Water will be a topic of emphasis at UNC-Chapel Hill

Problems facing the world’s water supply will be the focus of students and faculty at the university for the next two years.

jstancill@newsobserver.com March 23, 2012 

— Students and faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill will dive deeply into issues surrounding the world’s water supply as part of a two-year academic initiative announced Thursday.

The campus theme, dubbed “Water in Our World,” was revealed by Chancellor Holden Thorp at a meeting of the Board of Trustees. Later, to help kick off the initiative, drama students were scheduled to gather at the Old Well for a reading of a play about the BP oil spill.

Thorp said the theme will bring together faculty from fields as varied as environmental science, global health, brain science, public policy, law, business and the arts.

“By focusing on water we can aggregate all of this great work and also demonstrate how what North Carolina is doing impacts the great problems facing our world,” he said. “We expect to focus on issues of how to ensure water is available and safe for people around the world.”

The announcement came on World Water Day, hours before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton introduced a U.S. Water Partnership, a public-private group that aims to find solutions to global water challenges, particularly in developing countries. Participating in the group are water experts from UNC-CH’s Water Institute in the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The campus will host an international conference on water later this year, as well as lectures, film series and other events. Mobilizing a campus around a single topic may lead to new collaborations and breakthroughs, Thorp said.

Thorp also announced a $1 million endowed professorship to recruit a faculty member with expertise in science and policy for improving the world’s access to clean water. It is funded with a gift of $666,000 from Don and Jennifer Holzworth, and will be matched with funds from the state’s Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund.

Don Holzworth founded two health services companies, and the Holzworths have been longtime financial supporters of UNC-CH’s public health school.

Also Thursday, another large donation was announced by Thorp – $2.5 million to the university’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy by benefactor and alumnus Fred Eshelman, a Wilmington businessman who founded Pharmaceutical Product Development Inc. and Furiex, a spinoff that develops drugs.

The money will be used for pharmacy research and education programs and brings Eshelman’s total support of the university to $35 million.

Stancill: 919-829-4559

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