Winter 2017 Director's Corner

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WRC Director Jeff Peterson

The dawn of a new year invites us to reflect on the past while also looking ahead. It was brought to my attention recently that Janus, the Roman god of passages, beginnings, and endings, can be a fitting image for our thoughts at his time year. The Romans usually depicted Janus with two faces, one looking back and one forward, believing that he watched over those passing through doorways as they moved from the past of one space and into the future of the next. After my first full year as WRC director, I’ve gotten to walk alongside our staff as we moved through a full cycle of annual activities, and now journey with them into the promise and opportunity of a new year.

One set of highlights from the past year is that we to sponsored and cosponsored several events illustrating the wide range of current water resource issues in Minnesota, including the Climate Adaptation Conference, the Buffer Science and Design Symposium, the 10th International Drainage Symposium, and of course, the annual Minnesota Water Resources Conference. Looking ahead into 2017, our Wetlands Delineator Certification Program will be co-hosting the Minnesota Wetlands Conference in January, and in May, Minnesota’s climate change adaptation efforts will be on display as the National Adaptation Forum comes to Saint Paul.

Elsewhere in this issue you’ll find an article describing the success of the 2016 Minnesota Water Resources Conference. Governor Dayton spoke to another record-setting number of attendees, noting in his remarks that he has called for a Year of Water Action in Minnesota going from August 2016 to August 2017. He also honored the attendees by proclaiming Oct. 19-26, 2016 Water Resources Professionals Week. The Governor’s Year of Water Action is partly a legislative agenda but also a public campaign to raise awareness about how our individual actions affect the health of our water resources. Following this lead, the WRC is helping to develop Year of Water Action activities at the University. We are working with the Water Resources Students in Action group to organize events on campus this year to inform the campus community about water issues and facilitate discourse about water policy.

One big change the WRC will face in the coming year is that our associate director, Faye Sleeper, recently informed us of her plan to retire in April. That timing will conclude a full decade of Faye’s work at the WRC and will cap off an illustrious career of public sector service. Faye will be certainly be missed and I am personally grateful to her for her interim leadership of the center as well as for ensuring I had a smooth transition into my job. We’ll have more to say about her many accomplishments in the next issue.

It’s perhaps fitting that the next issue of the Minnegram will introduce new features that Faye helped bring to fruition. For the past year, Faye has served as the Program Leader for the Extension Water Resources Team (WRT) and has seized on the opportunity for a natural partnership between the WRT and the WRC. One example of that partnership is that we will merge the WRT’s newsletter, From Shore to Shore, into the Minnegram starting with the Spring 2017 issue. This will mean we will welcome the thousands of readers of Shore to Shore and will be able to include the expert research-based content written by the WRT Extension Educators.  This arrangement will make our delivery of news and content more efficient and streamlined, while also adding new content for both sets of readers.

2016 was certainly an eventful year at the WRC, but 2017 is shaping up to be even more active. In the coming months we will be hiring staff, including the associate director position. We will also have more to say in the future about a strategic planning process we have launched, which will help us to focus our goals and shape our work in the future.

And so, like Janus, we move ahead while also reflecting on where we have been. National and international events in 2016 were sometimes tumultuous and unforeseen. We can’t fully know what 2017 will bring, but what we can do is learn from the past, adapt to change, and look ahead with readiness and renewed purpose.