Student World Water Forum highlights important issues

10/1/2008 - By: Guia Del Prado

The fifth Annual Student World Water Forum will feature student presentations during International Week on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 20-21 in the Joe Crowley Student Union Ballroom. Students from different departments will present on water issues throughout the two days, creating an interdisciplinary and international look at water and the different political, scientific, sociological and environmental concerns that surround it.

The Student World Water Forum is a two-day forum organized by graduate students in the Student World Water Forum Club with advisement from professors Kate Berry of Geography and Laurel Saito of Natural Resources and Environmental Science. Keynote speaker Chris Brown, associate professor of Geography at New Mexico State University, will wrap up the presentations and speak about international water resource management at 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 21, in the William Raggio Building, Room 2030. The student presenters will receive feedback from evaluators who are professionals from the University, the Desert Research Institute, and the community.

The forum was first started in 2003 under Berry and Saito as part of their International Water Issues class, which is offered jointly through the Geography Department and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science. The forum was first designed as a required project for the capstone class, modeled on the Student Water Symposium that Saito developed as a graduate student at Colorado State.

“We decided that if we made it as something the students would do to get credit, that might be a really nice way to have this symposium,” Saito said. “We thought it would be a great experience for the graduate students.”

The forum’s name was taken from an international conference called the World Water Forum, the largest international event on water which is hosted every three years by the World Water Council. The Student World Water Forum is also designed after this international event.

“It’s a much larger professional event,” Saito said. “But we certainly try to model [the Student World Water Forum] after that.”

In the Student World Water Forum’s last five years, two additional classes have joined the roster of students contributing to the forum. A limnology class and a hydrology graduate seminar class now require their students to give presentations at the Student World Water Forum. Both the graduate students and the undergraduate students in the classes are required to participate in the forum. But while undergraduate students participate by giving presentations, graduate students also organize the forum and are members of the Student World Water Forum club.

The Fifth Student World Water Forum will also be hosting their first poster session in addition to the presentations. Organizers hope the poster session will give a visual aid on the students’ presentations.

“I’m very interested in how the poster session goes since we’ve never done that before,” Saito said. “I think that should be a very interesting event. We’re very excited about that.”

The Student World Water Forum achieved club status in 2007 with the Graduate Student Association. Students interested in organizing the forum, being part of the club or presenting at the forum need not be in these classes to participate. Jasmine Vittori, 26, graduate student in the International Water Issues class, stresses that the presentations can be about any perspective just as long they pertain to water in some way.

“It’s all encompassing,” Vittori said. “It allows students on campus to present on water topics that are of interest to them.”

Saito believes the chance to attend or organize an event simulated after professional forums or conferences offers a unique opportunity most students would not get in their courses.

“We encourage anybody who has any interest in water to give a presentation,” Saito said. “This is an opportunity to get feedback on your presentation style. And if you’re not comfortable with presenting, then I would say come and attend to see what it’s all about.”

Saito said the community interest with the Student World Water Forum is also very predominant. The evaluators include many business officials in the community who share a vested interest in water issues.

“We ask professionals from the University and the community to come in and give the students feedback on their presentations,” Saito said. “It’s a nice way to get people from the community to see what is going on at the university and the students appreciate getting feedback from people who are not their instructors.”

The presentations will offer perspectives on water issues. The interdisciplinary interaction of the forum can be very informative on water.

“A forum like this allows you to gain a lot of different perspectives on a lot of topics and you can do it all at once in one location, as opposed to getting your information piece by piece in various media sources or courses,” Vittori said. “It’s more like a crash course in a lot of different topics but it does raise awareness in what is going on around the world and the country in regards to water issues.”

Both Saito and Vittori hope the forum will help to share awareness of the importance of water in everyday life and how the easy availability of water in a developed country is sometimes taken for granted.

“When you start thinking about water and realize that it’s a limited resource and not everybody has access to it, it gives you a new appreciation for it on the technical and research side,” Saito said. “I again think it’s really important to remember that there are different ways of looking at water and that’s where the interdisciplinary aspect is really important.”


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