“Fresh Water for All,” the college’s first Grand Challenges Project, launches next fall, aiming to magnify the strengths of SUNY Oswego with a cross-discipline approach that makes substantial impacts on this imperative global issue.
College President Deborah F. Stanley set the tone in a campus-wide announcement: “The Grand Challenges Project will give Oswego students, faculty and staff from all disciplines a unique opportunity to tackle the impact that ‘Fresh Water for All’ has across every aspect of our global community.
“Grounded in shared goals, integrative skills and technologies, and an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving, the Grand Challenges Project reinforces the fact that today’s solutions need to include many stakeholders across a spectrum of scholarship, creative activity and opinion,” Stanley said.
Leigh Wilson, chair of the Grand Challenges Oversight Committee and director of Interdisciplinary Programs and Activities, said the project has great potential to move the whole campus into more collaborative and interdisciplinary learning activities both in and out of the classroom.
“Civic engagement and volunteer efforts will increase,” Wilson said. “Students will have more applied learning opportunities. These are best practices that hone the students’ critical thinking, their creative thinking and their interpersonal professional skills.”
Jerri Howland, another member of the oversight committee, said, “As dean of students, I feel any time you can engage the students on an issue facing our country in a collaborative way, with the entire campus community, it is exciting. I’m looking forward to working with them as we approach our first challenge: Fresh Water.
“By examining a challenge from multiple perspectives—Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, students and staff—we educate on the topic, raise the awareness, explore different worldviews and values, and generate solutions. Students are a big part of these solutions. They are our future and we need their help to improve today’s challenges for the future generations in creative and innovative ways,” Howland added.
Student Association President Dalton Bisson ’19, who is majoring in history and political science, said, “From my conversations with students, I think students are excited about the initiative and the outcomes it could produce. There is a general optimism and many people are glad that such an important topic was chosen to focus on!”
The world’s fresh water crises may seem an abstract notion to many of us on the shores of one of the Great Lakes, which contain about 20 percent of the world’s surface supply of the precious resource. Yet from this position of strength, the college can make a difference for those far less fortunate.
“The Grand Challenges Oversight Committee will be working across disciplines to provide our campus community with a variety of multidisciplinary initiatives related to fresh water—from social justice issues to global sustainability and access, from the science of pollution to artistic interpretations of fresh water issues to media coverage of fresh water power politics,” Stanley said.
Campus members will be encouraged to apply for micro-grants to support creative, interdisciplinary classroom or civic projects tied to the theme.
“One real virtue of our shared grand challenge is that the considerable, manifold strengths of our SUNY Oswego campus will be united as one in advancing the common good,” Wilson said. “We’re surrounded by immensely beautiful and diverse systems of fresh water at SUNY Oswego. And it’s in trouble globally. That Oswego seeks as a community to caretake fresh water makes a lot of sense.”
The Grand Challenges Project has its genesis in the college’s strategic plan, Tomorrow, which came together from months of concentrated thought and analysis by more than 250 members of the college community, alumni and other stakeholders.
In defining impacts that the college has made and will continue to build on, the plan spells out Impact Five: “Our work contributes to finding solutions for the grand challenges of our time.”
The Grand Challenges Oversight Committee foresees “Fresh Water for All” as the first of a two-year, overlapping cycle of projects that SUNY Oswego can focus on and, in the language of the Tomorrow plan, as “vibrant, engaged and curious faculty, staff and students delve into multidisciplinary investigation of problematic social and global issues.”
For more information, contact the chair Leigh Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org and stay tuned to oswego.edu/grand-challenges.