Virginia Tech is taking an interdisciplinary approach to meet the complex challenges of managing water with a new bachelor of science degree that draws upon the resources of five of its colleges. The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) approved the new water degree in 2014. The new Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Water: Resources, Policy, and Management became effective Fall 2015.
Few undergraduate degree programs provide integrated training in water science, policy, and management; yet, professionals are required to have interdisciplinary expertise in these areas to solve critical problems facing society today and in the future. Although the B.S. degree in Water: Resources, Policy, and Management will be administered by the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, within the College of Natural Resources and Environment, it is nonetheless an interdisciplinary program and would be the first its kind in Virginia and unique to any other undergraduate program anywhere in the U.S. The new degree program is meant to offer a strong interdisciplinary approach to water science, policy and management, while complementing existing undergraduate degree programs at Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech, with more than 80 faculty across all colleges involved in water research, teaching, and engagement, is well-situated to offer this degree. This existing expertise at Virginia Tech was reflected in the multidisciplinary degree committee comprised of representatives from ten departments and five colleges at Virginia Tech that contributed to and supported development of the curriculum for the new degree. To further its commitment to water discovery, learning, and engagement, the university recently appropriated funds to conduct a “water cluster hire”. As a result, seven new water faculty were hired among four departments in 2013-14.
This broad interdisciplinary expertise in water at Virginia Tech is a reflection of the diverse array of challenges and solutions involving water resources across the Commonwealth and beyond. Water connects society and environment through energy, food, climate, ecological, health, and economic systems and is therefore of vital importance to sustaining human life. Water issues such as drought, flooding, sanitation, and contamination exist on every continent and touch every citizen on the planet. As a resource, freshwater abundance is finite, with ever-increasing demands for its use as human population growth expands through urbanization and industrialization, which put additional pressures on aquatic ecosystems and the supply of safe drinking water. Sustainably managing water resources is a complex challenge that requires knowledge in a wide range of academic disciplines. These water challenges range from developing efficient water systems for individual households to understanding the effects of global climate change on water availability at regional scales.
The challenges in this growing industry involve existing disciplines at Virginia Tech, ranging from water engineering to human nutrition to aquatic ecology. Students with interdisciplinary training in water science, policy and management provided by this new degree at Virginia Tech will be equipped to meet the many, expanding water challenges facing society. These complex water challenges offer unprecedented opportunities for student careers in the fields of water science, policy, and management.
Learn more about water job opportunities.