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Meet Your Neighbor: Page Graham inspires with time at Gulf Park campus

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Page Graham of Long Beach, a senior at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Gulf Park, is blending her passion for sustainability efforts along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and her academic experiences to encourage young people, particularly women, to consider a career in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field.

Graham began her USM journey in 2016 studying biology, before taking a hiatus to take time for family. When she returned to USM in 2021, Graham looked at the school’s Sustainability Sciences (Coastal System Dynamics) degree program and decided it was the perfect fit for her and her interests. 

“It’s been a learning experience,” Graham said. “Sustainability is a blending of all sciences. There is so much diversity in the knowledge of sustainability when learning about surveys, field work methods and gathering data.”

Graham’s academic program featured hands-on projects focused on the Mississippi Gulf Coast ecosystem, including opportunities to analyze organisms, history and water quality on the Gulf Park Campus at its Bear Point Bayou, while also studying various birds and trees found on the Mississippi coast.

Graham works at the Environmental Justice STEM Leadership Academy with the STEPS Coalition and at the Boys and Girls Club, where she educates sixth through twelfth graders on environmental issues along the coast and leadership strategies for environmental justice.

Dr. David Holt, associate professor of geography at USM Gulf Park, says he is proud of the way Graham took the lead in projects across campus.

“She is a driven student who searches for solutions and has a scientific mind to evaluate real-world problems, from addressing freshwater sources along the coast to teaching at the Environmental Justice STEMM Leadership Academy,” said Dr. Holt. “She uses her class experience to show middle school and high school students how to look at things from a scientists' viewpoint and has even developed hands-on lesson plans for understanding composting and landfill decomposition in her work.”

“Page shows by doing and is a great example of who we want our sustainability majors to be,” said Dr. Holt.

Graham’s involvement in the student organization, Women in STEM, provided a framework for her to engage in a supportive community for other women scientists and engineers.

“I’m glad we have this organization and are inclusive in showing that women are present in STEM,” she said.

Graham continues to be drawn to coastal system dynamics and providing pathways for scientists everywhere to live and work on the Gulf Coast, while planning for her own career in the sustainability sciences field after earning her degree. 

“My short-term goal is to graduate, while my long-term goal is to be a good example for my daughters as well as others in their generation as a woman who is also a scientist,” she said.