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WSU’s E3 collaboration pairs students with community-changing projects

Adult salmon swimming upstream in small creek with waterfall.This fall, students and faculty at Washington State University are helping Washington communities improve youth health, water quality, agricultural food safety, and rural employment, through the university’s recently launched Extension, Engagement, and Education (E3) collaboration.

Researchers across the university partnered to launch the E3 working group in 2018. WSU’s Innovation and Research Engagement Office (IREO), Extension’s Division of Governmental Studies and Services (DGSS), the Center for Civic Engagement, and the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) came together to create new experienced-based learning opportunities for students, and community engagement for faculty, in support of the university’s historic land-grant mission.

Through E3, students match their courses with external projects by WSU researchers that address community needs and challenges.

In an initial project held earlier this year, students worked with Faith Critzer, Associate Professor and Produce Safety Extension Specialist with WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research Extension Center, and Matt Johnson as technology mentor, to help Washington growers digitally monitor water quality.

Growers assess water quality to prevent contamination by food-borne pathogens. After developing an idea for a website where growers could log water testing data and GPS coordinates, students tested a beta version of the site to gauge how it met growers’ needs. Future capstone classes will build on their progress by building a mobile app that will allow growers to access data and monitor water sources while working in the field.

Rain gardens and healthy schools

For the current academic year, E3 has taken on four new projects, each in different areas of research.

Through a bio-retention and rain garden monitoring project, researchers from WSU’s Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension, Puyallup Research and Extension Center, and the Olympic Region Water Resources program will take an already developed rain garden and bio-retention assessment project, currently used by volunteers and citizen scientists, and make it digital, allowing for easy data collection by community members working with computer science students.

In Spokane, the team is working with the City and engineering students to monitor and better understand stormwater runoff, which impacts the local salmon population and the food supply for Pacific Northwest orcas. The E3 team will also work with the Okanogan Extension office and the Okanogan Board of County Commissioners to conduct a needs assessment of the county to better understand and identify barriers for employment and retention. This three-semester project involves WSU researcher Janet Peters and psychology students in the Tri-Cities.

Lastly, the team and psychology students from WSU’s Global Campus will work to understand and identify barriers to healthy diets and exercise, including ways to make more sustainable, walkable schools in Grant County and other rural areas.

Each of these projects will allow students to gain hands-on research experience in topics relevant to their majors.

Learn more about the E3 collaboration on the program website.

Media Contacts

Christina Sanders, Director, WSU Extension Division of Governmental Studies and Services, (509) 335-4811