BP settlement funds big upgrade for Mississippi university

Published 7:45 am Thursday, April 6, 2023

The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Gulf Park Campus is about to get an upgrade, precisely a $2.5 million upgrade, thanks to Mississippi lawmakers.

The grant comes from a bill that will award $50 million in BP settlement funds to various Mississippi Gulf Coast counties. Senate Bill 3047 was passed in both chambers on March 27 and now heads to Gov. Tate Reeves’ desk for a signature.

Dr. Westley Follett, Interim Director, School of Coastal Resilience at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is elated with this new endeavor for the Long Beach campus.

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“We are enormously grateful and thrilled beyond words to receive this grant,” said Follett. “It will be transformative, for our students and faculty, for the Gulf Park campus, and for our coastal communities. The Center of Excellence that this grant will establish will further position USM as the premier location in Mississippi and the Gulf Coast region for film education and expertise.”

The USM Visualization and Digital Multimedia Center of Excellence will work together with the Film Studies and Production program in the School of Coastal Resilience. The center aims to promote a better understanding of the oceans, coasts, and the Blue Economy that they sustain. One of the overarching goals is to enhance creativity in students through film studies and to prepare USM students for high-demand occupations in careers like coastal research.

Associate Professor of Film, Vincenzo Mistretta, said this new center will provide greater opportunity for USM students. “The Film Program at Southern Miss’ Gulf Park campus is designed to immerse students in the study and practice of film as an expressive and professional art form,” said Mistretta. “The new center will expand our ability to offer creative storytelling capabilities through experiential learning. Deeply rooted within the diverse environment of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the USM Film Program provides a platform where students can cultivate intellectual development and creativity to help transform their community. The center will help us nurture collaborative learning experiences that emphasize problem-solving, communication skills, and social engagement.”

The center will also be the host of an annual environmental film festival and use to promote stories that impact people living in coastal and maritime areas. USM students will have the opportunity to have hands-on experience in state-of-the-art film, digital and multimedia technology. According to Dr. Follett, the center will be the “go-to” location for film-related expertise in the Gulf Coast region.