From the Classroom to the River


This year, Fort Lewis College has launched a new interdisciplinary program that combines river studies, river management, and engineering to help set up the next generation of river management officials. Interview with Dr. Gigi Richard. Sponsored by ServiceMaster Restore by Restoration and Big O Tires

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Have you ever wondered what goes into river policy decisions or wanted to become part of a river management team? A new certificate program at Fort Lewis College might be the next step. The River Studies and Leadership Certification is designed to help current and past students gain the knowledge and skills to be the next generation of river stewards. You're watching the Local News Network brought to you by Service Master and Big O Tires. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. Dr. Gigi Richard, an instructor of Geosciences at Fort Lewis College and the Director of the Four Corners Water Center helped to create the Rivers Studies and Leadership program while at Colorado Mesa University. This past summer, Fort Lewis joined 11 other colleges in offering the interdisciplinary program.

The study of both water and rivers are great examples of interdisciplinary studies. So we, you could come at the study of a river or our water system from a social science perspective or a physical science perspective or biological science perspective and understanding how our river systems work is inherently an interdisciplinary undertaking. Because a river system involves the biota that live in the river, the physical environment, the rocks, the water, the temperature of the water, the, the contaminants or natural substances that are in the water and then also the human element. So we use rivers and interact with rivers for any number of reasons. And so both rivers, the study of rivers and the study of water are great examples of interdisciplinary systems.

The certification program was designed with the river management system to help target the next generation of river management officials. Each school that partakes in the program often already has the necessary courses in place. And the program is designed to be completed alongside a traditional course of study.

So the River Studies and Leadership Certificate requires a minimum of six courses. Since the certification comes from the River Management Society, a student doesn't have to be enrolled in a major at Fort Lewis College to get the certificate. So you could already have graduated with your degree and just come back and fill in the classes that you need. So everybody who does this certificate has to take a river science course, like river ecology and a river policy course which we have a water politics class that fits that. They, everybody has to take a GIS class and everyone has to take a swift water rescue course or something that certifies river safety. And then students get to choose which track they want to do. And they could pursue a river science track, a policy track or an education and recreation track. So, and whichever track you take, you take two courses in that track. And then you have to do a project and it could be your senior thesis, or it could be if you're already out and have a job, it could be related to a job that you're, you know, a project you have at work already.

With more discussion surrounding climate change and the increased demand on resources like water in combination with the dynamics surrounding water rights in places like Southwest Colorado, the importance of having people ready to take on river management is a priority with a program like this. Students who graduate with the certification will be able to pursue a career in anything from governmental policy, tribal relations, environmental sciences to whitewater rafting.

I think one of the most exciting pieces of this program is that we're leveraging all the different strengths at Fort Lewis College and it leverages into something that's, that's really unique. So, Fort Lewis College is in a really, it's creating a really special opportunity for our students with this new certificate. We're leveraging a lot of the strengths that the college has from the sciences all the way across to this amazing outdoor program that we now have. I think that with this new certificate and the new Fort Lewis on the Water Flow program and the, the academic strengths that we have, it creates some really unique opportunities for students.

For more information on the certification, look up river studies and leadership on Thank you for watching this edition of the Local News Network, I'm Wendy Graham Settle.


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