A fond farewell to the water community

It was June 25, 2012 – my first day on the job at the Iowa Water Center. Rick was in Canada on a fishing trip, so I went to get lunch on my own. I ran to an old standby, Hy-Vee Chinese, and when I got to the fortune cookie, what did I see?

You will be successful in your work.

I kept that fortune taped to my desk at work from that very first day up until now, my last day at the Iowa Water Center. Looking at the eight years in-between, I think we can safely say that my fortune proved true, thanks to the patience, energy, and collaboration of the hundreds of brilliant colleagues I’ve met since that first day.

On August 10, I will begin a new chapter in my career as the associate director of operations for the National Institute of Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education(NIAMRRE). Similar to the Iowa Water Center, NIAMRRE is administered by Iowa State University’s Office of the Vice President for Research and seeks to connect researchers, educators, and practitioners to solve one of society’s most pressing issues. Also similar is the systems approach taken by both institutes: One Water, where we recognize that all water is connected and has value, and One Health, where we recognize that human health, animal health, and environmental health are inseparable and sectors must work together to advance science and practice.

Anyone who has met me knows that I’m not a person of few words, but I’ll try to succinctly capture our success together over the last eight years:

  • In 2012, we managed $92,335 in sponsored funds each year; today, we administer over $1.75M in sponsored funds for multi- and interdisciplinary research, outreach, and education projects.
  • We grew our outreach from a static website to a comprehensive multimedia strategy with thousands of engagements each month.
  • We supported nearly 50 faculty and 60 graduate and undergraduate students through our competitive grants program, including directly funding original projects designed by graduate students through the addition of our graduate student supplemental grant program.
  • We grew the Iowa Water Conference in every single metric: attendance, exhibitors, posters, workshops, planning committee members. But more importantly, the conference became the embodiment of the vast amount of hard work and passion the water community expends each year. It is more than a conference. It is a celebration.

What these statistics don’t capture is the breadth of new projects and initiatives to which we’ve led or contributed, and, most importantly, the friends we’ve made along the way. When we launch our new website later this month, I hope you’ll see your role in achieving our vision of a robust and connected water science community.

While leaving my water family is bittersweet, I am absolutely confident that the foundation we’ve laid together will continue to advance water science to meet Iowa’s water resource needs. I won’t be far, and I look forward to watching the Iowa Water Center and the Iowa water community flourish.

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Melissa Miller served as the associate director of the Iowa Water Center from 2016-2020 following her tenure as program coordinator from 2012-2016. She holds a BS in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Community and Public Health and MS degree in Community Development with an emphasis in Natural Resource Management, both from Iowa State University.