UW-Whitewater: UW-W, Milwaukee 7 Water Council join forces to train students in water-related industries

WHITEWATER ­ Technology will one day surely find an alternative to petroleum to fuel this country’s commerce but it can never find an alternative to water.

So the goal of industry, government and research science is to find better ways to use and preserve the water that is now available. To that end, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and the Milwaukee 7 Water Council are beginning a joint relationship to train students to work in water-related industries.

Kirsten Crossgrove, associate professor of biology at UW-Whitewater and coordinator of the school’s Integrated Science-Business Major, says the program will begin enrolling students in the fall semester and, because many students have already taken relevant courses, should be graduating its first water management specialists within a year.

The program is designed to give students a basic background in water law, environmental law, natural resources and environmental economics as well as aquatic biology, chemistry and ecology.

Students will serve internships with the Milwaukee 7 Water Council, an organization of business, academia and government in the seven-county Milwaukee area that is working to establish the Milwaukee region as a global center for freshwater research, economic development and education.

“Recognizing where the world is headed, business students with a unique educational background in water will have a leg up in the future, making a program like this especially valuable,” said Rich Meeusen, president, chairman and CEO of Badger Meter, co-chair of the Milwaukee 7 Water Council and an alumnus of UW-Whitewater’s business school. “This water management emphasis will further solidify UW-Whitewater’s exceptional reputation as a solid educational program for tomorrow’s business talent.”

The council has relationships with the graduate program in UW-Milwaukee’s Great Lakes WATER Institute. The school is also developing a graduate-level School of Freshwater Sciences. The Marquette University Law School will begin a water law curriculum this fall.

The UW-Whitewater major will continue the university’s national reputation for undergraduate research and will train students to work in all facets of the water industry, Crossgrove said.

“Water management is certainly going to be a major industry of the future and Milwaukee is well-positioned to be a world leader in that industry,” she said.

“One of our goals is to help develop seamless talent pipelines between universities and water businesses,” said Paul Jones, chairman and CEO of A.O. Smith and co-chair of the Water Council. “UW-Whitewater’s one-of-a-kind new track adds to the impressive array of higher education institutions in the region working to ensure our World Water Hub status in the years to come.”

UW-Whitewater’s undergraduate Integrated Science-Business major, an eight-year-old program that cross trains students in the sciences and in business practices, provides the council with an established discipline to train new employees.

“They told us they had internships available that will almost surely lead to good jobs in the future and we don’t have any trouble finding students to take advantage of that opportunity,” Crossgrove said.

The Milwaukee 7 Water Council notes that the need for fresh water for drinking, recreational and industrial use doubles every 20 years and suggests that water will be the “petroleum of the 21st century.”