A Confluence of Water and Interdisciplinary Education: The Mississippi Water Security Institute

Author(s): Ochs, C.

Social-ecological systems (SES) are comprised of humans, human cultures and perspectives, human institutions, and multitudes of diverse non-human residents. Clean water is the solvent of social-ecological systems, a resource upon which the components of these complex systems are linked and dependent for their economic prosperity, heath, and sustainability. To meet and protect the resource requirements of SES, governance and management approaches are necessary that account for and promote the interests and needs of diverse stakeholders. The Mississippi Water Security Institute is an undergraduate program designed to provide interdisciplinary education in the methods and challenges of water use and management in Mississippi, and the opportunities for new approaches to best meet present and future needs in support of the state’s economic development. Emphasizing the complex, interdisciplinary nature of the topic, students in MS WSI represent a university of majors, from business and the social science to the natural sciences, and are recruited from Honors College programs across the state. In its first year (2016), MS WSI focused on water use and management in the rural Mississippi Delta, and last year we examined these issues with respect to the well-being of urban communities such as Jackson. This coming year, we turn our attention to water resource issues affecting well-being, prosperity, and resilience along coastal Mississippi. The MS WSI program involves in-class presentations by expert guests, discussion, and extensive time in the field. In both years of the program, students composed a White Paper detailing their individual and group learning experiences. Student assessment indicates strong satisfaction with the MS WSI interdisciplinary approach, experiential design, and the practical application of the subject matter, with several students stating that the program had reinforced interests in some aspect of water security as a career.

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