Arizona State University, ranked No. 1 “Most Innovative School” in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for an unprecedented three years in succession, has forged the model for a New American University. ASU is a comprehensive public research institution measured, not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed, advancing research and discovery of public value and assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves. ASU operates on the principle that learning is a personal and original journey for each student; that they thrive on experience, and the process of discovery cannot be bound by traditional academic disciplines. Through innovation and a commitment to accessibility, ASU has drawn pioneering researchers to its faculty even as it expands opportunities for qualified students, attracting some of the highest caliber students from all 50 states and 130 nations.
ASU’s Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives and School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies (SHPRS) are taking a transdisciplinary approach to the Water/Ways exhibit and looking at water in Arizona from both sustainability and humanities lenses.
SHPRS’ Paul Hirt is the State Scholar for Water/Ways. He is a historian specializing in the American West, environmental history, environmental policy and sustainability studies. Hirt’s publications include a monograph on the history of electric power in the U.S. Northwest and British Columbia, titled The Wired Northwest. He also published a history of national forest management since WWII titled A Conspiracy of Optimism and edited two collections of essays on Northwest history (Terra Pacifica, 1998 and Northwest Lands, Northwest Peoples, 1999). Professor Hirt has also authored more than two-dozen articles and book chapters on environmental and western history and policy. His current research projects include collaborative interdisciplinary research on energy transitions, water use and conservation, urban growth and sustainability in southern Arizona and adaptive management in the Colorado River Basin.
“All communities in Arizona are biologically and economically dependent upon precious and limited water supplies, yet only rarely do we take time to reflect on what water has meant to us culturally,” said Hirt “When we do create interpretive exhibits about water, they are mainly available to urban dwellers with access to museums. Consequently, the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program was designed to make world-class exhibits available to smaller communities allowing them explore the relationship between nature and culture with the same richness offered by our urban cultural institutions.”