water photo

Two leaves are sitting in a puddle of water. 

Illinois State University has recently been approved for a new minor: Water Sustainability Studies. It will be available for student enrollment in fall 2021.

Department Chair and Department of Sociology and Anthropology professor Joan M. Brehm PhD provides that the addition of this minor is a result of the Center for a Sustainable Water Future. 

It is an interdisciplinary center on campus with the purposes of advancing "research, creative expression, teaching, outreach activities, promoting and enhancing effective and viable water solutions and stewardship within Illinois and with our regional, national and global partners," Brehm said. 

She adds that the center was started by a diverse and assorted mix of faculties from the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Fine Arts and the College of Applied Science and Technology.

“It was established in April 2018. At that time, we began the process to create this new minor,” Brehm said. 

Co-director of the Center for a Sustainable Water Future and Department of Politics and Government professor Noha Shawki PhD said that bringing about the minor was not a difficult process since there was full support from the involved department chairs as well as from stakeholders and faculty.

The minor is not noted to be a distinct part of any single department, as it is meant to include all departments with interests and expertise on the concept of water issues.

“There was an intentional effort not to have this minor connected to any specific department. We wanted the minor to be truly interdisciplinary, so we made a conscious choice to not connect the minor to any one department," Shawki said.

She notes that the minor would very well complement several different majors with relations to water and sustainability. Additionally, Shawki said the minor will address water-related complications within climate change.

“There is growing interest at ISU in sustainability and sustainable development, and faculty involved with the center felt that such a minor would complement a number of majors quite well and be helpful to students who seek a concentration in a specific area of sustainability," Shawki said. 

Brehm discusses the various areas that the minor will target and what significance it holds across the environment.

“Sustainable water management has profound implications for a variety of anthropocentric sectors, including agriculture and food security, energy, economic development, public health and ecosystem services," Brehm said. 

She also relays that an understanding of water from various angles serves optimally for the ability to implement changes in the future.

Some of the majors the minor will work well with include biology, environmental health, public health, politics and government, business, sociology, anthropology, agriculture, fine arts, geology and environmental systems.

A new course was created as a requirement of the minor. It is titled “Thirsty Society” and will be available as SOC 103, GEO 103, and POL 103.

“This new course will be offered for the first time in spring 2021 and is cross-listed in both SOC and GEO. Although the course is listed under two separate departments, it will run as one course taught jointly by Dr. Eric Peterson and I," Brehm said. 

She also stresses the fact that the issues of water span across different arenas and require an understanding of all involved components.

“When you look at all the issues and challenges that are facing us in terms of water, every single one requires a collaboration of different disciplines to truly address that challenge," Brehm said.

“For example, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan represents challenges to public health, child development, social justice, engineering, urban planning, and policy. Solving these problems means we need to collaborate and work together to address all facets of these challenges.”

It is made evident by the variegated areas across society as well as the environment that water sustainability and cleanliness impacts.

Brehm further emphasizes the importance of water as an essential resource and the necessity of collective, human efforts to improve its surrounding troubles in the coming years.

“Water resources touch every sector of our lives and our economies from food and agriculture to health and wellness. Water is also a vital resource for most industries. Anyone who has an interest in creating a more sustainable future would find this minor to be useful and engaging," Brehm said.

"Water is a crucial global resource, and water security is central to sustainable development.”

YASMIN ODEH is a News Reporter for The Vidette. She can be contacted at yaodeh@ilstu.edu. Follow her on Twitter at @yasminodeh3

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