The University of Iowa’s water-poverty course offered through the India Winterim Study Abroad Program will get a boost after receiving a U.S.-India 21st Century Knowledge Initiative Award.
The award is a two-year, $100,000 grant from the U.S.-India Educational Foundation. It will allow the course to expand its existing partnerships with the Sehgal Foundation and IIT Roorkee in India and include students from the brand-new UI Sustainable Water Development Graduate Program.
The course is a three-week field project in which students travel to the Mewat District of rural India to study water poverty in the area and help the Sehgal Foundation’s efforts to combat the freshwater crisis there.
UI research scientist Marian Muste, the course director, partnered with UI International Programs in 2011 to start the India Winterim course during which students not only visit but contribute to the work being done by local organizations.
A shortage of freshwater in the area led the Sehgal Foundation, which supports community-led development initiatives, to create innovative ways to capture and store water. The foundation has built check dams to capture monsoon rains and in-ground storage for rainwater at local schools.
In past years, UI students have engaged in projects involving monitoring the water levels and salinity levels of the captured water to see how well the systems are able to maintain their supply and study how sustainable the approach is at creating a new water supply.
With the grant, the course can now expand the duration of these projects by offering funding to graduate students on the Global Engineer Training path in the Sustainable Water Development Program. In addition, the UI can now host its partners from India and teach them about the programs and training offered to students here.
“We can both grow and learn more about how to do these sorts of projects well, partnering with academics, communities, and nonprofits such that more people can benefit,” said UI Associate Professor Craig Just, the head of the Global Engineer Training path.
Just got involved with the program by helping to design field-based techniques for analyzing water for the course, and he is grateful for the opportunity to bring more students in the program to India.
“From my perspective, that’s exciting,” said UI Professor Allen Bradley, the course instructor for the past three visits. “The nature of what we can do will be expanded, because now we’ll have students who are working on this project beyond the duration of the course.”
Bradley, who is part of the Sustainable Water Development Program, helps to create the projects for the course and accompanies the students to India. Prior to the grant, Bradley said, a program that is only three weeks long limits what they can do. With the expansion, they can now design more engaging and meaningful projects.
“It works really well with our students, because we’re able to contribute toward the professional experience that is required in the program,” said Amina Grant, a graduate student in the Sustainable Water Development Program who participated in the course last winter.