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Education: Western Washington University receives grant for minority marine science education

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BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Western Washington University's Shannon Point Marine Center has received an $863,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant through 2008 for its nationally recognized minority education program.

NSF has funded Shannon Point's "Minorities in Marine Science Undergraduate Program" continuously since 1990. The program introduces members of racial or ethnic groups, identified by NSF as under-represented in scientific professions, to possible careers in the ocean sciences.

WWU professor and marine center director Stephen Sulkin said Shannon Point's continuing success in attracting funding, despite intense competition for NSF grants, "is the documented success of the student participants." Of those students who have completed their undergraduate degrees after participating in the program, Sulkin noted, 11 percent pursued doctorates; 11 percent professional degrees and 41 percent Master's degrees.

Minorities in Marine Science annually trains eight undergraduates, recruited from colleges and universities around the nation, at Shannon Point in Anacortes, Wash. Each year, from January through June, student participants take oceanography and marine science courses, are tried in field and laboratory investigative techniques, participate in supervised independent research and learn about pursuing graduate education and professional careers in marine sciences.

The NSF grant pays tuition, travel and on-campus housing as well as a stipend for participating in an innovative outreach program that brings students into K-6 classrooms to teach marine science to school children. Funds are also available to support student research.

"While many factors contribute to the success of the program, I think the essential element is that we set high standards, and then work hard with the students to assure that every participant can meet them," Sulkin observed. "This requires substantial commitment of faculty and staff time and effort, but the results are worth it." Sulkin singled out for special recognition associate professor Brian Bingham who recently received the national Minority Access Mentor Role Model Award for his direction of the program.

For more information on the program, check out http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~mimsup/index.html