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The University of Minnesota is a world-class comprehensive teaching and research university located in a National Park—the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area—overlooking one of the great rivers of the world.
Both the river and its urban setting in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, provide faculty, staff, students, and alumni with myriad research, service, classes, recreational, and employment opportunities. River Life takes strategic advantage of our location by gathering and disseminating information concerning river sustainability and inclusive planning through digital media platforms and face-to-face programming.
Our work is grounded in a conviction that future river managers will need to be conversant in the sciences, public policy, design, planning, and in the engagement programs that reach the broadest sectors of the populace.
There are neither departments of “river studies,” nor are there major professional or agency river specializations.
These matters are addressed and scattered throughout the University, diverse agencies, NGOs, and professional societies, all working at the scales between “World Water Week” and “Friends of the ____.”
We bring the strengths of the University—its research, teaching, and programs—to partners and collaborations locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally to formulate a conversation where none presently exists, pushing public and academic discourses for future sustainability.
River Atlas provides an online framework for sharing important information about partners, programs, and projects. Available across diverse platforms and addressing diverse scales, it makes information tangible, connected and accessible to decision-makers.
The next generation of thinkers and doers on the river are currently students. River Rangers engages the student body and gives them on the ground experience with the river, river issues and management, and the National Park Service.
For millennia, rivers have been centrally important to the lives of humans, both as transportation routes and sources of drinking water, but also as centers of spirit, significance, and meaning. Telling River Stories explores both what rivers mean and have meant to people, but also how that meaning has been expressed.
Sharing knowledge among diverse audiences is central to our work. On campus, we collect and share information with students and faculty in fields as far-ranging as art and entomology, civil engineering and history, planning and education. Off campus audiences include staff at local, state and federal agencies, media specialists, and others whose professional work focuses on sustainability, inclusive planning, and rivers.
We feel that the cultivation of partnerships is essential to address this question, and all river work, because there is no system on earth, no human construct that does not relate to rivers in some way. We start with our home river, our students, and our own watershed, and we build from there.
What holds these diverse audiences together? Three things characterize our audience: