The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is set to begin offering a doctoral degree program in aquaculture/fisheries this fall, allowing the university to expand its research to address problems facing the aquaculture industry. The Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved the program at its meeting today in Mountain Home.
“This is a great day for UAPB but an even greater day for the industry,” said UAPB Chancellor Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, Jr. “My accolades go out to Dr. (Mary) Benjamin, Dr. (Carole) Engle and all those that worked to bring this together and especially the industry that supported us in moving in this direction.”
Benjamin is UAPB’s vice chancellor for academic affairs and Engle is director of the UAPB Aquaculture/Fisheries Center of Excellence.
“It’s a tremendous day for UAPB and it’s a tremendous day for the state of Arkansas,” said Dr. B. Alan Sugg, president of the University of Arkansas System. “The main reason Dr. Engle wanted to establish the Ph.D. program in aquaculture/fisheries is to provide service to (fish) farmers to make sure that’s a strong industry.”
Engle said faculty and staff are excited about moving ahead with the program.
“We’ve very pleased that the board has approved this and we’re looking forward to enrolling the first students in fall 2011,” she said. “The last step is to get the approval of our accreditation agency – the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of College and Schools. We’re getting that application ready to go and we’re hoping that review team will be in this summer.”
The new doctoral program bodes well for an industry that is a major part of the state’s economy, Engle said. Arkansas ranks second to Mississippi in overall fish production, third in catfish production and first in baitfish production. The state ranks first in the production of hybrid striped bass fingerlings, grass carp, largemouth bass for foodfish and sportfish for stocking farm ponds.
“We appreciate the support and confidence of the AHEC Board and the staff and we’re confident that these Ph.D. students will help us take on more research studies and solve more problems brought to us by the aquaculture industry,” she said. “We have partnered with UAMS (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) in terms of governance as we see the first Ph.D. students through the program.”
The aquaculture/fisheries industry has firmly supported the establishment of the doctoral program.
“We are so excited about this and look forward to what UAPB is going to do in this area,” said Eric Park, president of the Arkansas Bait and Ornamental Fish Growers Association. “It’s wonderful.”
UAPB’s Aquaculture/Fisheries Center is recognized as a leader in aquaculture/fisheries teaching, research and Extension programs. The university’s proposed doctoral degree program underwent a thorough review process. According to a recent Ph.D. Review Team Report, the current program in aquaculture economics at UAPB is one of the strongest in the country. UAPB also has one of the largest assemblies of faculty with expertise in aquatic sciences in the nation. The report also cited the aquaculture/fisheries program’s excellent resources, highly successful master’s program and a fish health program with a strong national reputation.
The Aquaculture/Fisheries Center has “one of the most respected fish health experts in the country who is considered a national leader in the area of risk management and health certification,” according to the report. In addition, the report found that “the future growth of aquaculture in Arkansas and its positive impact on the economy is dependent on the production of Ph.D.’s because these professionals will generate timely and applicable research results and be closely involved in the formulation of policy that will affect the overall growth of the aquaculture industry in the United States.”