Marine Science to offer new undergraduate degree

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Date: Monday, August 13, 2007
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, 974-7642

For Immediate Release

The University of Hawaii at Hilo is adding a new undergraduate degree to its popular Marine Science program. The University of Hawai`i Board of Regents in July approved provisional status for a Bachelor of Science in marine science, which the University will launch in Fall 2008.

“Our new BS degree in marine science is a perfect fit for UH Hilo,” said Chancellor Rose Tseng. “We have always been blessed with the perfect location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and with our new Marine Science Building, we now have first-rate facilities to match our prime location with our dedicated and talented faculty.”

The new degree is designed to provide students with a more comprehensive background in the natural sciences than the existing Bachelor of Arts degree by requiring more upper-level required courses in the focal areas of marine biology, marine ecology and oceanography. That would make graduates more competitive for graduate school, or specialized career paths like research technicians.

“Many of our students have expressed a strong desire to attend graduate school or teach high school marine science,” said Associate Professor and Marine Science Chair Dr. Marta deMaintenon. “We initially upgraded our BA to help them meet their objectives. But in the long run, designing a new degree and retooling the existing one proved to be a better strategy, since we have the courses in our existing curriculum and the faculty to teach them.”

The BS degree will differ from the BA primarily by requiring two semesters of organic chemistry, and designating a number of 400-level electives as requirements. The BA meanwhile, will be restructured to offer a multidisciplinary array of elective options with a balance of the traditional sciences and advanced courses in related disciplines so that a student may tailor their degree plan for a variety of career options. The net impact will raise the total number of credits required for the BS to 91, while the BA will be reduced from 81 to 75 credits.

The addition of a new BS degree is expected to increase the number of Marine Science majors, and more importantly, improve retention. The Marine Science program typically averages approximately 200 majors, but graduates about 30 per year.

Faculty members have already begun to advise students on the new degree program. Over the years, UH Hilo Marine Science majors have entered a wide range of public and private sector jobs, including careers as aquarium biologists, ecological consultants, educators, environmental attorneys, and commercial and scientific divers. With the new BS in marine science, students can expect more career options than ever before.

“This is all about serving our students,” deMaintenon said. “We believe it is important to tailor their options to provide them with as many choices as possible, instead of attempting a one-size-fits-all approach. With two distinct degrees to choose from, we hope to offer them the best of both worlds.”

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