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The Symposium

Geopolitics of Water

Our Mission

The Symposium is an interdisciplinary, research, and writing-intensive course series exploring subjects of the broadest possible interest and greatest societal impact. Through intensive examination of a different major theme every year, it brings Drexel University students, teachers, and visiting expert lecturers into collaboration. The Symposium strives to avoid the "textbook approach," with an emphasis on developing in students the active skills of interdisciplinary inquiry: reading, writing, critical thinking, methodological creativity, and argument. Four new courses are offered each year, designed to elaborate different dimensions of the theme. Through these courses, students are encouraged to see the University as an interconnected enterprise, and to imagine the University as one part of a larger spectrum of scholars in the communities of the city, the nation, and the world.

Recent themes have included: Comedy, The City, Energy, Democracy, Health and Society, and the Frontiers of Science.

Have questions, comments, or suggestions? Good, because The Symposium is designed to raise both curiosity and opinions. We want to know what you think of the programs we put on and the ideas they raise. Are there topics you would like to see or speakers you think pertinent? Then let us know, and help contribute to the community of knowledge we are creating.

2016-17 Theme: Water

Water will be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century. As a resource, it is shaping the geopolitics of our time - global climate change, pollution, ecosystem collapse, and the spread of disease are threatening populations worldwide, and access to water is often at the center of these threats. Still, historically water has played no lesser role in the rise and fall of civilizations. It has been a conduit for trade, industry, and discovery throughout time, just as it has acted as a border for protection and safety. It such an essential element to the existence of life that it has become the sought-after object of interstellar exploration, and yet it persists as one of the last unexplored frontiers of Earth.

As the theme for the 2016-17 Symposium, water will be examined across multiple disciplines and perspectives. Throughout the year, Symposium courses will grapple with water in its multiplicity of forms, functions, and impacts. These classes will investigate issues including the role of water in scientific exploration and discovery, how design and urban environments incorporate water systems into city planning, the global relationship between gender and water access, and the ways in which water operates as borders physically and geopolitically. 

The Pennoni Faculty Fellows who will lead these courses for 2016-17 are:

  • Dr. Lloyd Ackert, Associate Teaching Professor of History
  • Dr. Shannon Marquez, Associate Professor of Public Health, and Director of Global Public Health Initiatives
  • Dr. Rick McCourt, Professor of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science, and Associate Curator of Botany at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel
  • Debra Ruben, Associate Professor and Program Director of Interior Design

The Visiting Fellow is Dr. Julia Novak Colwell, who recently earned her PhD from the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.