Monday, April 24, 2000
UH marine program
LAST week, I learned that Barry Raleigh, the dean of
earth sciences at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, is terminating the
Marine Option Program (MOP) there as of next fall.
This is more than just another budget cut at UH. To
stop MOP is both shortsighted and a profound disservice to the students,
the university and the community it serves. This 30-year-old program is
essential to getting a good undergraduate marine education at UH.
How can I be so sure? You're looking at the evidence.
This column would not exist without MOP.
One reason for this is that a person cannot earn a
bachelor's degree in marine biology from the UH-Manoa. You can get one
from Hawaii Pacific University and even from places as improbable as the
University of Nebraska -- but you can't get one at UH.
MOP, however, fills this odd gap.
To earn a MOP certificate, a student needs 12 credit
hours of marine-related courses in his or her field of study and must also
complete a marine skills project. For me, a biology student, this meant
studying ichthyology, oceanography and invertebrate zoology. Having done
this, my degree became marine focused, and thus, marine biology is my
But MOP is not just for biology students. One of the
program's great benefits is that students from any discipline, interested
in any aspect of the marine world, can also enroll. Psychology students
take courses in marine mammal behavior, students in the travel industry
learn responsible marine ecotourism, and artists study the intricacies of
The possibilities are nearly endless. Currently, MOP
has a political science graduate student interested in the voyages of
IN addition to course work, MOP provides hands-on
experience through skills projects. With guidance from the staff, students
design a marine-related project in their area of interest, carry it out
and write up the results. Many of these hands-on ventures lead graduates
to fulfilling jobs they might not otherwise have pursued.
Take mine, for instance. When I was a student, I
noticed that sailing magazines had no articles about marine animals. So
with help from MOP director Sherwood Maynard, I wrote, and got published,
four magazine articles about marine animals.
This was the only writing guidance I ever had in
college, and needless to say, it was a significant part of my education.
The MOP certificate I have in marine journalism was a key reason the
Star-Bulletin editors gave me a shot at writing this column.
But much as I love to tell my personal MOP success
story, the issue of closing this program is much larger than students
getting good jobs. It's about the university not being in touch with the
backbone of its own system: its undergraduates.
These ambitious men and women are the university's
future researchers and the state's future leaders, caretakers and
ambassadors. As such, it's crucial they have the opportunity to learn
responsible management of the ocean that defines Hawaii. Undergraduate
students here also need practical marine experience so their degrees are
distinguished from those of other schools.
University of Hawaii leaders need to do better at
recognizing and meeting the needs of this state, one of which is a strong
undergraduate marine program. Rather than terminating MOP, the dean should
be increasing its budget and advertising the program like crazy.
If instead he kills it, people interested in marine
studies might as well pack their bags and go to Nebraska.