URI Marine Affairs program to partner with Tall Ships America on research, education, outreach

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KINGSTON, R.I. – February 10, 2015 – The Department of Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island has signed a memorandum of understanding with Tall Ships America, an industry trade group that represents educational sail training programs throughout the country, to collaborate on research, education and outreach.

The agreement was announced last Friday at the annual conference of Tall Ships America in Philadelphia.


According to Austin Becker, URI assistant professor of marine affairs who serves on the board of Tall Ships America, this partnership will provide considerable benefits to both organizations.


“Many people who work in the sail training industry eventually seek a master’s degree, and this partnership will provide our Marine Affairs program with greater visibility that will hopefully result in increased enrollment in the program,” said Becker, who noted that a scholarship program will be developed to support sail training professionals pursuing Marine Affairs degrees at URI.


Tall Ships America Executive Director Bert Rogers said, “This document recognizes what has been a very productive, informal relationship for many years, and it sets the framework to expand on that success. We are pleased to encourage sail trainers to pursue advanced degrees at URI’s excellent Marine Affairs Program. They have much to gain as maritime professionals and educators, and much to contribute in return.”


The agreement calls for Marine Affairs faculty and students to participate in the annual Tall Ships America conference and its Tall Ships Challenge event, which this year takes place in eight East Coast port cities. Faculty members in the department will provide support to the sail training industry by conducting relevant research of interest to the industry, including the role that sail training can play in scientific data collection, environmental stewardship and leadership development.


Dennis Nixon, professor of marine affairs at the University of Rhode Island and director of the Rhode Island Sea Grant College Program, was the keynote speaker at the Tall Ships America conference last week, where marine affairs graduate student Eric Romelczyk presented his research on how employment recruiters at commercial shipping companies view professional mariners with a sail training background.


The URI Marine Affairs program is the world’s oldest academic program dedicated to ocean and coastal management. It offers undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees leading to careers in marine policy, law and management.


Tall Ships America is a non-profit educational membership organization with more than 175 vessel and program members, each dedicated to providing hands-on experience and training in seafaring skills and the nautical sciences. URI has long partnered with one of the group’s members, the Sea Education Association, which provides students with opportunities to spend a semester aboard a sail training ship studying marine science and learning seafaring skills.


Pictured above:

Posing after announcing the agreement between URI and Tall Ships America are Mike Rauworth, chairman of the Tall Ships America board of directors, URI graduate student Eric Romelczyk, URI Marine Affairs Professors Dennis Nixon and Austin Becker, and Bert Rogers, executive director of Tall Ships America. Photo submitted by Prof. Austin Becker.