Feb 15 2012

Background

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An outgrowth of the 2011 Academic Plan, UNC’s two year pan-campus theme, “Water In Our World,” calls for the University and all of its members and resources to mobilize around a common issue facing our society, which in this case is water. The significance of water as the selection for Carolina’s first attempt at a campus-wide effort is encapsulated in the following quote by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which she comments: “In the United States, water represents one of the great diplomatic and development opportunities of our time. It’s not every day you find an issue where effective diplomacy and development will allow you to save millions of lives, feed the hungry, empower women, advance our national security interests, protect the environment, and demonstrate to billions of people that the United States cares, cares about you and your welfare.  Water is that issue.”

From its inception, driving forces advocating for this theme have included UNC’s Global Research Institute, UNC Global, and the Institute for the Environment, and the Water Institute at UNC. A formal proposal was presented to the Faculty Council in November 2011 by Jamie Bartram and Larry Band that served as the impetus for the two-year campus water theme. The proposal received unanimous approval in December 2011 and plans have been underway ever since that time.

In presenting such an ambitious project, there are several objectives which University administrators hope to achieve, including:

  • Extending the University’s traditional role as a force for greater equity and scholarly progress.
  • Bringing community together around a common purpose and creating meaningful external partnerships.
  • Enhancing interdisciplinary research and practice, and in turn, Carolina’s reputation as a premier research university.
  • Making major breakthroughs in the study of water.
  • Setting the stage for future pan-campus themes at UNC.
  • Creating lasting legacies beyond the two-year period.

The external perception and anticipation for an undertaking of this magnitude is also incredibly high as evidenced in a quote by Charles Fishman, author of the book entitled “The Big Thirst,” where he writes: “If it comes off as envisioned, the frank ambition of the two-year effort will be to make UNC-CH a global center of water expertise and innovation, to do for water what, for instance, Stanford does for Silicon Valley.”

Leadership of this theme is being directed by Jamie Bartram, director of the UNC Water Institute and a professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Terry Rhodes, Senior Associate Dean for Fine Arts & Humanities in the College of Arts & Sciences. Under their guidance is a steering committee composed of faculty, staff, administrators, students, and community leaders from a wide array of disciplines which helps in highlighting the nature of this theme as an interdisciplinary effort. Click on the Steering Committee tab at the top of the page for more information on the Water Theme co-chairs and membership of the aforementioned steering committee.