1. Christian Wells
  2. http://uweb.cas.usf.edu/~ecwells/
  3. Professor
  4. USF Reclaim
  5. http://usf-reclaim.org/
  6. University of South Florida
  1. Cori Bender
  2. USF Reclaim
  3. http://usf-reclaim.org/
  4. University of South Florida
  1. James Mihelcic
  2. Samuel L. and Julia M. Flom Professor
  3. USF Reclaim
  4. http://usf-reclaim.org/
  5. University of South Florida
  1. Christine Prouty
  2. USF Reclaim
  3. http://usf-reclaim.org/
  4. University of South Florida
  1. MAYA TROTZ
  2. http://www.mayatrotz.com
  3. Professor
  4. USF Reclaim
  5. http://usf-reclaim.org/
  6. University of South Florida
  1. Farah Vickery
  2. Producer
  3. USF Reclaim
  4. http://usf-reclaim.org/
  5. University of South Florida
  1. Linda Whiteford
  2. Professor Emerita
  3. USF Reclaim
  4. http://usf-reclaim.org/
  5. University of South Florida
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Christian Wells

    Christian Wells

    Lead Presenter
    May 12, 2019 | 05:10 p.m.

    This video describes an emerging collaboration between applied anthropologists and environmental engineers at the University of South Florida, where our focus is on improving human and environmental health outcomes of WaSH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) infrastructure transitions in underserved communities.

     

    While in its formative phase, we are interested to know what you think about the collaboration. What can each side bring to the research problem? How can we overcome challenges with cross-disciplinary communication? Is this collaboration worthwhile for training students? Please let us know what you think!

     
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    Kenia Wiedemann
  • Icon for: Kate Meredith

    Kate Meredith

    Informal Educator
    May 12, 2019 | 08:23 p.m.

    Your video is really well done. What approachable analogies you chose to explain your team members! I must know more about how your team developed over time.  I am wondering what implications your work will have for large collaborations seeking to work with diverse populations in the US,

     
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    Christian Wells
  • Icon for: MAYA TROTZ

    MAYA TROTZ

    Co-Presenter
    May 12, 2019 | 11:18 p.m.

    Thanks for your comment. We have definitely grown to work together over the past 7 years, and have mutual respect for each other. Initially our students took courses in each other's departments. Now, we are co-developing and co-teaching courses and the co-creation of knowledge continues. One thing that emerged from the grant that supported the work in the above video, is a National Research Traineeship that uses a systems thinking lens to approach Food Energy Water Systems with coastal communities. It was really watching how our group worked together in Placencia, Belize and wanting to build on that in a much more formal way. The Grand Challenges of Environmental Engineering were released in December 2018 by NASEM (sponsored by NSF) and the ultimate grand challenge calls for alot more of this type of integrated and community engaged work. Our Strong Coasts cohort is now starting and we will update on how it's going. Here's the link http://www.strongcoasts.org/

     
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    Kenia Wiedemann
    Kate Meredith
    Christian Wells
  • May 13, 2019 | 09:05 a.m.

    I also love the analogy you used for different ways of thinking. I would love to know if you had specific ways of engaging in the beginning to help build a shared language, or to help the anthropologists and engineers generally communicate and work together more effectively. Was the systems thinking lens the primarily approach? Were there others?

     
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    Lucía Alcalá
    Christian Wells
  • Icon for: Christian Wells

    Christian Wells

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 10:52 a.m.

    Good questions-- communication is always the hard part! We were very fortunate in the beginning to have a week-long NSF residential seminar at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, NM. You can read about the collaboration and resulting products here: https://sarweb.org/seminars/research-2016/global-water-energy-nexus/. This was followed by a second week-long "research incubation" meeting at the Institute of Advanced Study at Durham University in the UK: https://www.dur.ac.uk/ias/.

    What really helped with collaboration and communication was having anthropology and engineering students live together in the field (Belize) while working on the project. The informal conversations that emerged really got the students using each other's language and understanding each other's worldview. By the end of the research, we had anthropology students talking about the sanitation value chain and engineering students quoting Foucault!

     
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    Kenia Wiedemann
  • May 13, 2019 | 03:50 p.m.

    Your project sounds amazing! Throughout the years I've seen over and over again that collaborative work is precious in any context, even if initially some more "reserved" students may not appreciate it much (it passes).

    I am particularly interested in learning more about how (if?) local policies/regulations play a role in the community projects and how these will survive as part of the community after the research period ends. Do local policymakers/politicians (ugh) come up to join the discussion (especially overseas)?

     
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    Christian Wells
  • Icon for: Christian Wells

    Christian Wells

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 09:13 p.m.

    Thank you for your question! The short answer is yes... we work closely with local politicians (in Belize, it's the "Village Council"). In fact, we can't/won't work with the community without the permission and active collaboration of community leaders. But working with local policies before/during/after the research can be complicated. Sometimes it's a bit of a minefield. But being open and honest about why you're there and what you're doing goes a long way to building trust, which is ultimately one of the most important aspects of working with communities in the Global South. All too often, academics from the U.S. "show up" in communities in Latin America, for example, and engage in "drive by" research, where the engagement lasts a couple of weeks at most. To build lasting and sustainable change, you really need to be there for a much longer period, and to come back again and again-- it's about demonstrating long-term commitment instead of just "visiting" to try to force quick change.

     
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    Kenia Wiedemann
  • Icon for: Lucía Alcalá

    Lucía Alcalá

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 14, 2019 | 02:08 a.m.

    Congratulations on your successful collaboration! I particularly appreciate the long-term commitment to sustainable change approach to this interdisciplinary project. I work with Maya communities in Yucatan and the projects I've seen are exactly the 'drive by' approach that fail to engage the community and ignore the knowledge systems that have worked for many generations, which can be key building blocks to new sustainable projects. 

     
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    Kenia Wiedemann
  • Icon for: Christian Wells

    Christian Wells

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 11:11 a.m.

    Thanks, Lucía, I couldn't agree more! I see this a lot in Mexico and Central America, not only with development projects (especially NGOs), but also university-based programs. There is a great article on this and "third sector science" that I recommend: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44148687?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

     
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    Kenia Wiedemann
  • May 14, 2019 | 04:46 p.m.

    That's great resource. Thanks, Christian.

     
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    Christian Wells
  • Icon for: Jay Labov

    Jay Labov

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 03:15 p.m.

    As facilitators, we're asked to view the video and comment early to "seed" discussion. Other things got in the way for me. In this case, I'm glad that enough time has elapsed so that I also had a chance to read the very thoughtful questions and responses before offering my own. I think that what has been revealed in this exchange contributes as much as the video itself. Three minutes just can't effectively tell a story this complex! As this project continues I hope that the insights which have appeared in the comments can serve as the basis for an additional video. The notion of "drive-by" research that ignores the needs or the wisdom of the community is something that researchers and aspiring researchers need to hear again and again. 

    I have three additional questions that I hope you'll be able to address:

    1. Overcoming the barriers across disciplines is exceedingly difficult given the current structure of academe but exceedingly important. You've provided some very helpful anecdotes about how students from the two disciplines who spend time together in the field begin using each other's language. Does this project include an efforts to more quantitatively and qualitatively measure what students learn from these experiences, how they increase the breadth of their worldview or their understanding and application of systems thinking to addressing problems?

    2.The kinds of experiences you are providing to graduate students are similar to the recommendations in a 2018 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century (As a former staff member for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine [NASEM],I contributed to this study). What lessons do your experiences provide for the future of graduate education. Are the Graduate School or other departments at the University of South Florida with graduate programs taking notice?

    3. While working at NASEM I also helped staff a study that led to a report in 2018, The Integration of the Humanities and Arts with Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Higher Education: Branches from the Same Tree. In the resources tab associated with the report is a database of more than 200 projects that are attempting to bridge the gap between STEM, the humanities, and the arts. While many of these are highly innovative, their continued existence depends to a great extent of the people who designed them. What happens when one or more of the designers and contributors has to leave the initiative for any number of reasons? Additionally, even if this project is still in its early stages, what kind of thought have you given to it's continuance after NSF funding ends? Will USF's Departments of Anthropology and Engineering be committed enough to provide line items in their budgets? What about higher level academic offices at the university?

    Thank you again for preparing this video!

     
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    Patricia Marsteller
    Christian Wells
  • Icon for: Christian Wells

    Christian Wells

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 08:07 p.m.

    Thanks so much for your kind words, comments, and questions, Jay! I will try my best to address them all:

    1. We have a wonderful assessment being conducted by Dr. Allan Feldman from USF of changes in student perceptions and behaviors before, during, and after our NSF PIRE collaboration. I look forward to seeing his final report.

    2. Regarding the future of graduate education, I have come to an unexpected opinion having worked with this team for 7 years now. Before this project, I really thought that transdisciplinary approaches to graduate education was the future. But now, I realize that being a specialist in your field also has fundamental value, and that maybe for some kinds of research, we don't need/want students trained very broadly to the point that they are not specialists in their field. I now see a great deal of value in bringing expertise together (that's why I named our video, "Diversity Improves Design"). I think the biggest challenge is developing frameworks for working together. Doing so allows the property of complementarity to develop and mature. Holism and systems thinking are still critically important, don't get me wrong, but not if we end up with 'jacks of all trades, masters of none.'

    3. The question of what happens next is what we are dealing with now... It's an exciting time and a terrifying one, too! But thanks to the friendships that we developed on our team, our partnership and collaboration endures. Since our PIRE project, we have had two significant spin-offs-- two successful NSF projects that are outcomes of our initial collaboration: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1638301 and https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1735320&HistoricalAwards=false. Onward and upward!

  • Icon for: MAYA TROTZ

    MAYA TROTZ

    Co-Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 07:50 a.m.

    Jay and Christian, adding some thoughts here. NASEM recently releases the Grand Challenges for Environmental Engineering for the 21st Century and I just returned from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors conference where this was discussed quite a bit. It was emphasized that we need systemic change to ensure community engaged work that demonstrates community impact (positive) needs to be considered in T&P and that our field needs to better prepare to perform such work and to evaluate it. Those who are doing it already need to share their approaches etc. as the field learns to do more of it. This to me is one way of mainstreaming approaches like those discussed in the video so that they are not dependent on the few professors who do it right now - mind you I also don’t see anything wrong with being more supportive of first adopters. Our cohorts are now taking faculty positions and it will be really interesting to see how they expand on the training they have gotten through our program. Many of the environmental engineers were at that conference last week and I feel optimistic as they are also looking for ways to collaborate amongst themselves now. 

    The NRT grant I think is a good example of something that evolved from the PIRE. It adds new interdisciplinary courses, including a field course overseas in Belize. It emphasizes systems thinking and community engagement throughout. The first cohort started in January, so evaluation data on this is unavailable. The approach to this new grant was very much built on the experience of some of our students in Belize during the PIRE and builds on the relationships developed then. Back to our new NASEM report, I think our cohort will more align with the role of integrator and systems thinking and the ability to bring disparate voices together will be tools that they use to accomplish this. 

     
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    Christian Wells
  • Icon for: Jay Labov

    Jay Labov

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 08:23 p.m.

    Thanks so much for these very thoughtful responses. I agree with you completely that expertise in a field is essential. But I wonder whether we can evolve the concept of "expertise to broaden both the scope and depth of knowledge in other fields. For example, in another report that the Academies published a decade ago, "A New Biology for the 21st Century," the committee described what is needed to educate a "New Biologist". See especially the 2nd bullet.

    • The New Biology Initiative provides an opportunity to attract students to science who want to solve real-world problems.
    • The New Biologist is not a scientist who knows a little bit about all disciplines, but a scientist with deep knowledge in one discipline and a “working fluency” in several.
    • Highly developed quantitative skills will be increasingly important.
    • Development and implementation of genuinely interdisciplinary undergraduate courses and curricula will both prepare students for careers as New Biology researchers and educate a new generation of science teachers well-versed in New Biology approaches.
    • Graduate training programs that include opportunities for interdisciplinary work are essential.
    • Programs to support faculty in developing new curricula will have a multiplying effect.

    As you so aptly said, these are both exciting and terrifying times for thinking about the future of graduate education!

     
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    Patricia Marsteller
    Christian Wells
  • Icon for: Christian Wells

    Christian Wells

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 08:29 p.m.

    This is terrific, thank you!

  • Icon for: Jay Labov

    Jay Labov

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 08:33 p.m.

    Happy to be of assistance!

  • Icon for: James Mihelcic

    James Mihelcic

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 11:13 p.m.

    One outcome of this collaboration i am most proud of is to see students who graduate and enter research and/or teaching jobs, and have continued to work together.   Some even led a proposal that resulted in an NSF Coastal SEES grant, others have collaborated on workshops and journal papers.   So a few seeds were planted and are sprouting.  

     
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    Christian Wells
  • Icon for: Christian Wells

    Christian Wells

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 12:18 p.m.

    For those interested, here is a link to the full video (7.10 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8Iw1-xry3Y

     

  • Icon for: Ivory Toldson

    Ivory Toldson

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2019 | 12:22 p.m.

    Hello All! My name is Ivory Toldson, professor at Howard University, president of Quality Education for Minorities, and one of the facilitators for the STEM for All Video Showcase. The conversation is off to a great start and I will be chiming in with my own input this afternoon and over the next few days. I'm excited about what we can achieve for the next generation of STEM learners!

  • Icon for: MAYA TROTZ

    MAYA TROTZ

    Co-Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 07:55 a.m.

    Hi Ivory. Howard graduates the most African American undergrads in engineering accounting to the latest NSF report on our demographics. USF is also listed as one of the top places for graduating African American students. One of the outcomes of the PIRE was the establishment of a 3+2 program with the University of the Virgin Islands, also an HBCU. We continue to build on that relationship and they are also collaborators on a new National Research Traineeship grants branded now as Strong Coasts - http://www.strongcoasts.org 

     
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    Christian Wells
  • Icon for: Judith Dilts

    Judith Dilts

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 01:12 a.m.

    What a great project and video! As a Facilitator, I'm to review a number of submissions -- one of the recurring themes is the importance of bringing together different disciplines whether they be different STEM disciplines or STEM and non-STEM. The value of doing so is apparent in the richness of projects. I was particularly struck in your project by the realization that bringing such different disciplines together was hard -- the building of trust, of respect, of understanding language and culture. Having the participants live together obviously had a synergistic outcome. Well done! I was wondering if you could tell if the quality/sustainability of the WaSH projects was improved by the interdisciplinary nature of the program?

     
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    Christian Wells
  • Icon for: Christian Wells

    Christian Wells

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 11:42 a.m.

    hi Judith, thanks for your comments and question-- my answer to which is a resounding yes! By integrating social science with engineering, we were able to include a diversity of voices, including local stakeholder groups, into the design process for WaSH problems. Anthropology, with its attention to holism (e.g., framing problems and solutions along the axes culture, power, and history) helped situate what the engineers were doing in cultural and geographic context. At the same time, the engineers taught the anthropologists about the possibilities and limitations of technological solutions. Our main research question for our grant is: "can effective, geographically-appropriate, and culturally relevant engineered systems be established that utilize wastewater as a resource for recovery of energy, water, and nutrients?"

     

  • Icon for: Ivory Toldson

    Ivory Toldson

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 12:28 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing! This project is not only interesting but absolutely necessary and I believe it has the potential to have a great impact on the community. Interdisciplinary collaborations are often difficult, however, they have the potential to lead to more comprehensive solutions. Thank you for sharing the challenges that you have faced and I am glad to see that they have not hindered you from continuing this work. I am very interested in what specifically your community involvement has included thus far. What challenges did you face when establishing community relationships?

     
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    Christian Wells
  • Icon for: Christian Wells

    Christian Wells

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 02:08 p.m.

    Thanks, Ivory! As applied anthropologists, we work explicitly with communities who identify their own problems and challenges (we don't presume to know what problems people have). So to do this, we identify key stakeholders in the community and begin having conversations with them, always with our last question being, who else can we talk with about this. This allows us to follow people's social networks and identify broader and sometimes cross-cutting stakeholder groups. It has also been important for us to then include these community partners in every step of the project, from problem identification to solution design and implementation and followup. These are ultimately long-term relationships and commitments.

    Ultimately, we recognize that communities are not simple geographical constructs, but have multiple sociospatial and sociopolitical meanings to their residents, and that these meanings can shift, sometimes significantly, depending on the stakeholder groups involved. Water and sanitation systems and watershed and ecosystem management can thus cross multiple communities and be subject to larger institutional arrangements at multiple scales as well as imbalances in the distribution of resources. So it’s vital to take a holistic and multivocal approach.

     

    We outline this approach here: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/ees.2015.0334

     
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    Marilu Lopez Fretts
    Ivory Toldson
  • Icon for: Terri Norton

    Terri Norton

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 17, 2019 | 01:40 p.m.

     Thanks for sharing your work. Congratulations on the successful interdisciplinary partnership!

     
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    Christian Wells
  • Icon for: Christian Wells

    Christian Wells

    Lead Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 01:43 p.m.

    Thank you, Terri!

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.