Students at Eastern Michigan University’s (EMU) Honors College have made a commitment to “Think Globally, Act Locally” for the 2021-2022 academic year with a focus on thier local river, the Huron. The philosophy is all about making a local impact in the community to enhance the students’ learning experiences.

Partnering with HRWC

EMU students label stormdrains
Rana Aabed instructing honors student volunteers how to label storm drains around EMU’s campus.

Two water stewards, assistant dean Dr. John Staunton and honors fellow Rana Aabed Staunton, attended an HRWC volunteer training and then connected students to HRWC’s stewardship coordinator, Jason Frenzel. Aabed, who joined the Honors College Student Engagement team in Fall of 2021, is focusing on developing and leading community service events. Through these efforts, she has aided the Honors College in their mission to keep the Huron River clean.

“Water, specifically keeping water clean, is important to me as it is the least we can do as a society,” said Aabed. “Limiting pollution is necessary to keep our environment and water clean.”

Since September, students have cleaned and labeled storm drains in Ypsilanti neighborhoods and have gone door-to-door to hang HRWC info sheets about the importance of maintaining storm drains. In October, students cleaned and labeled over 70 storm drains across central EMU campus.

The energetic students had more to give, so they decided to keep removing debris through DIY cleanups. After becoming park sponsors of Riverside Park in Ypsilanti, the students have completed two cleanups to remove trash along its riverbanks (see photos here).

“Each time we have gone out, we have been approached by members of the EMU and Ypsilanti communities asking about our work and commending our efforts. It’s been a tremendously popular service opportunity for our Honors students, and we now have what seems to be a core group of volunteers committed to keeping the Huron River clean,” said Staunton.

About the program

Student-led environmental activism has been a crucial part of the environmental movement. Honors students at EMU have been leading their own fight for clean water through action. This more recent partnership with HRWC started with a lecture about building partnerships for sustainable ecosystems by Dr. Bo Bunnell from the Great Lakes Science Center. Bunnell suggested that students think about the Huron River, which flows right past EMU’s campus.

Eastern Michigan Honors students cleaning a campus storm drain.

What does the future hold?

The Honors College plans to continue cleaning and labeling storm drains on campus and in campus neighborhoods. They plan to make their institutional footprint on campus an active learning space for water stewardship. In the future, the Honors staff and students plan to participate in Washtenaw County’s Master Rain Gardener training.

“We just received a $5,000 grant from EMU Women in Philanthropy to design and build a rain garden on our site adjacent to EMU’s main campus,” said Staunton. “This is a project that will allow students to take a leadership role in making this work sustainable not just from an environmental standpoint, but from an institutional and community one as well.”

About the Author: In addition to serving as HRWC’s Marketing and Outreach Associate, Marisa Salice serves as the Marketing and Student Outreach Graduate Assistant at The Honors College while receiving her master’s in Integrated Marketing Communications.