Penn State has a long and rich history of engaged, innovative, and impactful water and water-related research. This portfolio of work encompasses the natural, social, and health sciences, engineering, policy and law, communications, the arts, and more. Building on this breadth and depth of expertise, Penn State has launched a University-wide water initiative, proposed as a Penn State Water Consortium, and involving more than 170 faculty and staff engaged in research, teaching, and outreach.
As synthesized in the proposal, the Penn State Water Consortium will bring together faculty, staff, and students from across the University, building upon long-standing strengths in engineering, natural and social sciences, while expanding engagement with the health sciences, law and policy, emerging technologies, arts and the humanities, and other disciplines. The Consortium will benefit the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and communities around the world by advancing the understanding and demonstrating solutions in the four areas of emphasis below, each of which is aligned with one or more University strategic plan thematic priorities, as noted:
- Protecting Public Health and the Environment – Advancing understanding of human and ecological health and ecosystem services, supporting vibrant and sustainable economies, and developing solutions to address both enduring water quality problems and contaminants of emerging concern. (Enhancing Health, Stewarding Our Planet’s Resources)
- Advancing Resilient Communities on a Dynamic Earth – Strengthening understanding and modeling of fundamental Earth processes across scales, including shifts in all aspects of the hydrosphere and related social and ecological implications, and developing and demonstrating innovations that enhance resilience through actionable climate solutions.(Stewarding Our Planet’s Resources)
- Driving Innovation and Technology – Developing and deploying next-generation tools, techniques, materials and processes; advancing data-driven solutions; and actively using the University as a living lab in the service of meeting the world’s most pressing water challenges. (Empowering Through Digital Innovation)
- Guiding Social Action, Policy and Corporate Transformation – Strengthening public governance, water ethics, and environmental justice, enhancing water security at individual to national scales, improving private sector performance, and integrating the arts and humanities for improved awareness, understanding, and culturally-appropriate solutions. (Advancing the Arts and Humanities)
In addition to and across these four areas of emphasis, the Consortium will further advance the University’s land grant mission through actions on two cross-cutting strategies:
- Transforming Water Education and Student Opportunities – Expanding formal (degreed) and extracurricular opportunities that engage our graduate and undergraduate students and expose them to cross-disciplinary and diverse perspectives on water to enhance their Penn State experience and strengthen their knowledge and networks for an impactful future. (Transforming Education)
- Engaging People, Communities, and Partner Institutions – Supporting current and future community-based water initiatives, providing outreach and extension services, identifying and developing public, private, and civil society partnerships strategic to University water priorities, and enhancing water-related communications. (across thematic priorities)
The Penn State Water Council is responsible for strategic planning and development and coordinates the University’s water initiative.