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Marine Lab adds new courses to boost enrollment

Declining enrollment at the Duke Marine Lab has prompted a flurry of new course offerings designed to attract more students.

Officials have introduced a new program called "Conservation, Biology and Policy" that they hope will bring a new type of undergraduate to Beaufort. "We are hoping to attract students that are not necessarily science majors," said Bruce Corliss, associate dean of the Nicholas School of Environment. "These are courses with policy involved."

Enrollment in the Marine Lab's programs has fluctuated greatly in the last several years. In 1998, spring enrollment was 36, dropping to 32 in the fall and then increasing to 46 and 58 in the first and second summer sessions, respectively.

Spring and summer of 1999 saw high enrollment at 42, 41 and 45, but then in the fall the numbers were down to 25.

This semester, the numbers were back up to 37; enrollment currently stands at 25 for the upcoming fall semester, although applications are still coming in.

Michael Orbach, director of the Marine Lab, identified three key reasons for the decline in enrollment: the recent increase in comparable alternative places of study, the emphasis placed on study abroad and changes in the biology major's curriculum requirements.

"There's a lot more out there these days," Orbach said. "We used to be one of the only places to get high-quality field and academic experience, but many new programs have begun."

Students seemed to agree with this assessment. "Beaufort is not a very attractive summer program if you can go somewhere like Costa Rica for the same classes," said Trinity junior Kristy Tart. "People don't really want to stay in state, so maybe they could help enrollment by offering trips out to places."

Indeed, Orbach said the "Beaufort to Bermuda" program had a high enrollment in the spring, and this can be partially attributed to the fact that students like to see two different environments.

Orbach also explained that beginning in 1996, changes in biology requirements-such as a required two semesters of cell biology and an increased emphasis on taking physics during the junior year-made it more difficult for students to spend a semester at the Marine Lab.

"I'm a biology major going pre-med, which I think is a drawback because Beaufort's schedule doesn't really fit with the requirements," said Trinity sophomore Chevon Haswell. "It almost seems like the program was geared towards graduate biology students."

In response to these criticisms and at the behest of a task force, Marine Lab administrators have begun changing their programs.

Physics will be offered at Beaufort this summer and perhaps in the fall. More broadly, the Beaufort program will begin to concentrate on the "so what?" questions resulting from science.

The directors of the program want to create more integrated courses in addition to its single-discipline based classes. Orbach said that the second term of the summer session has been labeled "Conservation, Biology, and Policy" and will also be part of the upcoming fall semester.

"[This] takes regular training in disciplinary courses and puts it together," Orbach explained. "We want to address how to take science and put it into social action... to translate it into policy."

In addition, three new courses, "Conservation Biology," "Modern and Ancient Ocean Environment" and "Coastal Ecosystem Processes" have been added to the upcoming fall semester. The latter will be team taught with faculty from Durham and Beaufort.

In making the changes, lab officials considered the effect of the entering freshman class.

"As the Curriculum 2000 requirements go into effect next fall, we are trying to see if the lab's courses can fulfill the student's needs," Corliss explained.

With the careful review of the lab's program resulting in alterations and new additions to the course list, Orbach said he hopes to see continued interest in this "intimate environment where students grow close and are willing to give assistance to one another."

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