Weber State to devote year to teaching water issues across disciplines

Aug 29 2012 - 6:25am

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Contributed photo
Artist Rosalie Winard holds a pelican chick. Winard’s photographs will be on display next month at Weber State University in conjunction with a series of water-related talks, art showings and events.
Contributed photo
Artist Rosalie Winard holds a pelican chick. Winard’s photographs will be on display next month at Weber State University in conjunction with a series of water-related talks, art showings and events.

OGDEN -- Weber State University will focus on water this school year in the hope of quenching the thirst for knowledge.

Or maybe whetting it.

A two-semester focus called Water Works is planned to bring together faculty and students, community and university, and scholars from diverse disciplines.

"This came out of a single recommendation by a geography faculty member to bring in Sandra Steingraber, who had written a book called 'Living Downstream,' " said Michael Vaughan, Weber State University Provost.

The 1998 book, also made into a 2010 film, shares the thoughts of the ecologist Steingraber, who battled cancer while attempting to spread the word about the disease's link to environmental toxins in the nation's water.

"Just in that single author you can see connections with geosciences, politics, literature, health professions and more," Vaughan said. "It's a way of touching multiple disciplines. We are hoping for some invigorating discussions."

It's easy to miss seeing how various disciplines interconnect.

"One thing that often happens on university campuses is, students take classes, and they enjoy their economic or their history class, but they don't see how those classes tie together," Vaughan said. "One thing some universities have done is to establish a theme, and bring in various artists and speakers and movies, and encourage the faculty to connect their curriculum with the theme, when appropriate."

Water Works events officially begin with the Saturday opening of a gallery exhibit of water bird photographs by artist Rosalie Winard. The exhibit will continue through Sept. 30 at the Bridge Gallery in the Shepherd Union Building. Winard will speak at noon Sept. 20 in the Allred Theater of the Browning Center. The exhibit and talk are free and open to the public.

A panel discussion, "The Great Salt Lake: What's it Worth?," will be sponsored by the WSU Environmental Issues Committee, at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 26 in the Shepherd Union Building.

October will bring a three-month exhibit, "One Dam Thing After Another: Water, Dams and Utah Construction Co.," in the Stewart Library Special Collections Room. At 7 p.m. on Oct. 4, former Utah State Poet Laureate Katherine Coles will read from her works. And at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 10, Utah State climatologist Robert Gillies will speak on "Utah's Water Future? The Symphony that is Utah's Climate."

Two more October events are planned, as is an exhibit in November. In January, Steingraber will make a speaking appearance, and her film will screen. Water Works activities continue through March, and more are being added to the lineup. To check the schedule as it is updated, visit www.weber.edu/waterworks.

Diane Stern, director of the WSU Office of Public Affairs, is scheduling events at Vaughan's request.

"A couple years back, we had photographer James Blaylock on campus, who is documenting the glacial ice retreat," Stern said. "It was very successful, the week he was here, and the students, faculty and community all became involved. Mike really wanted to follow up on that and focus on a topic for the academic year.

"We're focusing on water because it is so essential to life," Stern added. "It has been monetized, fought over, stolen and polluted, but we need it. It's something we can't get by without. We're discussing now what we might look at for next year."

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