Dolce Vita: Italy’s culture and history teaches MSU students

Metropolitan State University’s One World, One Water program is a collaboration with Denver Botanic Gardens to create joint initiatives on key water issues in Colorado.

Across a span of over a 3,000 year history, Italy has become a highly developed culture by creating water infrastructure to move water across the countryside to residents. Generations of record keeping contribute to understanding water issues in the west by comparing historical data in Italy with water use in Colorado. The two regions share a similar arid climate and have grappled with water quality, and security.

MSU Denver students now have an opportunity to visit Italy to learn about Italian culture, science, and water. The study abroad program focuses on understanding water related issues using a historical and cultural context to learn new skills. Students who attend the program should be able to identify and discuss key watershed issues and challenges that Italy has faced, and how that understanding is applicable to Colorado water issues.

OWOW students who have completed the program, can compare historical water usage to current water usage, and that valuable data can help current and future decision makers in environmental and policy planning.

Biology major Stephanie Schmidt, attended the Italy study abroad program in 2018 and took a class which sparked an interest in Geography Information Science (GIS) upon her return to Denver. The GIS class taught her that maps can be used to tell stories, and it helped her learn a new skill that landed her an internship at a local city municipality.

Understanding the similarities between cultures that seem so different, can benefit students long term. Travelling and getting to experience another culture, helps people to feel the confidence to navigate in foreign countries.

“To see how another country manages their water, in a different culture and their value of water compared to our view in the United States is valuable.” Said Schmidt “Colorado is a headwater state and I want to be a part of water and being a part of water quality is important to me.”

Interdisciplinary connections to the Italy study abroad program could include students of Environmental Science, Geography Information Science, Communications, Political Science, International Studies, Hospitality Events and Tourism, Anthropology, History and more.

“The partnership with Italy gives students a unique opportunity to study outside of their own field of expertise and collaborate with Italian water experts on ways to meet our changing and growing water needs.” Said Co-Director of OWOW, Jennifer Riley-Chetwynd.

Visiting water expert Dr. Nardi, came to the Auraria Campus in June to tour the facilities and services available to MSU Denver students. His visit served a dual purpose of being the ambassador from the Italian Study Abroad program, and he also attended the Watershed Summit co-hosted by OWOW and held at the Denver Botanic Gardens (DBG).

“People come from all over the world to learn at the University of Perugia,” said Nardi, “and value the natural and human resources of a region, and get value from the historical information.” Dr. Nardi stated. International collaborations with leaders like Dr. Nardi, strengthen the universal bonds in learning by sharing ideas and information.

“Water is the main component between us, we value water, science and culture at the base of our civilization. This is the reason we come together to share ideas.”  Said Nardi.

The Watershed Summit which was held June 27 at the Denver Botanic Gardens and was one of the events that brought people involved in sustainable conservation efforts together.

The Watershed Summit is a conference held for regional water leaders to meet and share ideas. It also allowed online water studies certificate students to come and listen to guest speakers discuss critical local issues such as the health of Colorado’s watershed, long term planning, emerging technologies, and water storage and conservation ideas.

The summit was attended by guests from International partnerships, and brought together water leaders from many regional communities including Boulder, Denver, Aurora, Phoenix, and Colorado Springs. This event is an important networking opportunity for online students to meet people in the water field, and also for Professors, faculty, and staff of MSU Denver to share ideas with other innovators.

This event is a partnership hosted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Denver Botanic Gardens, OWOW, Aurora Water, Denver Water, and Resource Central.

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