‘Water in our world’ class makes a splash on students

UNC’s campuswide water theme has trickled down into the curriculum.

This semester marks the first time the University is offering ENVR 890: Water in Our World, a one-credit hour course that introduces various perspectives on water.

The course, named after the water theme, is designed to meet 14 times throughout the semester and covers seven different modules, each composed of one lecture and one student-led discussion.

Each module is led by one of seven co-instructors, and includes topics such as water and energy policy, water as a human right, and water safety.

“This course brings together so many different ways of thinking about water that even I haven’t thought about before,” said co-instructor and health policy and management assistant professor, Benjamin Meier, whose background in global human rights was the foundation for his lecture on water as a human right.

No prerequisites were required to take the course, leaving it open to all majors.

“I think that everyone appreciates the value of water,” said co-instructor Alan Wilson, an assistant professor at Auburn University who is on a semester fellowship with UNC’s Global Research Institute.

But Wilson said the 40 to 50 students in the class appeared to be mostly environmental studies majors.

Junior Stefanie Schwemlein works as a research student for Jamie Bartram, a course instructor and director of the UNC Water Institute. Schwemlein said the diverse expertise of the instructors was one of the main reasons she decided to take the course.

“Bartram is kind of a rock star in this field,” she said.

Monday only marks the third class of the semester, but the instructors have high hopes for the course, which Meier said is helping to put UNC at the forefront of water issues.

“(This course) is healthy for the students at the University, and it will lead to concrete advancements in the way we address the global water crisis,” he said.

However, the course in its current form will end when the “Water in Our World” theme ends next year. Many of the co-instructors will also leave UNC because they came on semester fellowships from positions at other universities.

There are plans to integrate water education into other courses, though nothing is definite, Meier said.

Schwemlein said the class, and her work with Bartram, have led her to make changes in her own life.

“I’ve grown more conscious of my water use,” she said.

“I have even started to pester my roommates to turn off the tap if it’s running water wastefully.”

Contact the desk editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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