International Interdisciplinary Study of Water

In 2016, 4-VA awarded Dr. Seán McCarthy, Dr. Patrice Ludwig and Dr. Zachary Dorsey a grant called From Liquid to STEAM: Fostering Interdisciplinary, Engaged Approaches to the Study of Water in International Contexts.

The project had three goals:

  1. Apply the JMU X-Labs‘ model of education—interdisciplinary, design-driven, project-based learning—to international contexts.
  2. Use interdisciplinary teaching as the basis for creating international teaching and research partnerships.
  3. Further develop cross-disciplinary teaching and research—the focus for this course was STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).

Dr. Seán McCarthy
Assistant Professor of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication

Dr. Patrice Ludwig
Assistant Professor of Biology

Dr. Zachary Dorsey
Assistant Professor of Theatre
Theatre Area Coordinator

Grant Info

  • 2016 – 4-VA awarded JMU with a grant to collaborate with ODU, University of College Cork, Ireland, Waterways Ireland in the amount of $5,000 for From Liquid to STEAM: Fostering Interdisciplinary, Engaged Approaches to the Study of Water in International Contexts.

The core of the course focus was a cross-disciplinary overview of water—to understand its biological, environmental, cultural, political, and aesthetic dimensions. The trip was designed around two community engagement projects:

  1. In collaboration with Waterways Ireland, the students developed research proposals and a large community event to help the small town of Rathangan design community engagement programs with an environmental focus.
  2. Along with researchers at University College Cork (UCC), students and faculty designed a performance for Global Water Dances Day and established a new research collective entitled Bodies of Water. The performance took place as part of the international Midsummer Festival in Cork City. Over 100 people attended the performance, which took place outside the famous Glucksman Gallery on UCC’s main campus (a lawn area that is appropriately also a flood plain).

In addition, the team did a design thinking workshop for faculty at UCC, one of Ireland’s premiere research universities. The trip received excellent reviews from the students, and JMU President Alger and his family visited the class in Ireland and attended the “Bodies of Water” performance at UCC.

The project team plans to return to Ireland during the summer of 2019 to work with the same partners and continue the development of a larger research project for which they aim to apply for funding for further development.

Benefits to the Commonwealth

Applied successful multidisciplinary model of education in an international context

Established an international teaching and research partnership with a premiere research university in Ireland

Developed cross-disciplinary teaching and research methods in STEAM topics

Student Impact

Provided opportunity to engage in international research

Empowered students to directly impact communities in Ireland