As part of its workforce development goal, the Institute of Water Resiliency at Cal State San Bernardino is providing students with real-world experience, thanks to a nearly $100,000 grant from San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District,

The San Bernardino Valley Regional Water Fellowship aims to equip participants with the necessary skills and knowledge to pursue careers in the water industry. Through a range of activities, including scientific studies, regulatory compliance, communication and marketing to public audiences, data analysis, public education, and project management, fellows are gaining practical experience and connect classroom learning with real-world applications.

And, as part of the experience, the students are working closely with the water district’s professionals, fostering relationships that will help prepare them for careers after graduation.

The five student fellows are spending 15 hours per week engaged in various professional development opportunities that include hands-on research, said Jennifer Alford, director of the IWR who also serves as the interim chair of the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies.

“Some of that is field-based research, looking at water resources and learning how to do those field-based techniques,” Alford said. “There is also the analysis part of it, and how you share that to different communities, because that’s really a big part of the water story.”

Some of that work also includes participating in important environmental research and endangered species and critical habitat protection, which not only provides water for residents in the short-term, but also protects and fosters a healthy watershed for future generations.

“That focus on the watershed and these big-picture things is really unique for an agency to take the lead on,” Alford said of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District role in the water fellowship program. “I mean, they're serving as a leader in our region to other water agencies by looking at the bigger picture. I think in the past, it was lot easier just to kind of focus on your immediate needs. It's the collective needs of the watershed. So that’s really an innovative opportunity for the students.”

The 2023-24 academic year marks the start of the water fellowship, so there is room to grow.

“This year starting off with five fellows and the vision is to expand those opportunities for students, and also encourage other water and environmental resource agencies to participate as well.” Alford said. “The hope is that they have as many diverse options as possible of these experiences, and that the minute they step on campus, they're getting opportunities to build their resumé.”