By: Meghan Hanley, Outreach and Engagement Assistant
Water is extremely versatile. Everyone benefits from and can appreciate the water around us.
Following in water’s versatility, there are many different occupations and fields related to water. These different occupations range from biologists and engineers to sociologists and artists.
With these different occupations in mind, the Iowa Water Center (IWC) set out to create a community where individuals in these water-related fields would have the opportunity to collaborate. As a result, the IWC debuted the Iowa Water Scholars program this past year.
The Water Scholars program is an internal learning community at Iowa State University (ISU). ISU has more than 220 faculty members who are in one way or another involved with water resources. Before the Water Scholars program, these faculty members had few opportunities for communication and collaboration with one another.
Given the broad range of subject matter between these water-related occupations, the purpose of the Water Scholars program is to overcome obstacles that have been unintentionally built between these different fields of practice.
Membership applications for ISU faculty were accepted throughout the summer of 2019. The application process resulted in 26 initial Water Scholars community members. This initial group of 26 members was composed of 14 different departments at ISU and 23 unique representations of water resources.
Throughout the year, more ISU faculty members discovered the Water Scholars program solely through word-of-mouth. The final number of members by the end of the school year rose to 37. With the additional 11 members, the Water Scholars program increased its breadth and depth of departments and individuals with expertise on various areas of water resources.
“I appreciated the sessions, the range of information presented, and the opportunities for multi-disciplinary conversation and networking on water-related topics.”
During the 2019-2020 academic year, the Water Scholars program provided meetings on a monthly basis. These meetings consisted of small group work to examine the plethora of disciplines revolved around water science on ISU’s campus. Each meeting spotlighted a specific topic and hosted an expert presenter to further discussions and answer questions.
Topics focused on common necessities and professional development skills for faculty and staff. Specific subject matter included grant writing, science communication, team-building skills, and educating policymakers.
The world paused when COVID-19 hit. In spite of this, the IWC continued to keep the Water Scholars community connected through virtual social hours in March and April. In May, the Water Scholars program took it one step farther and started the Water Scholars Book Club in May 2020.
After receiving feedback from the first year of this program, it became obvious how vital it is to connect departments that work in the same discipline.
For the 2020-2021 academic year, the Water Scholars program is expanding (virtually) to universities across Iowa. Applications to join the Water Scholars program are available here.
“Excited that it will continue next year! The general team-building and professional development topics are always great.”
By the end of the 2020-2021 academic year, the IWC looks forward to gathering all of the Central Iowa locations for a Water Scholars Research Symposium to increase connectivity between interdisciplinary teams, providing a unique professional development program opportunity.