Graduate program brings together students from all six Waterloo faculties for a unique learning opportunity

Friday, October 6, 2017

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.

students doing water research in grand river

The University of Waterloo’s CWP was launched in 2013-14 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.

“The Collaborative Water Program teaches you what interdisciplinarity is, and how to use interdisciplinarity in practice by solving real-world problems through collaboration with students from different disciplines. It also teaches you how different disciplines can contribute to solving water-related problems, how to understand their terminology, and how to successfully collaborate with them.” – Katrine Orland Led, MASc candidate, Civil and Environmental Engineering

students on boat in grand river watershed

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. Spending time getting to know my classmates through WATER 601 and 602, even simply by being exposed to the way they think and the questions they ask, has helped me broaden my perspectives on issues. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know people in the CWP whom I would have likely never have crossed paths with otherwise.” – Amy Dietrich, MES candidate, Geography and Environmental Management

students electrofishing in grand river

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, MASc Candidate, Civil and Environmental Engineering.

students doing water research in grand river watershed

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, WATER 602 had me asking myself: “Is this real? Am I really getting a credit to explore the outdoors for a week?” 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, MMath candidate, Applied Mathematics.

students sledding in Collaborative Water Program

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.

Students interested in learning more about the Collaborative Water Program can check out the CWP webpage, brochure or contact the Water Institute.

students learning in circle at the Grand River Watershed