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River Walks, We Are Water, and the University

One of the nice things about working on a campus that overlooks the Mississippi River is that it’s a very short walk to an overlook where the river is visible.  In our case, the whole trek to an overlook is about 100 yards, a block or so.  From there, it’s possible to walk either upstream or downstream (right or left) for changing river vistas, overlooks, or descents onto the flats at the water’s edge.

We have used this location frequently over the years as a space from which to initiate programs, class trips, and the like. This fall, our We Are Water program series includes a weekly River Walk, which commenced last week when we heard from Linda Buturian on “The River Is the Classroom.” Buturian’s work, which is outlined in more detail in an article in Open Rivers, brings students into the river corridor for learning that is active, immersed in a sense of place, and connects broadly to the world beyond our immediate vicinity.  Student projects are often digital media productions, which allow for a more multi-dimensional expression than more traditional papers or exams.

Buturian’s walk kicked off a season that we think will be notable both for the quality of each event as well as the range of perspectives being brought to light.  The series continues through November 14 and includes:

October 10, Simi Kang addressing issues of power and storytelling as ways of understanding what a place contains, or does not contain.

On October 17 staff from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization will highlight work they are involved with that protects water quality and habitat along the urban Mississippi.

The program on October 24 continues the theme of water management, featuring Julie Rantala from the University’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety focusing on efforts the University is making to manage water on campus.

Newton Horace Winchell, a preeminent geologist at the turn of the 20th century, is one of the great historical Mississippi River figures whose story is not well known.  The October 31 talk, by Carrie Jennings of the Freshwater Society, rectifies this gap by taking us “In the Footsteps of Winchell.”

Dan Milz, a faculty member in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, continues a historical theme with his talk “Daylighting the Headwaters of Environmental Planning in the Twin Cities” on November 7.  It turns out, as Milz will share with us, that attention to planning for the future of the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities goes back much farther than we might have thought.

Our fall season closes on November 14 with a discussion by Steve Lee, a retired staff person from the MPCA, about how a 1963 oil spill changed local expectations of the Mississippi.

Can’t make one or more of these but want to keep involved with the conversation? We’ll be exploring livestreaming them whenever possible, plus I imagine there will be social media coverage that hits the high spots.

The River Walks series is part of the broader We Are Water program being held at the University of Minnesota between October 12-November 26. Learn more about the traveling exhibit and other programming at the calendar web site or download a flyer with a full list of campus events.

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