Research assistant professor Heidi Gough has received a Global Innovation Fund Award to create a new study abroad program, which will bring students from Jordan to study alongside UW students to explore water-engineering issues on the Olympic Peninsula and in the San Juan Islands.
The new program will focus on relationships between water, engineering and culture, with an educational theme of “Integrated One Water Management.” The cultural aspect is significant, according to Gough, as culture plays an important role when determining the water needs of communities, from drinking water practices to establishing wastewater facilities. The Olympic Peninsula and San Juan Islands provide an ideal setting to study the cultural aspect, as both are home to various tribal nations that have existing treaties related to water issues.
“Students learn engineering from textbooks, but engineering happens in the real world and involves real people,” Gough said. “This course will allow students to explore the interconnections between topics that are taught as separate courses on campus.”
As part of the program, students will learn first-hand about a variety of related topics, from storm water management impacts on water quality to impacts of water resource management on drinking water treatment to how cultural views can shape water-engineering decision-making.
The program builds on an existing relationship with Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST), which started in 2012 with the formation of the Engineering Jordan study abroad program. During Engineering Jordan, JUST hosts UW students and faculty for the duration of the month-long course.
To increase cultural diversity, the award will fund two scholarships for water-related STEM majors, one for a UW student and one for a JUST student. The award also supports two cultural activities planned to emphasize the importance of water engineering on cultural Native American cultural resources. After touring a new wastewater treatment plant that will divert contaminated water from previously closed shellfish beds, students will participate in a traditional clam bake. Similarly, after touring the Elwha River Dam removal sites, the students will learn about the importance of salmon runs by participating in a traditional salmon bake.
The program will start in summer 2017 and is anticipated to become self-sustaining in future years.