The new agreement calls for collaborative projects and joint research primarily focused on geology, biology, hydrology and educational programs, according to Todd Diacon, Kent Stateâ€™s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.
â€œThere have been informal discussions between scientists at the park and Kent State faculty for a long time, but over the past two years, we really started to strengthen the relationship and deepen the ties to the park,â€ Diacon said.
The theme of the collaboration is â€œThe River We Share,â€ aptly named because the Cuyahoga River flows through both the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and through Kent, creating a physical connection between both areas.
â€œWe are pleased to join Kent State University in announcing this partnership,â€ said Stan Austin, superintendent of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. â€œThe collaboration between the park and the university will provide students and the park research and technical services through hands-on education and service-learning opportunities. This association has the potential to develop future land stewards while enriching the experience for park visitors.â€
The five-year pact allows both parties to revisit and revise the agreement at the end of that period.
â€œThis particular national park is unique, as it encompasses urban environments to fairly pristine areas â€“ plus itâ€™s heavily used because of the large population surrounding it,â€ said James Blank, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Kent State.
â€œAt Kent State, we have real interest in urban ecology and hydrology, that is, whatâ€™s going on with water as it moves throughout these environments,â€ Blank said. â€œOur faculty is energized and interested in addressing the complex issues regarding sustainability and the use of our precious resources.â€
The new agreement will mean expanded internship opportunities for Kent State students.
â€œWe have a number of programs across different departments where students want to look for careers related to the environment, everything from working for the park service or the EPA to environmental consulting,â€ Blank said. â€œThe explosion of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Ohio is just one example of an industry that is fueling the demand for trained workers in environmental fields. This agreement will yield enormous benefits for our students.â€
Past collaborations between Kent State and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park have involved the universityâ€™s Department of Biology, the Wick Poetry Center and the School of Lifespan Development and Educational Sciences.
Last year, Kent Stateâ€™s Wick Poetry Center, in collaboration with the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the National Park Service, hosted two workshops for the universityâ€™s College of Nursing. Forty-five faculty and staff members attended the writing and nature retreat at the Cuyahoga Valley National Parkâ€™s Environmental Education Center, participating in poetry and creative writing workshops, as well as hiking and bird watching.
â€œThe experience was rejuvenating,â€ said Laura Dzurec, dean of Kent Stateâ€™s College of Nursing. â€œThe poetry really opened doors for us, allowing for intergenerational communication and building camaraderie in the college.
Future programs will be centered on enhanced joint research opportunities, learning opportunities for faculty, staff and students from both organizations, and potential employment experiences for Kent State students and faculty.
â€œI can see this relationship growing in ways we donâ€™t even realize yet,â€ Blank added. â€œNational parks are precious resources, and the ones we have are important to understand and study.â€
For more information about the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, visit www.nps.gov/cuva.
For more information about Kent Stateâ€™s College of Arts and Sciences, visit www.kent.edu/cas.