The White House celebrated World Water Day on March 22 by hosting a Water Summit to bring the issues of water to the public forefront. Professor Stephen Schoenholtz, coordinator of Virginia Tech’s new bachelor’s degree in water: resources, policy, and management, was one of 150 participants selected to participate.

He presented Virginia Tech’s commitment to water sustainability and security: “The newly established interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program in Water: Resources, Policy, and Management at Virginia Tech is designed to prepare students for rapidly expanding employment opportunities to address complex water-resources challenges for a sustainable and secure water future. Today, Virginia Tech is committing to expand this program by reaching enrollment exceeding 100 undergraduate students, increasing the program’s endowment to $2 million, and expanding by 2018 to include a graduate program offering M.S. and Ph.D. degrees for students seeking advanced interdisciplinary training.”

The multi-faceted summit included a panel on the importance of agriculture and forestry in solving some of the nation’s water problems, as well as a panel on integrated management of watersheds.

“With the current national spotlight on the water woes in Flint, Michigan, the water problems of our nation and around the world are at last on everyone’s radar,” Schoenholtz explained. “Citizens now know what scientists have been trying to tell policymakers for years — that the quantity and quality of our water can no longer be taken for granted anywhere on the globe. Flint’s problems are our wake-up call, and the White House Water Summit is the catalyst for action and solutions for the spectrum of water challenges.”

Dean Paul Winistorfer recognizes that the complexity of the world’s water problems for a sustainable future needs an interdisciplinary approach, so he encouraged development of the new degree program that now encompasses faculty from five of Virginia Tech’s eight colleges and is the first of its kind in the U.S.

“The water degree prepares students for jobs with public agencies and nongovernmental organizations, as well as with architecture, urban planning, engineering, scientific, and technical consulting firms,” said Schoenholtz, who also serves as director of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, housed in the college.