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William & Mary seeking state approval for new bachelor’s in marine science

A William & Mary student holds a crab. Demand for undergrad marine science courses has tripled since 2019.
Photo courtesy of Virginia Institute of Marine Science
A William & Mary student holds a crab. Demand for undergrad marine science courses has tripled since 2019.

The school would be the first to offer a marine science degree to undergraduate students at a public university in Virginia.

William & Mary hopes to be the first public university in Virginia to offer a bachelor’s degree in marine science.

The school’s Board of Visitors recently passed a resolution to create the new undergraduate program, citing increased demand in the field. The university still needs final approval from the state.

William & Mary already has master’s and doctoral programs in marine science through its Virginia Institute of Marine Science at Gloucester Point, which also conducts research for state policymakers.

Provost Peggy Agouris said in a statement Friday that the proposed program fits in with all the existing work.

“It only makes sense to extend our world-class expertise in coastal and marine science to undergraduate students in a dedicated program that will enable them to enter a deeply impactful career field,” Agouris said.

William & Mary offers some undergrad marine science courses through a minor. That option was added in 2010.

Over the past five years, school officials have seen interest in those courses “explode,” according to a university news release.

School leaders believe that’s driven by the “increasingly urgent issues faced by coastal and marine communities globally.”

Virginia is at the forefront of those challenges, said Christopher Hein, director of undergraduate programs at VIMS.

“We have more than 7,000 miles of coast, experience the second-fastest rate of sea-level rise in the country, and have an economy deeply tied to the Chesapeake Bay and its myriad resources,” Hein said in a statement.

Another sign for the demand for such a program comes from the Academic Common Market, which provides in-state tuition for students who look out of state to pursue degrees not offered by their state’s public colleges.

Marine science was recently the top-sought program in the market’s southeast region, William & Mary noted.

The school said the undergraduate program, as currently envisioned, would include an immersion semester at VIMS during students’ junior year to participate in research and internships.

The university is now working on a proposal to submit to the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia.

Officials hope to launch the program in fall 2025.

Katherine is WHRO’s climate and environment reporter. She came to WHRO from the Virginian-Pilot in 2022. Katherine is a California native who now lives in Norfolk and welcomes book recommendations, fun science facts and of course interesting environmental news.

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