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WASC approves new MS degree at UH Hilo

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Date: Monday, August 30, 2004
Contact: Dr. Rose Tseng, (808) 974-7444

For Immediate Release

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges has given its approval for the University of Hawaii at Hilo to offer a masters of science degree in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Sciences.

The new TCBES degree offering is a joint venture of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Natural Sciences and Social Sciences Divisions and the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management. The program, which starts this semester, is the result of over two years of planning authorized by Chancellor Rose Tseng in July 2002.

“An MS in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Sciences is consistent with the mission of University of Hawai`i at Hilo to offer selective graduate programs that are relevant to the needs of the Island and the State,” said Dr. Christopher Lu, UH Hilo vice chancellor for academic affairs. “This program will leverage the unique and diverse ecosystems in the Big Island and contribute to a sustainable conservation effort for the biological species and their environment.”

The TCBES degree proposal authored by a faculty committee was spearheaded by Dr. Donald Price, associate professor of biology at UH Hilo. “The overall mission of the proposed program is to provide recent baccalaureate graduates and those currently working in conservation biology and environmental science with graduate training that will prepare them for careers as conservation and environmental scientists and managers. The program will also provide students with an excellent foundation for doctoral studies in a variety of theoretical and applied disciplines. The conservation challenges that face tropical ecosystems, including Hawai‘i, are such that solutions require a broad knowledge not only of biology, but of the physical and social sciences.”

The TCBES program will provide six teaching assistant positions and six research assistant positions to graduate students at UH Hilo. The research assistantships are funded by UH Hilo’s National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grant, as are three administrative, professional, technical (APT) technician positions for TCBES. EPSCoR will also provide partial funding for laboratory upgrades necessary for the TCBES program. Other avenues of funding are also being pursued by TCBES faculty.

The TCBES offering is expected to increase enrollment at UH Hilo by 20 students this academic year and 40 in subsequent academic years. The TCBES program will offer both thesis and non-thesis masters degree programs. Students choosing non-thesis programs will be required to complete an internship with a local natural resource agency. Those agencies include US Geological Survey-Biological Resources Division, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, US Department of Agriculture, US Army Pohakuloa Environmental Program, US National Park Service, US Environmental Protection Agency, Nature Conservancy, State Department of Land and Natural Resources, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US National Marine Fisheries, State Department of Fish And Wildlife, Department of Health and Kamehameha Schools. These agencies will also be prospective employers of MS degree recipients.

“WASC approval is recognition of the quality of academic programs as well as the outstanding faculty in biology, marine science, geography, and other departments at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo,” Lu concluded. “The implementation of the program is an important step forward to fulfilling the comprehensive mission of the University of Hawai`i at Hilo.”

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