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Mexican Students Visit Eastern NC through Partnership Centered on Water Ecology

WATER Scholars students from PCC and Mexico's Universidad Veracruzana took part in a boat tour of the Pamlico River as part of a student-exchange visit the college hosted late last month.


WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College hosted eight students and a faculty member from Mexico’s Universidad Veracruzana (UV) last week as part of a student exchange partnership focused on water ecology and environmental research.

From June 22-28, the UV contingent participated in a program developed by PCC faculty to give them a better understanding of North Carolina’s water treatment processes and conservation methods, water-based ecosystems, and water-related research. The program – called WATER (Water Awareness through Environmental Research) Scholars – consisted of hands-on instruction, laboratories and field study experiences pertaining to water quality analysis and its importance with regard to economic and ecological sustainability.

In addition to a campus tour and lab research at PCC, the group’s itinerary included lectures and activities with East Carolina University’s Science Department. Off-campus field study included visits to Greenville Utilities’ drinking water and wastewater treatment plants, River Park North’s wetland habitats, and the N.C. Estuarium in Washington.

The UV students also visited St. Gabriel Catholic Church to present water conservation storybooks to second-graders from Greenville's Latino community as a service project.

“The goal of WATER Scholars was to help PCC and UV students develop global competency regarding the impact water conservation has on the environment in the United States and Mexico,” said PCC Arts and Sciences Dean Stephanie Rook.

In May, 10 science and biotechnology students from Pitt traveled to Xalapa, Mexico, with Rook, Biotechnology Department Chair Christy Weeks, and science instructors Donna Bivans and Samantha Chauncey. There, they took part in a weeklong program at UV that featured lectures, lab experiments, cultural enrichment opportunities and interactions with Mexican citizens.

“Our students gained an understanding of the complexities of Mexico and its people,” Rook said. “In the process, they were able to maximize their knowledge of global water issues and undergraduate research in water conservation.”

Funding for the PCC-UV student exchange came from a $25,000-grant Pitt was awarded last fall by Partners of the Americas as one of eight winners of the highly-competitive 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund contest. The competition was part of an initiative spearheaded by former President Barack Obama to enhance hemispheric competitiveness, stimulate regional education cooperation, and prepare students to be more globally competent for the 21st century workforce.

PCC’s winning submission, “WATER Scholars: Water Awareness through Environmental Research,” called for a partnership between PCC, UV and ECU that focused on water conservation issues. Rook says the student exchange is part of PCC’s efforts to increase enrollment, retention and diversity of students pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) majors.

“Pitt Community College,” she said, “is committed to helping students and faculty become more globally aware through educational opportunities – domestic and abroad – that extend the borders of the classroom and create a deeper level of understanding of the subject matter, the world around us and how they interconnect.”

Since the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund was introduced in 2014, 86 Innovation Fund grants have been awarded to teams from 168 higher education institutions in 20 countries located in the Western Hemisphere.