Professor Kenneth Thompson regales Dean David L. White with stories of holding classes at Wallops Island in vintage WWII-era facilities. They are standing in front of the Marine Science Consortium's new Environmental Learning Center. The sign bears the name of the consortium and its motto: hands-on, feet-wet education.
LOCK HAVEN, Pa. - On Saturday, September 11, representatives from Lock Haven University attended the ribbon cutting and dedication of the Wallops Island Marine Science Consortium’s Environmental Learning Center. Dr. Kenneth Thompson, professor of biological sciences, and Dr. David L. White, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences were on hand to celebrate the opening of this new facility which will benefit generations of Lock Haven University students and faculty.Lock Haven University is a member of the Pennsylvania State
System of Higher Education (PASSHE), the largest provider of higher education in
the commonwealth. Its 14 universities offer more than 250 degree and certificate
programs in more than 120 areas of study. Nearly 405,000 system alumni live and
work in Pennsylvania.
Lock Haven University is a member of the Wallops Island Marine Science Consortium (MSC) which is a group of colleges, universities and government agencies. It is located on the Delmarva Peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay adjacent to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Wallop’s Island, Virginia. There are thirteen university members eight of which are PASSHE schools.
The Marine Science Consortium has several seagoing vessels with modern oceanographic equipment for use by faculty and students. The Consortium offers four academic sessions of three weeks each during the summer. LHU also utilizes the Consortium campus for three- and four-day field trips during the regular academic year.
LHU has been a member of the Marine Science Consortium since the mid -1970’s. During the 80’s and 90’s, LHU utilized the facilities primarily for weekend field trips for Oceanography classes. In 2000 the Marine Biology track in the BS Biology program was established and since that time LHU has utilized the summer class programs for students in that program. Students not in the marine program also take courses at the Consortium that are used as electives in other biology programs at LHU. Newly developed programs in Geology will also be utilizing summer courses in Oceanography during the next few years.
Faculty from many of the member institutions teach summer courses at the Consortium campus and students from any member institution may take any of these classes. According to Dr. Thompson, “This is especially valuable because it exposes our students to faculty and students from other schools.” He added, “I have observed lasting friendships develop between many students that might never have met otherwise. I taught ichthyology last summer to seventeen students from five different universities and fourteen students from LHU were enrolled in four different classes.”
Membership in the Marine Science Consortium has allowed LHU to develop the marine biology program without adding any new faculty. LHU was able to increase offerings for students by taking advantage of the expanded faculty of the member institutions.
While the LHU marine biology program is a fairly young program, it has grown to about 25% of the BS Biology program since 2000. Students from LHU have participated in internships at large public aquariums where they learned to train and care for marine mammals (dolphins & seals), sharks, other fishes and even snow monkeys and Galapagos tortoises. Many LHU graduates have gone on to graduate schools or have found employment in both marine and related biological fields.
MSC was founded in 1968 by a consortium of three Pennsylvania state colleges. Until recently, classes were held in vintage World War II-era buildings. Dining facilities and lodging for students and faculty were of the same era. Now, however, a revitalization project is transforming the campus.
In his remarks to the assembled guests, Dr. John Cavanaugh, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), remarked on the changes in lifestyle and technology that have occurred over the last forty years. “One thing that has not changed,” he said, “is the need for learners of all ages to experience their natural resources first-hand.” Caroline Massey, assistant director of NASA Wallops Flight Facility, praised a long-term agreement with NASA and the Marine Science Consortium to provide internships, co-ops, and collaborative research activities.
Welcoming remarks at the September 11 dedication ceremony were delivered by Dr. Francine McNairy, president, The Marine Science Consortium Board of Directors; Mr. Kenneth Jarin, chair of the Board of Governors, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education; Dr. John Cavanaugh, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education; Ms. Caroline Massey, assistant director, NASA Wallops Flight Facility; Dr. Dominique Dagit, chair of The Marine Science Consortium Academic Advisory Council; Dr. David Zegers, professor of biology, Millersville University of Pennsylvania; and Ms. Rebecca Saunders, student at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. Joining Mr. Jarin, Dr. Cavanaugh and Dr. McNairy in the ribbon cutting were Dr. Javier Cevallos, president of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Robert Dillman, president of East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.