Operation MAST Runs Aground

For the past nine summers Ben Cuker, a professor of marine and environmental sciences at historically black Hampton University in Virginia, has taken a group of minority students on a four-week tour of the Chesapeake Bay on a 53-foot sailing ship. The Multicultural Students at Sea Together (MAST) program teaches students how to sail and about various aspects of marine and environmental science.

But this summer may be the last voyage. A grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has expired and Professor Cuker has been unable to secure other funding. The program’s demise will be a severe blow. MAST has been an important feeder program for black and minority students into graduate programs in environmental science, a field that has a very low percentage of minority students.