For one week in September, graduate students in the Collaborative Water Program (CWP) step outside of the classroom and gain hands-on learning experience from local water experts and community members in the Grand River Watershed. Bringing together graduate students from all six University of Waterloo faculties, the CWP provides a unique interdisciplinary learning environment for future water leaders.
The University of Waterloo’s CWP was launched in 2013 to promote interdisciplinary perspectives on water. Jointly offered by 11 University of Waterloo departments and schools, the CWP is the most multidisciplinary graduate program focusing on water in Canada.
“This course by far was the best course I took as a graduate student, and has provided me with so many unique opportunities to make new lifelong friends with people from other disciplines. This is a truly unique course that showcases the excellent innovative transdisciplinary research that is being done at the University of Waterloo.”– Mitchell Kay, a Biology PhD student.
Collaborative Water Program students complete their specialist training in their respective home departments or schools, while working with students from a variety of disciplines such as science, engineering, economics, and governance, in two interdisciplinary courses (WATER 601 and WATER 602). These courses capture both theoretical and practical components, including in-class lectures, field-work, interdisciplinary group work and individual research seminars.
“The amount I’ve learned simply by spending so much time with my peers from such varied disciplines is immeasurable. We all have valuable input and specialized knowledge, but none of us can solve complex water problems on our own, or within our own small bubbles of expertise.” – Amy Dietrich, MES candidate in Geography and Environmental Management.
WATER 601 provides an overview of current issues and challenges in water research and management from a variety of disciplines including, water science, engineering, governance and economics. Students are exposed to key theories, concepts and terminology from various water-related fields and begin to develop connections with peers and water researchers from different areas of study.
“In WATER 601, it was great how responsive to feedback the professors were. We got to pick our own projects and focused on a large global view. This was a good experience for me as I worked with people from different parts of the world and projects in areas of the world I don't know enough about. It really broadened my horizons.” – Christopher Muirhead, Master's student in Civil and Environmental Engineering.
WATER 602 uses the Grand River watershed as a “living laboratory” to study basin characteristics and issues from a variety of perspectives. Students travel across the watershed and have the opportunity to meet and connect with water practioners, researchers, and passionate citizens concerned with watershed health.
“During the week of WATER 602, we were thrown into a variety of hands-on situations. Whether it was strapping on hip-waders to go electrofishing, getting our hands dirty identifying benthic organisms, or taking a swim down the Grand River. We were introduced to people from all around the watershed: from First Nations and Mennonites, to farmers and fishers, to water activists and habitat restorers. I never knew just how much was happening within my own watershed until exposed to all these different perspectives.” – Laura Chandler, a Master's student in Applied Mathematics.
Students that complete the CWP leave as broad-minded specialists, armed with a considerable amount of interdisciplinary knowledge, ready to tackle complex problems in the water sector.