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Augustana developing Upper Mississippi Studies Center

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Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013 11:01 pm

Augustana College is developing a new Upper Mississippi Studies Center that will focus on sustainability science, and building relationships between people and natural resources.

The program will be led by Michael Reisner, who was recruited in a national search, and funded with a grant from the Margaret Cargill Foundation, according to an Augustana news release.

Classes could focus on better protectionof rivers and streams that flow to the Mississippi River, that could carry runoff such as pollution and sediment.The goal of sustainability science is to recognize the long-term health of waterways is critical to economic vitality and human well-being.

Dr. Reisner earned his doctorate in ecosystem and restoration ecology from Oregon State University and a law degree from the University of Oregon School of Law. In Montana, he helped negotiate an agreement between miners and conservation groups that helped create about 1,000 family-wage jobs in a rural area, without degrading the water or air quality, according to the release.

At the University of Wisconsin, his work focused on creating more sustainable energy systems for the upper Midwest, and he helped build better relationships between the academic community and businesses, neighborhoods and conservation groups.

"We have to stop looking for panaceas or silver bullets," Dr. Reisner said. "Our communities face complex challenges that involve interactions between social, economic, institutional and environmental dimensions. We need to work collaboratively to develop and implement complex solutions."

Dr. Reisner remembers visiting Cairo, Ill., as a boy and the breathtaking confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, which was spoiled by pollution, industrial waste and poverty. "Nearly three decades after I first visited the town as a third grader, things are the same, at the very least, and arguably have grown worse," he says in the release.

No one apparently had brought competing interests together to rebuild the community, he said.

Dr. Reisner will engage Augustana students in the center's projects, challenging them to think in new ways that use interdisciplinary approaches, acknowledge competing interests and find ways to compromise behind a common cause.

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