2017 Emerging Scholars

Seven students from the Mobile County Public School System spent their summer expanding their understanding of the link between environmental health and human health as part of the Emerging Scholars Program at the University of South Alabama. The Emerging Scholars program is directed by Dr. Ishara Ramkissoon, Associate Professor in the   Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at the University of South Alabama, and is funded by Tulane University through the Gulf Region Health Outreach Program. 

The 2017 cohort of Emerging Scholars included Sharon Sawyer (Satsuma High School), Autumn Baxter (Davidson High School), Nathaniel Beverly (Alma Bryant High School), Jackson Reimer (Murphy High School), Reagan Robinson (Davidson High School), Brooke Graham (Davidson High School), and Rance “Mac” McElroy (Baker High School). 

These students spent two weeks at USA learning about the environmental impact on health, including speech-language, psychological, and hearing effects. They also explored careers in health and social sciences by working with a number of faculty in the Colleges of Allied Health Professions and Arts & Sciences at the University of South Alabama, and taking field trips to a number of clinics and facilities with health-related offices.  The scholars then attended the four-week residential class in marine science for high school students at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. 

"I learned a lot in a short amount of time," Satsuma High School junior Sharon Sawyer said. "This opened my eyes to careers I didn't know existed. It's given me a lot more options in the science field where I want to end up."

While at the Sea Lab, students listened to lectures and took tests on a number of areas of marine science, they heard from resident Sea Lab faculty about their research, they snorkeled in seagrass beds, they went ‘behind-the-scenes’ at the New Orleans aquarium, they participated in cruises about the Sea Lab’s research vessel, and visited a number of marine ecosystems on Dauphin Island, they conducted a number of lab activities and developed and carried out a short research project. It was a very busy month!  At the conclusion of the program, students gave an oral presentation about their project and will present their projects again at an Emerging Scholars Fall Professional Development event held at one of Mobile County’s high schools. 

Emerging scholar Autumn Baxter gets an explanation for DHP Educator Chris Flight about what she found while snorkeling in the grass beds at St. Andrews Park in Florida.

"I studied snails for my research project," Sawyer said. "It was interesting to learn how this tiny species are able to avoid predators by going up and down a grass stalk, finding their niche, and how they adapt."

Along with expanding their horizons in the world of environmental science, the high school course yielded additional benefit, from friends to life lessons. 

"I definitely got to be in touch with the ocean more," Davidson High School senior Autumn Baxter said. "It opened my eyes to new things, and I met new people."

"Punctuality. No procrastination. Use your time wisely. Get your assignment done the day you get it," Sawyer shared.

"The worst you can do is not try," Baxter said.

“The Emerging Scholars program has been a tremendous experience allowing us to bring this opportunity to local high schools and students for the fourth year in succession!, said  Dr. Ramkissoon 

To learn more about Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s class in Marine Science for high school students, click here.  To learn more about the Emerging Scholars Program, contact Dr. Ramkissoon at the University of South Alabama.