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Hands-on activities in the lab and in the field are part of the one-month course in global climate change, which incorporates all oceanographic disciplines. Photo credit: PEP
In addition to the course, PEP students undertake a research project under the guidance of a science mentor at one of the participating institutions. Photo credit: PEP

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May 11, 2017
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

PEP Begins Ninth Year Offering New Perspectives, Opportunities in Diversity

In 2004 the leaders of the six Woods Hole science institutions - the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries-Northeast Fisheries Science Center), the Sea Education Association (SEA), the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) – formed a consortium and together committed to attract and retain a more diverse workforce, one that reflected the changing demographics of the nation and the international community. The Woods Hole Diversity Initiative was born. The leaders also signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which they reaffirmed in 2012, to create “pathways of opportunity” for members of traditionally underrepresented groups.

One of these pathways in science and education is the Woods Hole Partnership Education Program (PEP), a summer internship program aimed at college juniors and seniors who have had some course work in marine and/or environmental sciences. Cohorts of 15 or 16 students participate in a four-week course focused on global climate change, and then the students spend six-to-eight weeks on individual research projects, culminating in a public presentation of their research results. Students earn four college credits from the program’s academic partner, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

“PEP is a wonderful model of diversity -- the seven partner institutions are large and small, public and private, marine and environmental and biomedical,” said Georges Liles, new PEP director and longtime program manager. “The students come from all corners of the country, from large research institutions and small colleges, from Minority and Majority Serving Institutions, from urban and rural campuses. They come from a wide variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and they bring an impressive range of talents, interests, and previous research experiences. We look forward to the arrival of the PEPsters every summer -- all of us who are fortunate enough to interact with PEP students know that they bring life and energy to our village.”

The 2017 course begins June 3 and ends with public research presentations on August 12. Sixteen students from colleges and universities around the country will soon arrive in Woods Hole to begin their PEP internship. Many have never heard of Woods Hole before their internship. Most learn about PEP through college faculty members or academic advisors, online through searches for summer internships, or by word of mouth and networking. The program provides housing, a food allowance, a stipend, and much more.

This year’s class, the ninth since the program began in 2009, brings the total number of students who have participated in the program to 138 from 89 public and private colleges and universities in all geographic areas of the United States.

Students in the class of 2017 represent Amherst College, University of Rhode Island, New York City College of Technology, Howard University, Georgia State University, Fort Valley State University, Eastern Michigan University, Auburn University, Spelman College, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Morgan State University, Tuskegee University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, New York University-Abu Dhabi, University of California Santa Cruz, and the University of California San Diego.

Many PEP alumni have gone on to graduate school, participated in other programs offered by PEP institutions, or found employment in the marine and environmental sciences field, including positions at Woods Hole science institutions.

Some, like Adrienne George, have returned to PEP in a different capacity. George was a member of the first PEP class in 2009. She finished her Ph.D. in biological oceanography in December 2016 at the University of South Florida and is returning for a second summer as PEP student coordinator.

George will join PEP director George Liles, curator of NOAA’s Woods Hole Science Aquarium who also participates in the program by offering the students a writing seminar, and Ben Gutierrez of the U.S. Geological Survey. Gutierrez recruits instructors and organizes the PEP course, which includes lectures and assignments on a wide range of marine and environmental science topics, as well as career development workshops. Ben Harden of the Sea Education Association also provides assistance with the course.

Ambrose Jearld, founding director of PEP who recently retired from the NEFSC where he was Director of Academic Programs, continues to play a role with PEP as a recruiter and mentor, and serves as the Sea Education Association’s senior advisor to PEP.

Learn more about PEP and the experiences of last year’s PEP class.

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