By Ernest L. Estes
*Previously published in 1993 for the Undergraduate Programs in Ocean Sciences Workshop Report (23-25 April, 1992).
.In 1931, the Texas State Legislature passed "Article 291b, Nautical School Authorized; Management by Board of Directors of Agricultural and Mechanical College." This legislation later led to the development of Texas A&M University at Galveston (TAMUG). Activities of Texas A&M's Department of Oceanography, established in 1949, provided a foundation for the campus and programs. In 1950, the Department of Oceanography initiated research vessel operations in Galveston, and acquired the Fort Crockett campus in 1954 from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (The Marine Laboratory at Fort Crockett). In 1957 researchers in the Department of Oceanography, including Albert Collier, Sammy Ray, and Robert Stevenson, occupied the building. From 1958 to1962, departmental faculty members represented Texas A&M in planning housing and management of the Texas A&M Maritime Academy (now called the Texas State Maritime Program) in the Marine Laboratory building.
In 1963, Dr. Sammy Ray became Director of the Marine Laboratory, and resident graduate courses began in August 1964. The academy initiated operation as part of the Texas A&M University System in 1962, and in 1965 the federal government provided a training ship, the 15,000-ton Texas Clipper. In 1968, a local Galvestonian, Mr. George Mitchell, donated one hundred acres of land on Pelican Island which led to the development of the Mitchell Campus. [136K] The Mitchell Campus, located on the Galveston Ship Channel with access to the Gulf of Mexico and local bay and estuarine systems, is ideally located and affords students ready access to these environments and the opportunity to use natural laboratories for coursework, laboratory work, and undergraduate research.
From 1970 to 1990, TAMUG underwent administrative and organizational changes in response to enrollment growth, and was divided into the Moody College of Marine Technology and the Texas Maritime College. TAMUG was legislatively defined as a special-purpose institution of higher education for undergraduate instruction in marine and maritime studies in science and business, and for research and public service related to the general field of marine resources. In 1992, TAMUG became part of the College of Geosciences and Maritime Studies of Texas A&M University.
Currently TAMUG has many academic units, including the Marine Sciences Program, and the Departments of Marine Biology, General Academics, Marine Engineering, Maritime Systems Engineering, Marine Transportation, Maritime Administration and Naval Science, and the Texas State Maritime Program. The Galveston campus has also been the base for between 30 and 50 graduate students per year since 1987. These students generally complete their course work at the College Station campus and use Fort Crockett facilities for thesis and dissertation research.
Since 1987 the largest undergraduate department at TAMUG has been Marine Biology. Growth in the various departments has been sporadic, with only Marine Sciences showing consistent increases. In the Marine Sciences Program and the Departments of Marine Biology, Marine Transportation and Marine Engineering, students seek a license-option or non-license option degree. The non-license option degree is a traditional science degree, while the license option degree allows students to obtain a B.S. in a particular area as well as the necessary qualifications to sit for a third-mate's license examination in the U.S. Merchant Marine. The license-option program is open only to U.S. Maritime Service Cadets. Interestingly, of the six maritime academies in the United States, only TAMUG grants both a B.S. degree and a commission in the Merchant Marine. The TAMUG Corp of Cadets is also unique in that in 1991 30% of the cadets were women, as opposed to only a few percent at the other academies.
Degree-granting departments at TAMUG require traditional undergraduate courses during the undergraduates' first two years, generally including biology, chemistry, history, political science, and computer science. Students' third- and fourth-year curricula emphasize more career-oriented, specialized courses.
The Marine Sciences Program emphasizes a solid base of formal instruction in the science of coastal, estuarine, and marine environments. The curriculum also requires mathematics, life sciences, physical sciences, and earth sciences. In their junior and senior years, students pursue specializations in Marine Geology, Marine Chemistry or Marine Physics. All students must take mathematics through advanced engineering calculus, calculus-based physics, two computer languages, two years of chemistry, and four semesters of oceanography, as well as courses in Field Methods, Instrumental Methods of Analysis, and Fluid Dynamics.
TAMUG has been praised as an outstanding public university in recent years by national publications (U.S. News & World Report; The Gorman Report) Graduates of the university are generally successful in the job market and graduate school. Those students who obtain a license-option degree are readily employed by shipping and/or major petroleum firms which operate their own fleets (i.e.. Exxon, Shell Oil , etc.). In general, students with Marine Science- License Option degrees do not "ship-out" for more than three or four years, for they are offered shore-side managerial positions with their companies.
Approximately 50%-60% of Marine Science graduates since 1987 continued their education in graduate school, mainly in the areas of Chemical and Geological Oceanography and Environmental Sciences. Those who do not go to graduate school are generally employed by energy and environmental firms.
Oceanography, Texas A&M University
Updated July 24, 1995