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Beloit receives $50,000 grant to fund new Rivers in Transition project

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Grant is from the Henry Luce Foundation

MEDIA CONTACT: Hilary Dickinson at or 608-363-2849

Beloit College has received a $50,000 exploratory grant to investigate the new Rivers in Transition project. Combining academic-term coursework with short-term study abroad in China, the project will be funded by the Henry Luce Foundation’s Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment.

The goal of Rivers in Transition is to study pressures on water resources using scientific, social, cultural and economic knowledge and research methods. Water security and scarcity are pressing 21st century issues, especially in China, where much of the project will focus on the country’s Yellow River.

Beloit faculty and students will be working closely with Henan University, a Beloit College partner since 2006, which is located in Kaifeng near the Yellow River. Rivers in Transition, in particular, will focus on the river’s relation to urban and rural life over the previous three millennia, its response in more recent times to changes in land and water use, and projections for water security or scarcity in the future.

The key components of the project, when implemented, will be a two-course sequence and an orientation course followed by a three-week travel course taking place after the academic year.

Rivers in Transition will yield several benefits including:

  • Enabling Asian studies students to explore the relationship of cultures to natural environments while enabling environmental studies students to consider the relationship between changes in the processes that shape the environment and people and their values;
  • Teaching students how to conduct field research using qualitative and quantitative methods;   
  • Offering the opportunity for Beloit’s natural scientists to engage in sustained collaboration with their colleagues in the arts and humanities;
  • Strengthening the college curriculum by integrating natural, social sciences and humanities courses; and
  • Providing Beloit College and its partners in Asia with a new model for collaboration, one in which both partners assist and learn from each other by focusing on an area of shared inquiry.  

Serving as co-directors of the program are Sue Swanson, a professor of geology and environmental studies, and Daniel Youd, an associate professor of Chinese and Asian studies. The other faculty and staff members currently involved in the program are:

  • Joy Beckman, the director of the Wright Museum of Art and an assistant professor of art history and Asian studies,
  • International Education Director Betsy Brewer,
  • Paul Stanley, a professor of physics and Asian studies, and
  • Pablo Toral, an associate professor of international relations and environmental studies.