Practical Lessons for Penn Students: Talking Water in the Nation’s Capital

Katherine Unger Baillie | | 215-898-9194
Thursday, November 9, 2017
MES in Senate

Students from two courses in the Master of Environmental Studies program spent a day in Washington, D.C., learning about policy making, environmental protection and international development. (Photo courtesy of Jon Freedman)

MES at the Capitol

For some students, it was their first time in Washington. (Photo courtesy of Jon Freedman)

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Think of a city known for policy creation, think tank-driven research and international development, and Washington, D.C. should spring to mind. That made it an ideal field ​​​​​​​trip destination for students in two courses in the University of Pennsylvania Master’s of Environmental Studies program, “The Future of Water,” taught by lecturers Francesa McCann and Jon Freedman, and “The U.S. Water Industry in the 21st Century,” taught by practice professor Howard Neukrug. Around 20 students from Penn spent a day traversing the city, learning about different facets of the water sector.

The first stop was the World Resources Institute, a global research organization that provides ideas, knowledge and data to enact sustainable policies and business ventures. Students heard about the research that goes into developing environmental analysis tools used by governments and corporations around the world, such as Aqueduct, a mapping program that evaluates water risk for companies interested in expanding global operations.

Next was a visit to Capitol Hill, where legislative staff from the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources shared their top priorities — managing California’s water is one — as well as strategies for working bilaterally and advice on pursuing a career in lawmaking.​​​​​​​

WRI visit

The World Resources Institute operates as a think-tank, conducting research into environmental issues that can inform policy creation, development efforts and business operations. (Photo courtesy of Jon Freedman)

​​​​​​​Their third stop was the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency where staff introduced students to the agency’s new strategic plan, which includes a focus on states’ responsibilities in ensuring safe air, land and water.

The final meeting was with the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group that encourages private-sector investment in developing countries. There the Penn students learned about the nonprofit’s efforts to develop sustainable infrastructure and encourage efficient water use in emerging markets, as well as about the challenges and rewards of pursuing a career in international development.

EPA meeting

During a visit to the EPA, students heard about new priorities for the agency and learned about innovative environmental management strategies, such as treating and reusing wastewater. (Photo courtesy of Jon Freedman)