Savannah State University

Institutional Context

Savannah State University (SSU), as the oldest HBCU in Georgia, has been serving the educational needs of an increasingly diverse student population over its history, since 1890. The University fosters engaged learning and personal growth in a student-centered environment that celebrates the African American legacy while nurturing a diverse student body. Savannah State University will become the institution of choice in our region, where students maximize their potential in a nurturing environment that embraces social and intellectual diversity. The university will create an efficient, student-centered culture, responsive to the needs of its stakeholders, supportive of ideals and ethical verities, and loyal to its rich legacy and heritage.

Existing Student Supports

Strategies to create pathways

Students and faculty appreciate well-established interpersonal connections that are leveraged to engage students in learning course content. These connections are integral to faculty serving as role models for their students; providing interactive engagement with students; and delivering caring and honest guidance to students. Additionally, having an established connection supports students in receiving said guidance. Another way in which faculty create geoscience pathways is through the development of curriculum (and writing curriculum development proposals) that foster more robust geoscience education opportunities.

Administrators, particularly at the departmental and college levels at SSU, support university faculty and students by providing guidance on alignment of productivity with the strategic plan of the college; resources to support their work; and knowledge about workforce needs in geoscience education. Administrators also serve as advocates in developing relationships between the university and local K-12 school systems. These relationships serve multiple purposes: building the awareness in prospective students of Savannah State and connecting experiential programs to community resources.

Marine Sciences

The programs in the Department of Marine & Environmental Sciences prepare students for a broad range of environmental and geoscience disciplines and contribute substantially to increasing the number of African American bachelors' and masters' degree recipients. Engagement in exploratory and experiential on-site research throughout matriculation is one of the touted cornerstone attributes of the programs and provides a unique interaction with student engagement for academic and research instruction as well as community-focused projects.Students in the Bachelor's of Marine Sciences, Bachelor's of Environmental Sciences, Master's of Marine Sciences, and Associate's degree programs have utilized their training in

  • K-12 Education,
  • Federal- and state-level government service,
  • Industry,
  • Non-profits, and
  • Terminal degree programs

Master's in Marine Sciences Tracks

The Master of Science in Marine Sciences program of study has a common core of curriculum for all students and also provides three major tracks: Track 1 - Traditional Marine Science Research, Track 2 - Applied Marine Sciences, and Track 3 - Professional Advancement. These tracks provide students with the opportunities to explore Marine Science that suit their long-term goals within the field and their educational context.

Marine Infrastructure

Also, SSU, through the Department of Marine & Environmental Sciences maintains and operates a local creek-side facility, downstream of the main campus facility. This 185 m2 (2000 ft2) building has access to filtered creek water for culture work and expands workspace to 10,000-15,000 L of outdoor, open-air culture tanks, another 75 m2 (800 ft2) devoted to indoor tanks and maintenance, water quality analyses, and necessary support facilities, including meeting spaces. The building is on 5 acres of total land, 2 acres of which are open to development. These facilities are adjacent to the Wassaw Sound salt marsh estuary, on Country Club Creek, with deep-water access to the Savannah, Ogeechee, and Altamaha River estuary systems and out to the Atlantic Ocean. SSU also maintains and operates a small fleet of coastal research vessels including the following.

  • 37-ft Newton trawler, R/V Margaret C. Robinson
  • 20-ft Boston Whaler, Tiger II; and 
  • skiff for daytime small class-sized activities in inshore waters. 

Funds have been acquired and construction is underway to expand marine operations to include a privateer-style vessel for inshore and shelf academic and research activities.

Specialized Support and Instructional Strategies

Partnership with Public School System

The SSU Department of Marine & Environmental Sciences and the Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools have a well-established collaborative relationship that consists of regularly hosting field trips for K-12 students at SSU; Faculty and students attending the Chatham School Science Night; SSU Summer Camp recruitment; and general communications about educational needs and opportunities. Previously, this relationship had borne a teacher internship program in which K-12 Chatham Teachers participated in research at SSU and developed and published curricular materials related to the research content for K-12 courses.

TRiO Upward Bound Program

The TRiO Upward Bound Program at Savannah State University (SSU) is designed to provide support to participants in their preparation for college. Upward Bound serves high school students from low-income families and/or families in which neither parent holds a bachelor's degree. The programming provides participating high school students with an opportunities to experience intensive academic instruction during both their summer breaks and the academic year, community service projects, mentoring, cultural enrichment, and work-study programs. Additionally, there are education and counseling services designed to improve financial and economic literacy. Two specific examples of student engagement include the Scholar Saturday Sessions which occur during the academic calendar and emphasize academic enrichment and instruction activities and the summertime instruction students receive whilst residing in university residence halls.

UNITE Program

The Department of Engineering Technology annually runs the UNITE summer program (formerly the JETS program), funded by the US Army Educational Outreach Program. This program is in partnership with the Upward Bound program, through which 15 rising 10th-grade students are selected to participate in Engineering Technology activities during the summer. The program provides an excellent point of connection with high school students in the community as they participate in hands-on robotics activities, field trips to army engineering sites, and STEM classes and STEM guest speaker presentations.

SSU Coast Camp

The Coast Camp is a month of ocean science fun for K-12 students. Sponsored by Savannah State University, the Coast Camp Summer Enrichment program is week-long ocean science program that teaches students about the ocean with an interactive, hands-on curriculum. Each camp is designed to provide time in the classroom with hands-on instruction as well as outdoor field work in the marine sciences.


The Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (PSLSAMP) is an alliance of 5 institutions, with Savannah State University working in close collaboration with Fort Valley State University, Georgia Perimeter College, Southern Polytechnic State University, and University of Georgia (Lead Institution). The ultimate goal of PLSAMP's efforts is to increase the number of minorities contributing to advancing the frontiers of research and education in STEM fields.

SSU-SSUMMS: Title VII HBCU Graduate Program

The U.S. Department of Education's Title VII HBCU Graduate Program is providing over $2.5 million in support of the Savannah State University Math and Marine Science (SSUMMS) Program from 2017-2023. SSUMMS renewal for 2023-2029 is underway. The goal is to support African American and low-income students in their completion of STEM M.S. degrees. These funds support research, stipends, and tuition.

Major impact: This level of support for graduate students fosters opportunities for near-peer mentorship between Masters and undergraduate students. 

Foundational Program: New GK12- Building Ocean Literacy in a Coastal Community through Science Education and Estuarine Monitoring

Through this GK12 program, Savannah State University (SSU), the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, and the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) engaged graduate students, scientists, and K-12 teachers and students in a sustainable research-based education program to promote ocean literacy, science education, and research in coastal Georgia. Masters of Science in the Marine Sciences GK-12 fellows from SSU were paired with science teachers and classes within the SCCPSS. New graduate coursework developed communication and teaching skills among GK-12 fellows, while teacher training opportunities enhanced teacher awareness of marine issues directly supported Georgia Performance Standards. The Program expanded ocean literacy and cultivated research skills in K-12 classrooms while developing graduate student skills in communicating science concepts to people beyond the research community. This work was foundational to the current efforts in geoscience and specifically marine science education at SSU. This approach may be a viable path forward to supporting a unique pathway into geoscience education.

Major impact: Though this NSF funding line no longer exists, the GK-12 program allowed key support for geoscience graduate students to be regularly present in K12 classrooms with in-service teachers; gain experience in K12 curricular development through production, testing, and publication of classroom activities based on their thesis research; and be near-peer mentors for undergraduate students. This multi-tiered approach was transformational in functional pathway through the geosciences programs at SSU.


Geoscience Awareness and Opportunities

Expanding participation in the geosciences could be supported by offering a geoscience course as a general education selection. The geosciences are compatible with an integrated approach for instruction, which could increase the areas in which geosciences could be introduced. SSU also utilizes strong partnerships with and transdisciplinary activities in formal (e.g. courses) and informal (Outdoor Learning Laboratory) programming to bring both higher and lower

Mobile STEM Labs

Mobile STEM labs are a potential avenue through which awareness of geoscience may be increased, while also giving students in teacher preparation programs the opportunity to satisfy their Field/Clinical component. This would require partnering teacher education students with students in other colleges of the university to bring science to the local schools with presentations that educate the K-12 teachers and their students. There is opportunity in geoscience to have integrated, real-world connections.

Incorporate Geosciences in Open Campus Day

Savannah State University hosts an Open Campus day wherein the public visits campus to learn about the university and its offered programs. Geoscience education could be a part of that recruitment effort, building prospective students awareness of the geoscience offerings at Savannah State University. The Marine Science department has previously been involved in the SSU Campus Shadow Day in which high school students attend activities on campus.

PD for K-12 Educators: Expand the Teacher Education Programming

It is important for educators of all levels to have a deep understanding of the sciences, and geosciences in particular, regardless of the scope of the material they teach. Additionally, The Georgia K-12 Science standards were updated in 2021 to include a range of geoscience topics. To support these educators in having a depth of content knowledge and meeting the science standards, the teacher education programming could be expanded to include a geoscience concentration or a broad science concentration with required geoscience courses.

Financial and Resource Supports: Expanding the Focus of Geoscience Efforts

Faculty have a number of demands on their time and funding. Increased financial support for the indirect costs for grants supports faculty through the grant writing and implementation processes. Along with this financial support, encouragement to participate in cross-college collaboration with the college of education would support the expansion of geoscience efforts at Savannah State University. Similarly, time, compensation, and formal promotion and tenure evaluation for developing and engaging students (both university and pre-university), other faculty, and the community in summer activities would support faculty.