Faculty senate approves Clean Water Institute of Calvin College

On Monday night, faculty senate approved the establishment of the Clean Water Institute of Calvin College (CWICC), a research institute that will work towards global access to clean water. Engineering professor David Wunder, along with the Planning and Priorities Committee, developed the proposal, which will go for final approval by the Board of Trustees this spring.

The CWICC will be devoted to looking at ways to improve drinking water in developing global regions, combining research and scholarship with practical action.

“Involvement in global issues is central to Calvin’s commitment to being a Christ-centered place of learning and service that is transformative for staff, students and our world,” the proposal’s recommendation stated.

“Unlike many other humanitarian concerns, the supply of safe water and improved sanitation in many regions can be addressed by people without the need for advanced degrees or decades of experience,” the proposal continued. “Students and staff can actively participate in providing sustainable, life changing improvements.”

The CWICC will build on the existing resource network of Calvin faculty, staff, alumni, friends and partners. The proposed institute will further their efforts and integrate them with a more focused, college-wide effort.

The institute will promote annual courses focused on water and sanitation, offer opportunities to incorporate student research into global needs, and potentially partner with non-governmental organizations working on clean water issues.

As part of the proposal to faculty senate, several departments wrote letters of support, sharing how the institute could partner with their own work on campus. Roland Hoksbergen, chair of the international development studies department, believes the institute will fit in well with Calvin’s mission of lifelong Christian service and engaging students on a global scale.

“One of the things I like about it is its interdisciplinary character,” said Hoksbergen. “[Clean water] is desperately needed in the world, and it’s something that we have potential experts in. This is an obvious way to bring in our strengths to address a world issue in a positive way.”

The CWICC would include students from many different majors on campus, including engineering, biology, business and international development. According to the proposal, students will be able to explore “creative, cost-effective, durable, and sustainable solutions” to water problems.

This will not be the first institute at Calvin. Others, such as the Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship also combine theory with practice.

“This allows us to use what our strengths are to expand our areas of focus,” said Hoksbergen, “to enrich our study and our practice, and to help us as part of Calvin do a better job of its primary mission.”