Fairfield students and professors are diving headfirst into the topic of water and how it shapes every facet of human life. Water is such an integral force in political, economic and scientific affairs, but is often overlooked.

The water initiative this year is being incorporated into chemistry, English, studio art, international studies and even art courses. Convocation this year was also focused on water as keynote speaker Dr. Yohuru Williams expressed, “even a tiny drop of water can affect the change of the seas.”

Professors and students are taking the water theme to the next level by conducting research on water from a social and economic standpoint. Senior Jake Shemtob was inspired after taking a water-themed honors class last fall in which he explored water from a comprehensive perspective.

As part of a field trip, his class visited Ash Creek, a saltwater estuary on the border of Bridgeport and Fairfield, as well as the local Old Mill Pond in town. He was engaged in discussions about water in film, literature and culture. As part of his final class project, he decided to research the cultural phenomenon of bottled water consumption.

“As an economics major, I was called to study the how and the why of bottled water in the United States. I wondered whether it was because of convenience or whether or not consumers believe their water is unclean,” said Shemtob.

He is now researching water consumption in Guatemala with economics professor Dr. William Vasquez. His collaborative research project focuses on how people in developing countries, such as Guatemala, value water from an economic and monetary standpoint. Vasquez believes that new water initiatives provide “lots of opportunities for students to apply what they are learning on a conscious level.”

According their research data, 30 percent of people in Guatemala are in poverty and 25-50 percent of households consume water. “The aim of finding statistical research is one part of the puzzle, the other is to further explore why water is important from social perspectives as well,” said Vasquez.

“We are tying together patterns of consumption of water with how much Guatemalans are willing to pay for clean, healthy water,” said Shemtob.

Despite the water focus signs throughout the Barone Campus Center, many students remain unaware of the new theme. Ironically, “about 75 percent of the human body is made up of water;” yet “75 percent of the student body doesn’t know about the water theme,” said Ricky Haas ’15. However, other students are experiencing Fairfield’s water theme in a very active way.

According to Fairfield’s website, Eric Sowell ‘15 is a member of the Fairfield

University Sailing Club. “As a lifelong sailor, water has played an enormous role in my life making me the person I am today. I am hoping I can return the favor by helping clean up our own coastline and beaches,” said the Fairfield website. He is working with Fairfield administration, Fairfield’s sailing coaches, the Sacred Heart sailing team and other outside organizations to clean up the Fairfield and Bridgeport coastline.

The water initiative is really encouraging students to expand their worldview and consider a topic that is often taken for granted. Shemtob said, “Water is essential for human beings and essential to life and it is important for people to value its impact on the world and how it shapes our civilization.”

To learn more about this year’s theme in water, there are many ways you can do so. Various educational and mainstream films that have to do with the water initiative will be shown on campus including “Watermark,” “Florence: Days of Destruction,” “Aguirre: The Wrath of God,” “Still Life,” “Terraferma,” “Life of Pi,” “The Impossible” and “Finding Nemo.” Students should also take advantage of lectures and discussions on campus including “Just Water: Theology, Ethics, and the Global Water Crisis,” or attend the “The Pirate Plays,” playing at the Wein Black Box Theatre at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. The plays runs from Sept. 24-26.

Lastly, there will be an art series entitled Connecticut (un) Bound, an off-campus exhibit that features eight artists at Artspace in New Haven.

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