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November 17, 2009
By Mary Hunton
For six years the University of Nevada, Reno has been home to the Student World Water Forum (SWWF). Since its inception in 2003, the SWWF has been giving students interested in water and water issues the chance to present their topics and research in a simulated professional conference.
“It really is a platform that’s fairly unique, especially on campus here that students otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to participate in,” said Jasmine Vittori, president of the graduate student committee that is in charge of organizing and running the SWWF.
The issues span over a wide variety of subjects, from local water issues such as adding fluoride to Truckee Meadows municipal water supply to more international issues like the lack of clean water in developing countries. As long as the topic has some relevance to water it is free game in the Forum.
“There’s always some aspect or interest in water as the central focus,” said Kayla Berry, the committee’s secretary. “It’s any topic that relates to water: water and climate, groundwater, surface water, water and politics, water and ecology or biology.”
But the SWWF is much more than just a conference for the grad students involved in the committee. It is a massive commitment. Not only do many of them present their own research, but they have all of the behind the scenes issues to wrap up as well.
“We organize proceedings, printing, advertising,” Vittori said. “We also contact various organizations or businesses around town who may be interested in donating. It’s a pretty busy group. And kind of all encompassing, too, we have a lot of different aspects of this.”
This is the second year for both Vittori and Berry to be on the committee. Though last year they were involved due to the biannual International Issues for Water Development course through the Natural Resources and Environmental Science and Geography departments, which requires grad students enrolled to be a part of the SWWF committee, Vittori and Berry chose to stay on for another year.
“Because that class is only offered every other year, this year when the class wasn’t offered there weren’t any default committee members,” Vittori said. “It was a unique experience doing this last year. I really wanted to participate again.”
There are also two other student members of the committee, Katie Mann and Nicholas Grant, as well as two faculty advisors, Dr. Laurel Saito in the Natural Resources and Environmental Science department and Dr. Kate Berry in the Geography department.
The busiest time of the year for the committee is the couple of weeks leading up to the conference where they spend between 10 to 15 hours a week working with the SWWF. Adding that to the top of their class schedule and work load is difficult, but the reward is worth it.
“The payoff is the two day conference that we organize and participate in ourselves as well,” Berry said. “It’s a good opportunity to show the work you’ve put into a project.”
And this interest in water issues will not die post-graduation. According to Vittori, living in the desert has given her much of her interest in water, and she plans on sticking around in order to utilize her environmental science major locally.
“My background is primarily in natural research management, so I hope to stay in the Great Basin region,” she said. “I like the arid ecosystem, and whenever you work in an area like that water is always an issue.”
The Student World Water Forum will be held in room 320 of the Student Union on Nov. 19-20, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.