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Institute to Bring Together Campus and Community Environmental Initiatives

RELEASED: May 6, 2009

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has established the Watershed Institute for Collaborative Environmental Studies, an institute that will foster education, research and community outreach that relates to the natural world and the place of humans in it.

"The Watershed Institute will help unify environmental programs across the curriculum, in research, and through outreach and service on and off campus," Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich said. "UW-Eau Claire has a large group of faculty, staff and students with interest and expertise in environmental studies. They are spread across departments and colleges. The Watershed Institute will bring their efforts together in a way that will benefit the campus and beyond."

As a result of this initiative, UW-Eau Claire graduates will leave campus with a strong liberal arts experience and an increased environmental awareness, literacy and ethic, said Dr. Kate Hale, UW-Eau Claire's Sustainability Fellow.

The institute also will encourage the campus community to more actively interact with and serve the local community, region and the globe, Hale said.

"We want UW-Eau Claire to become the Midwest's premier institution for the interdisciplinary study of the environment," Hale said. "We envision this campus informing and empowering a community of ecologically aware, globally minded citizens that value and practice sustainable and respectful relationships with the natural world. Our goal is to empower all citizens to be environmentally informed and aware, and good stewards of the environment."

In their Watershed Institute proposal, members said the term "watershed" is significant not only for its meaning — a large, distinct geographic unit of water, air and land systems — but also for its metaphoric meaning: a decisive turning point, signifying a transition between two stages.

"We chose the institute's name to emphasize our connection to this place on the Chippewa River, to recognize the critical turning point society faces now and to signal our intention to work for a healthier future," said Dr. James Boulter, an assistant professor of chemistry, who was involved in the institute proposal. "Institute members also pursue studies in other geographical locales, including the global environment. When you consider the interconnectedness of environmental systems on this planet, in some sense, the entire world is our watershed."

The center will be an environmental information portal for the campus and community, serving as a meeting ground for faculty, staff, students and community members, Hale said. She added that members of the institute will support and coordinate outreach efforts to governmental organizations, businesses, nonprofits, advocacy groups and K-12 educators.

"We want to unite programs under one umbrella so efforts in all areas can be coordinated and enhanced," Hale said. "We want to foster collaboration and strengthen the identity of all the environmental programs within and among the campus and community."

For more information, contact Dr. Kate Hale at 715-836-2761 or halecl@uwec.edu.

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JB

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