMES will be offering these essential courses online, in the evening and on weekends, it is expected that staff of these agencies will enroll in the program to obtain an advanced degree or for continuing education because of the flexibility the program offers," said Dr. Paulinus Chigbu, principal investigator of the NSF grant, a fisheries scientist and director of the Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center (LMRCSC) at UMES.

    "UMES will be one of the few institutions in the nation to offer all of the recommended courses," said Chigbu.  The courses will be taught by UMES faculty and scientists from NOAA and other universities affiliated with the LMRCSC.

    "PSM graduates will be in great demand, because employers need these particular skills," said Keane-Dawes.  Another incentive, she said, is that each student accepted into the program will be named a Professional Science Scholar and receive $25,000 to cover costs for tuition, fees and a stipend.  Students will be enrolled this fall with bachelor degrees in natural, environmental, mathematical or social sciences.

    "UMES, in bringing the Professional Science Master's Degree to students beginning this fall, will be contributing immensely to the training and production of the next generation of fisheries scientists and resource economists, including underrepresented minority students, in the U.S.," said Chigbu. 

    According to Dr. Joseph Okoh, chairman of the Department of Natural Sciences and co-principal investigator of the NSF grant, the program is in line with UMES' mission as a land-grant institution to serve the research and educational needs of businesses, industries, government and non-government agencies.  "Through