UNH welcomes new school to campus

By Shannon Reville
On September 20, 2013

On Sept. 9, the University of New Hampshire launched its new School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering.

The school will house research and graduate education while utilizing three already existing doctoral programs-oceanography, ocean engineering and marine biology. 

Larry Mayer, the director of the new School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering and director of UNH's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center, said that the creation of this school has been slow-going.

"It's grass-roots, really," Mayer said. "It isn't easy to change things at this university, but if the administration hadn't ultimately agreed with the endeavor, we never would have gotten this far."

The press release last Monday, Sept. 9, said that there are currently about 70 faculty members from 14 departments in three colleges that teach marine and ocean engineering-related courses to 300 undergraduate and 100 graduate students. 

"In the past, when students here have applied for graduate school and beyond, it is kind of confusing to tell where and what school they came from," Mayer said.

Now UNH can consolidate those courses and have an oceanography title, which Mayer hopes will mark the school as one of the top in the country.

"When I came here in 2000, I hadn't realized how much marine science and ocean engineering was being done at UNH," Mayer said. "Over the years that I've been here, I have been very impressed. It is quite remarkable."

Mayer went on to describe how UNH is one of the top schools in the country for oceanography as far as funding goes for projects and research, but nobody knows this. He finds it sad that when prospective oceanography students decide where they'd like to go to school, UNH isn't at the top of their list.

According to collegeprowler.com, the top schools for marine biology and oceanography include mostly schools with a large coastal presence. There are many in South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, California and Maine. 

"I knew I wanted to be an oceanographer since I was seven years old," Mayer said. "When I started looking for schools, I knew I wanted to go to the University of Rhode Island because it was famous for its school of oceanography."

Mayer said that the most fundamental part of the school's success is its interdisciplinary nature. According to Mayer, this is what will make it a top oceanography school, a major player on the marine science scene and "one of the schools they call when something big happens." 

"The problems we face in the ocean are very, very complex," Mayer said. "You can't solve fishery problems by just studying fish. You have to study currents, the chemistry of the ocean, the bottom-type, physical oceanography, geography ... I could go on."

This is why, Mayer said, the school will attract undergraduates from all disciplines. Biology and chemistry majors will be interested, of course, but students studying economics, business policy and a variety of other disciplines will be drawn to the program as well. 

"Our lives, our livelihoods, are tied in to the ocean. We can't just stand by and let them go to ruins," Mayer said. "If we're going to do something about that, we have to study in an interdisciplinary way."

Along this theme, the school hopes to open up opportunities to the entire university. This would include seminars and open lectures, Mayer said, among other events.

In a statement regarding the new school launch, UNH President Mark Huddleston said: "A deep commitment to interdisciplinarity, one that encourages and rewards the sort of collaborative silo-breaking necessary to bring the university's resources to bear on the world's problems, was among the top priorities of the UNH in 2020 strategic plan the university announced in 2010. The School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering is the first such interdisciplinary unit."


"All ships rise with the tide," Mayer said. "If this school does well, so will the university as a whole, and everyone will benefit."

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