The recent KU INFEWS water symposium kicked off with an evening panel on Research at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water. The first speaker just happened to be my sister in law, Dr. Ashlynn Stillwell, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. I may have had something to do with her being on the panel. More on that later. As a member of the Energy-Water-Environment Sustainability program at UIUC, Ashlynn’s research is primarily in the energy- water nexus. Her presentation managed to make something extremely complex incredibly simple. Read this and remember it: water = energy. That’s it. Killer fact: running the tap 5 minutes is roughly equivalent to running a light bulb for 16 hours. That. Makes you think.
The other panelists included Dr. Kelly Fielding, Associate Professor at The University of Queensland, Australia, and Laura Lesniewski, Principal at BNIM (another of my previous stomping grounds). Kelly is a social and environmental psychologist and shared the focus of her research in how to better engage communities with sustainable issues. Kelly’s work illustrated the concept of water literacy – that water conscious citizens are more engaged in water decisions and are more likely to make behavioral change. When we care more about water, we use it wisely. Laura highlighted interdependence from her personal experience growing up in rural Massachusetts and how that idea continues in the architectural practice at BNIM with the integration of teams, tools, and culture. We rely on each other, because no one is as smart as everyone.
As a member of the KU Architecture Department Advisory Board I’ve had the chance to see (and maybe influence) the inner workings of the School of Architecture, Design, and Planning. It was great to see the growth in the program with this kind of symposium. With our new Dean Mahesh Daas, there is a true momentum in moving toward a vision for KU to ‘Be the pioneering force for global impact.’ Make no small plans. Totally my kind of thinking.