MSU teams with community college for 2014 RainWorks Challenge

MSU teams with community college for 2014 RainWorks Challenge
Graphic by: Mohan Zang

Moving from theory to practice, first-year landscape architecture master's students at Mississippi State University are forming diverse partnerships to participate in a national competition and develop solutions for stormwater challenges.

Graduate students in assistant professor Cory Gallo's fall design-studio course began the semester by considering hypothetical situations. However, students recently started reviewing Pearl River Community College sites in Poplarville to develop real solutions for stormwater problems and enter the Environmental Protection Agency's Campus RainWorks Challenge.

MSU is building on a tradition of success in the RainWorks Challenge, Gallo said. Students earned second-place honors in the 2013-14 competition; the MSU team designed "The MSU Union Green."

As that effort continues, the 2014-15 challenge features Gallo's landscape architecture students partnering with MSU graphic design and civil engineering undergraduates, biological engineering and civil engineering graduate students, MSU Extension Service representatives and PRCC Honors Institute students. Three teams are developing stormwater mitigation plans for the PRCC campus.

Because the group working on the challenge is so diverse, they bring a variety of knowledge and skillsets to the project, Gallo said.

"Our students are able to interact and collaborate," Gallo said. "They're a really diverse group of students from all over the world, and all these different disciplines are working together to figure out what the problems are and come up with real solutions."

Stephen Black, director of the PRCC Honors Institute, emphasized how creating and maintaining diverse academic, community and government partnerships serves to enhance the honor students' education.

"Working with MSU's students on the EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge project gives our honor students the opportunity to work with talented students outside their own hometowns," Black said. "In the process, our students develop a better appreciation of the need to conserve water in our state.

"This collaboration between MSU and PRCC's Honors Institute is a win for all participating in the project."

Jared Harris, project coordinator with MSU Extension, contacted Gallo a few months ago to act as a consultant in considering stormwater runoff at PRCC. Harris is the coastal coordinator for MSU's Research and Education to Advance Conservation and Habitat, or the REACH program.

"Pearl River leaders asked me what they could do, so I said, 'Why don't I come back with students and do some projects?'" Gallo said. "With only about 3,500 students, Pearl River feels like a small liberal arts college with smaller buildings, open space and lots of trees. There's also a long-term connection to MSU Extension--Pearl River has an Extension office right beside it."

Gallo said he is looking forward to assisting all the students participating in the challenge as they work together to consider the stormwater issues presented by the oldest community college campus in Mississippi.

"Whether the students can win or not, they are representing how different disciplines can figure out the problems and come up with solutions," he said. "Participating in true service-learning will have long-term benefits for the PRCC campus.

"So, these students are winners, whatever happens."

Dated: 12/17/2014