Building Strong Departments > Workshops > Strengthening Your Geoscience Program > Participants and their Contributions > Hampton University

Hampton University Department of Marine and Environmental Science

by Benjamin Cuker

Mission Statement:

The Department of Marine and Environmental Science (MASC) prepares graduates to pursue a career in the interdisciplinary, eclectic field of environmental science or enter graduate school in a specific area of marine or environmental science, such as marine biology, ocean engineering, and chemical or physical oceanography, environmental protection, environmental law or environmental consulting.

The Department promotes learning, building of character, and preparation of promising students, as evidenced by the success of our graduates and our Number One ranking of graduating African-American geoscientists over the last eight years.

As an integral part of the School of Science, the Department provides a formalized instructional program for majors at the baccalaureate and master's levels through Biological Sciences; offering discipline-specific research experiences to complement the instructional program through internships and on-campus grant support; and provides services to undergraduate students of the University by offering general education science courses in the MASC, and to the community through outreach activities.


Upon the completion of required marine science and environmental science courses, the student will be expected to:

  1. Synthesize principles and skills derived from the basic sciences in the application of the scientific method to problems relevant to marine and environmental science;
  2. Review critically germane scientific literature, based on specific criteria;
  3. Integrate extracted information from scientific literature;
  4. Conduct field and laboratory investigations that will include data analysis to statistical hypothesis testing;
  5. Demonstrate competency in presenting the results of field and laboratory investigations at professional meetings; and culminate in a scientific journal style paper;
  6. Complete successfully an internship at an external site by satisfying established requirements: six-week minimum duration; direct supervision and evaluation; involvement in a variety of meaningful activities; responsible performance of tasks and duties required, and completion of a final summary paper.

Program Review Summary


Strengths: This department, though small in comparison with others within the School of Science, is almost unique in offering an undergraduate degree in the field of Marine and Environmental Science. It clearly articulates goals and objectives to effectively train minority students for entry into this increasingly vital field. These goals and objectives reflect the mission of Hampton University. Both faculty members and students clearly articulate these goals and objectives and work together to achieve them. Regularly scheduled faculty meetings allow for goals and objectives of the program to be reiterated. A review of the course syllabi reflects goals and objectives being communicated to students. Student interviews affirmed that students understand and can articulate these goals and objectives; they strongly feel that the curriculum meets its own projected standards.

Challenges: The department would benefit from a university-wide system to track alumni after graduation in order to evaluate long term success in meeting these goals and objectives. They are able to track students who are associated with specific government funding, but general tracking has not been possible. This challenge links directly to the ability to assess outcomes.

As reported in the 2004 review, students express an interest in linking public policy courses to the major for those entering environmental law.


Strengths: The curriculum is rigorously constructed to prepare students for work and graduate study; each course incorporates an element of research, ranging from controlled experiences in the early courses to independently constructed and completed research projects in the junior and senior years. All students participate in a minimum of two external internships, and many complete three.

Challenges: The interviews with both faculty members and students elicited the suggestion that students be introduced to the major through the course Introduction to Marine Science rather than Geology. Both groups felt that this would aid in retention, though both groups also emphasized the importance of Geology in the curriculum as a whole. Again, both faculty and students suggested that the department consider placing courses such as chemistry and physics earlier in the curriculum, though there was much less unanimity around this issue.


Strengths: In the area of connections, this department functions as a model for the university community. All faculty members and students are engaged in ongoing research that takes them into the local community around issues of marine ecology, and the department occupies prime territory for such research. The department partners with the Virginia Institute for Marine Sciences, and with national organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA). Faculty and students regularly attend and host conferences. Both faculty members and undergraduates engage in research that leads to publication and to the securing of grant funds.

Challenges: The department faces no apparent challenges in this area.

Planning Process

This is mostly handled by the chair, with some input from the faculty members in the rare departmental meeting (once a semester is typical).