New initiative focuses campus energy on water, collaboration

<p>Emily Luke inspects coral specimens that have been growing in the lab within the Robert B. Annis Water Resource Institute (AWRI) in Muskegon on Wednesday, July 8, 2015. GVL / Archive</p>

Emily Luke inspects coral specimens that have been growing in the lab within the Robert B. Annis Water Resource Institute (AWRI) in Muskegon on Wednesday, July 8, 2015. GVL / Archive

Alexandra Loyd

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Grand Valley State University recently adopted a new water awareness campaign called the Making Waves About Water Initiative (MWI). The initiative is set to be GVSU’s focus for the next two years, officially beginning in the fall.

The goal of the water initiative is to create collaboration across campus — among students, faculty and staff, as well as within the overall community, according to the MWI homepage. The goal of the initiative is to explore and investigate the many ways that water touches our lives, from being a life-force to defining GVSU’s relationship to the Grand River and Lake Michigan. 

“The Provost was the one that proposed the idea, and there are about 78 other GVSU faculty and staff interested in working on the project,” said co-leader of the initiative and geology professor Peter Wampler. 

The program is currently set to span over two years. After that, GVSU’s provost wants to do different themes every few years in a similar way to better educate students on important topics that make up the planet and life as we know it. 

“The next two years after this could be focused on energy or something like that,” Wampler said. “We’re hoping to integrate the theme of water into some new classes, as well as have colloquia speakers come to campus to get people focused on water and hopefully modify activities that are already happening to get more of a water focus for the next two years.”

“The overall vision of the program can be summed up in three specific goals,” said co-leader and English professor Kathryn Remlinger. “The MWI aims to form an “interdisciplinary collaboration” around campus, increase student and faculty interaction and use water as a theme to explore by students.”

The initiative is interdisciplinary between departments all across campus. While the focus is water, the group is eager to look at the program from many different views.

Remlinger said that the MWI ties in with GVSU’s identity as a liberal arts institution because it serves as a way of emphasizing, learning and understanding. 

For example, a geology student might look at water as it’s related to rivers and river beds, but in a literature class, the focus may be themes and the symbolic features of water. The theme will portray the importance of water as a resource.

“The initiative is important to our identity as a campus because our campus is located near rivers and near Lake Michigan, as well as GVSU’s Annis Water Institute,” Remlinger said. “This project brings awareness of climate change both locally and globally — because water is so important, we have to have it — it’s a life source.” 

Wampler said that the process of unrolling the MWI is going to be highly student-driven. 

“If students want to be involved in some specific aspect of the initiative, they can email us and share their ideas,” Wampler said. 

“There is a place on the initiative’s website where students can drop ideas about activities or anything related to water that they’d like to make aware — both things that are already happening, or new things as well, so it can be talked about and discussed more — we want this to be really interactive, not just another thing given to students by their professors.”

Remlinger said that the more out-of-the box ideas they conceive, the better it will be for the project. Having fun experiences outside of the classroom go hand in hand with that creativity.

“It’s not just the serious side of water, but the fun sides too,” Wampler said. “One of our teams is called Water Wanderings. One idea we talked about was having a series of field trips before school starts, like next year or the year after, where students go to cool places like the Sleeping Bear Dunes and just explore water stuff.”

Community interaction and engagement to create awareness is important to the MWI as well. 

“GVSU can partner with different organizations that focus on water, such as looking at PFAS and contamination and figuring out how research at Grand Valley can help create awareness or eliminate that,” Remlinger said. 

For students looking to get involved right away, the MWI is hosting a logo contest where the community is encouraged to submit their logo designs to be considered as the MWI’s official logo. The deadline to submit designs is Monday, Feb. 18.