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'Big Splash Week' kicks off Making Waves About Water initiative

  • Pictured is Diane Veneklasen, science instructor at AWRI, with students in a geology class aboard a research vessel in Lake Michigan. 

Posted on September 09, 2019

From environmental science to classical archaeology, more than 30 courses are offered in the fall semester at Grand Valley that have a tie to water.

Highlighting Grand Valley's special relationship with water is at the heart of the campuswide Making Waves About Water initiative. The two-year initiative has goals of exploring how water impacts daily living, its challenges and how it also defines the university in relation to the Grand River and Lake Michigan. 

Making Waves kicks off with a "Big Splash Week" September 15-21, with speakers, showcases, a beach clean-up, hikes, kayak rides and other events. 

Kim Nowack, CEO of the Mackinac Bridge Authority, will give a presentation, "Mackinac Bridge: Then and Now," on September 16, 6 p.m., at the DeVos Center, on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus, 401 Fulton St. W. Nowack has worked as chief engineer for 17 years and is the first woman to hold that position.

Details about Big Splash Week are online at

Maria Cimitile, provost and executive vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, said when she envisioned a campuswide initiative, she wanted to show "what interdisciplinary studies looks like in the 21st century." During her Convocation remarks on August 23, Cimitile introduced Making Waves About Water and said the initiative will help the campus community learn about the necessity of water and the challenges it brings in Michigan and globally.

"What makes this initiative special is that to help the campus community understand the significance of water, students, faculty and staff will work together across all different disciplines," she said.

Highlights of Big Splash Week are below. Events are free and open to the public.

• September 15, 3-8 p.m.: Friends and Family Day: water activities, music, showing "Moana" by Zumberge Pond on the Allendale Campus

• September 16, 6-9 p.m.: Kim Nowack, CEO of the Mackinac Bridge Authority, will give a presentation in the DeVos Center, Loosemore Auditorium

• September 17, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Confluence, guided kayak tours on the Grand River (RSVP online), hikes, refreshments. 

• September 19, 6 p.m.: Peter Annin, author of "The Great Lakes Water Wars," will give a presentation in the Kirkhof Center, Grand River Room

Peter Wampler, professor of geology, is a member of the Making Waves leadership team. He said he took on a leadership role because the initiative melds his academic career and professional interests.

"When the provost announced the initiative, I knew that I wanted to be involved and support it in any way I could," Wampler said. "I have a great appreciation for the power of collaboration and the power of working across traditional disciplinary boundaries. I look forward to working with campus and community partners to learn and grow in unique and compelling ways around the central theme of water."

Kathryn Remlinger, professor of English, is also on the leadership team and said she appreciates the interdisciplinary aspect of Making Waves.

"The initiative reflects how I value liberal education, the environment, science, and a world view that encompasses global and local communities," Remlinger said. "Equally important is how Making Waves mirrors the interdisciplinary focus of my courses and research, and more personally, my passion for nature, the outdoors, and the Great Lakes."