May 25, 2019  

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Faculty Members Appointed to Leadership Positions in School of Ocean Science and Technology

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Since the announcement of the new School of Ocean Science and Technology (SOST) made by The University of Southern Mississippi in June, several new appointments have been made within the school’s administrative structure.

Housed within the College of Science and Technology, SOST has brought together marine-related research and education programs under one administration and harnesses elements from key areas of the University, including the Division of Marine Science based at John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock county; the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) and Division of Coastal Sciences in Ocean Springs; and the University’s fleet of five research vessels.

“The creation of the new School of Ocean Science and Technology is perhaps one of the most significant events from this past academic year,” said Dr. David Hayhurst, dean of the University’s College of Science and Technology. “It is both timely and significant as the state of Mississippi is focusing on growth along the Gulf Coast, both industrial and fisheries. Our new school aligns incredibly well with the state’s economic development plan for the coastal area, as we are the academic and intellectual resource needed to help move this growth ahead.”

To lead the newly formed school and the departments within, four University employees have been appointed to leadership positions within the School of Ocean Science and Technology.
Upon the creation of the new school in June 2016, Dr. William (Monty) Graham was appointed to serve as director. Graham previously served as chair of the Division of Marine Science and interim director of GCRL.

Graham received his bachelor’s degree in marine biology from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington; his master’s in marine science from the University of California, Santa Cruz; and his doctorate in biology with an emphasis in oceanography from University of California, Santa Cruz.

In 2011, Graham joined Southern Miss as a professor and chair of the Division of Marine Science. Prior to joining the University, he was a marine science faculty member at the University of South Alabama and a senior marine scientist at Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Dauphin Island, Ala.

Throughout his professional career, Graham has published 75 journal publications along with numerous book chapters, edited volumes and technical reports.

Assuming the position of chair for the Division of Coastal Sciences and associate director of SOST is Dr. Robert Griffitt, former interim chair of Coastal Sciences, who joined the Division of Coastal Sciences in 2008.

Griffitt received his bachelor’s degree in marine biology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington; his master’s degree in marine science from the University of South Carolina; and his doctorate in environmental health sciences from the University of South Carolina.

His work on the evaluation of fish’s immune function and increased susceptibility to pathogenic bacteria due to exposure to oil-contaminated sediments from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill has gained national and international notoriety.

Currently serving as interim chair for the Division of Marine Science and associate director of SOST is Dr. Jerry Wiggert, associate professor of marine science. He has been with the University since 2007. He will serve in this position until a national search has been completed for the position of chair.

Wiggert received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Case Western Reserve University; his master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California; and his doctorate in earth sciences from the University of Southern California.

Named associate director of GCRL is Dr. Read Hendon, also director of the Center for Fisheries Research and Development.

Hendon is an alumnus of Southern Miss, earning his bachelor’s degree in biological science and his master’s and doctorate degrees in fisheries ecology. He has been employed with the University for 20 years, serving in the capacity of graduate research assistant to technician, research associate, and, now, associate director and director. 

“Our first task was to identify the best and brightest leadership for the school, and we are certainly proud with the selections,” said Hayhurst. “All these individuals have proven to be dedicated and committed to the rapid growth and international recognition for the College of Science and
Technology’s newest school, the School of Ocean Science and Technology.”

With the formation of SOST, the University is in an opportune position to fortify its reputation as a national leader in marine science research along the Gulf of Mexico.

Anticipated benefits of SOST include increased education opportunities for students – such as the University’s unique degree offerings in the field of hydrographic science. SOST holds the distinction of being the only school in North America that offers an undergraduate degree in marine science with an emphasis in hydrographic science.

“I am excited by the opportunities to serve The University of Southern Mississippi in this capacity,” said Graham. “USM has been the state’s leading university in marine science and education for decades, and our numerous programs are now tied together to build upon this excellence to be a national and international leader in ocean science and technology. By joining forces under one administrative roof, we hope to build on decades of reputation and push the edges of ocean science and technology.” 

For more information about the University’s School of Ocean Science and Technology, visit www.usm.edu/ocean.