MPA & EVSS Concurrent Program – Dr. Sandifer

How lucky are we to hear from today’s guest! Dr. Paul Sandifer has been a longtime faculty member for both the Master’s in Marine Biology and Master’s in Environmental Studies at The College, and has a lot to say about it! Read on for juicy tidbits about the MPA and EVSS graduate concurrent program at CofC!

Dr. Sandifer recently served as thesis advisor for MESS student Judy Taylor on a project entitled “EJ (Environmental Justice) Strong: Strengthening Communities for Disaster Risk Reduction, Response & Recovery in South Carolina.” He is currently mentoring another MESS student, Tatiana DiSalvo, who is continuing the EJ community work. In addition to the EJ Strong project, he has accomplished other groundbreaking research surrounding the relationship between people and our oceans.

Source: cofc_evssprogram Instagram

What distinguishes your program from others, including its key strengths?

“[the program] is multi-disciplinary with strong elements of policy and community connections alongside natural and social science. My efforts are focused on improving understanding of the connections between environmental factors and human well-being, with a specific emphasis on environmental justice.”

Please tell us about the graduate-level classes you teach within the program:

“My primary roles at the College are in research and mentoring of graduate students. In the distant past, I taught a course in Aquaculture and helped team-teach a course on Issues in Marine Policy and Management. Most recently, I led the development of a new course, “Ecosystem Services and Human Health,” for advanced undergraduates and graduate students in ESS. This course is taught by others, but I usually provide a guest lecture. I have also worked with colleagues at the University of SC to develop and implement a public training course in disaster risk reduction, aimed primarily toward Environmental Justice communities, but available to others.”

Describe the connections between your research and course content:

“My research deals with the positive and negative effects of ocean and coastal environments and their associated ecosystem services as well as the impacts of disaster events on human well-being. Information in these areas is typically included in my occasional classroom lectures, in the new course I helped develop, and especially in my student mentoring activities.”

How do you foster a supportive and engaging learning environment for your students?

“While I do not have a laboratory per se, in recent years my graduate students have been immersed in experiential community-based participatory research. They work directly with me and my professional colleagues as we engage with environmental justice communities in disaster risk reduction and related activities.”

Source: cofc_evssprogram Instagram

What are some opportunities students have with research and/or industry professionals?

“Students have the opportunity to work directly with environmental and public health scientists/professors from other institutions (e.g., University of SC, Clemson University), state and federal agency staff (e.g., SCDHEC, SCDNR, NOAA, EPA), and community leaders and community-based organizations (e.g., Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities, Sustaining Way). Students build long-lasting connections with these and other thought and action leaders.”

How is your program evolving to meet the changing needs of graduate students?

“We are more actively engaged outside the classroom with communities and faculty/staff of other institutions. Today’s students often want to see how the work they do, and careers they are training for, can make a difference in society. We provide numerous opportunities for such real-world experiences, in addition to the more traditional classroom and laboratory work they get in regular courses. We also interact occasionally with international organizations.”

Please share an inspiring success story about a graduate student from the program:

“Ms. Judy Taylor completed the MESS degree with me in the spring of 2022. Despite numerous difficulties associated with the effects of the COVID pandemic on her ability to conduct community-based research, she completed an outstanding EJ community-based project that has been widely appreciated by the community and others, a peer-reviewed publication, and a story map used by the community. Her work was also featured in the final chapter of a new Oceans and Human Health textbook. It was chosen by the lead editor for the textbook, Dr. Lora Fleming, as an example of community involvement in climate change adaptation. As a result of her stellar work at the College, Judy was quickly hired as the Climate Resilience and Air Quality Planner for the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Central Transportation Planning Staff, where she continues to work.”

Anything else that might be helpful for prospective graduate students to know?

“Going forward, the Center for Coastal Environmental and Human Health will be under the joint supervision of the School of Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering and the School of Health Sciences, with myself and Dr. Leslie Hart as co-directors. We believe this arrangement will provide greater opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students and for faculty collaboration across the College.”

Dr. Paul Sandifer and his former mentee, Judy Taylor ’22, have work published in this textbook! Source: cofc.ssm Instagram

Special thank you to Dr. Sandifer for sharing his time and expertise about the MPA and EVSS concurrent program. This is a special opportunity for students who want to make a positive impact on environmental policy. We encourage you to navigate the links below to learn more! See you soon future Cougars!

MPA Instagram

EVSS Instagram

Student Testimony

Program Website

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