SCUBA program returns to USM

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

Students who wish to return to the water at The University of Southern Mississippi are now able to do so. Southern Miss will offer SCUBA classes to students for the first time since spring 2011. SCUBA is short for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus and those certified in using the equipment are able to dive hundreds of feet to examine life below surface level.

In April 2011, a fire scorched through Johnson Natatorium of the Payne Center and irreparably damaged the SCUBA owned by Southern Miss. The damage to the Natatorium was also so intense that renovations had to be completely finished before SCUBA certification classes could continue there. Now, the renovations have finally reached the point that classes may again be offered.

The return of the classes is a cause for celebration for the university. SCUBA training has been offered at Southern Miss since 1975 when the program began under Charles Burchell, according to a press release. Bill Powe took over the program in 2003 and is certified to train divers by the National Association of Underwater Instructors.

The SCUBA classes at Southern Miss will cover beginner-level courses to classes for more advanced diving. The classes are offered through the School of Human Performance and Recreation and may be helpful to some students later for their chosen profession. Diving lessons are also offered on study abroad programs through Southern Miss.

Crysta Lorenz, a junior marine biology major, became SCUBA diving certified while on a trip to Honduras with a Southern Miss study abroad program.

The training was especially important to Lorenz because of her major. “Most internships that I’ve seen for marine biology are offered at aquariums,” Lorenz said. “Disney in particular offers specific internships that require a SCUBA certification.”

Lorenz did not find the class material difficult but found that the skills were challenging. Lorenz is now open water certified.

Students interested in diving should consider taking the courses offered at USM. Divers need to receive training so that they know important safety information such as this. Recreational SCUBA diving depth is suggested to be limited to 130 feet. This limit protects divers from experiencing nitrogen narcosis or “narcing,” according to

Southern Miss offers a variety of other exciting and physical courses, such as aerobics, bowling and tennis, which can be one hour courses or longer. Not only are these classes important for students who intend to go into athletic training fields or recreational careers, but they also provide students an opportunity for fun classes which keep them active and promote the University’s commitment to providing ways for students to stay healthy.

Ashleigh Ward, a junior biology major, said she would definitely be interested in taking a SCUBA course at Southern Miss, but wishes that in the future the school could find fire-resistant gear so that it can continue to offer underwater classes.