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River Life Joins U of M Institute for Advanced Study

August 16, 2012Patrick NunnallyFormer Featured Posts, Program & AnnouncementsComments Off on River Life Joins U of M Institute for Advanced Study

The meanders of the Mississippi River. Fisk 1944

We write often about our work in terms of connecting a world-class university, its programs, students, and research, to community partners who are working toward a sustainable, resilient river and inclusive planning.  But we don’t often make a big point of where we work within the vast University of Minnesota system.  Nevertheless, that is important, even if for only internal reasons, and therefore we are very pleased to announce that, effective July 1, 2012, River Life became a program of the Institute for Advanced Study at the University.

This change is likely to be all but invisible to our community partners and to many of our internal partners as well.  For the most part, the change reflects a shift in how “back office functions” are handled, although there are some subtle differences in terms of how our program promotes itself and things of that nature.  The Institute for Advanced Study has as its mission “Creating intellectual community across and beyond the boundaries of the University.”  We look forward to working with them on the next stages of our program’s evolution.

But we are not completely saying goodbye to our friends and colleagues at the Institute on the Environment (IonE).  We will continue to work with them on issues relating to sustainability education, on public programs where appropriate, and on other matters where our community connections can help enhance the outstanding work they do.  Indeed, it is important to note that our five years of collaboration with IonE have been a period of transformative program growth, both in terms of size but more importantly in reach and scope.  In short, I really can’t remember any more what we did and how we did it before we began working with IonE, asking big questions about the relationship of the Mississippi River to the world’s large rivers, exploring with experts in the natural sciences questions about how the Mississippi works, and dramatically expanding our digital presence.

So what does the next year hold for River Life?  In addition to continuing and enriching our use of social media to engage a conversation about sustainable rivers and inclusive river planning, we have several initiatives in mind.  We’ll work to hold a daylong symposium on issues associated with invasive species during January.  We’ll continue to teach, and will work to increase the impact of our classroom work beyond the colleges and departments we already work with.  We’ll work with student leaders on the new River Rangers student group, and will continue to develop and extend our river-oriented internship programs.  And finally, we’ll continue to build support for and interest in our work across the University and into the community.

There are always going to be new issues to explore with urban rivers, new communities to build with science, policy, and civic engagement arenas to develop, and important lessons to help students discover.  Our new home at IAS, coupled with continued engagement through IonE, will allow River Life to play a role in these conversations for a long time to come.

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A joint project of River Life, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the University of Minnesota Libraries, Open Rivers is an interdisciplinary online journal that recognizes the Mississippi River as a space for timely and critical conversations about people, community, water, and place.