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WSU and UI to co‑host arts, humanities and science symposium

Washington State University and the University of Idaho are teaming up to explore news ways of integrating the arts and humanities with science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).

More than 50 WSU and UI faculty and administrators are expected to attend a joint symposium Sept. 26–27 where they will work together to imagine new pathways for interdisciplinary research and teaching. Registration for the event remains open to any interested participants.

The symposium springs from  the 2018 National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) report titled, “Branches from the Same Tree: The Integration of the Humanities and Arts with Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Higher Education.” The study establishes the value of integrating more STEMM curricula and labs into the academic programs of students majoring in the humanities and arts, and the value of integrating curricula and experiences in the arts and humanities into college and university STEMM programs. At the same time, the study expresses a growing concern that disciplinary specialization is poorly calibrated to the challenges and opportunities of the present time.

Todd Butler.

“Meeting these challenges will require new ways of working together, something our two nearby universities are ideally located to support,” said Todd Butler, associate dean in WSU’s College of Arts and Sciences and director of WSU’s new Center for Arts and Humanities. “We will need to make connections across state lines and disciplines to provide students and faculty with the most integrative curriculum possible, setting them both up for success in the future.”

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Researcher warns of possible reprise of worst known drought, famine

A Washington State University researcher has completed the most thorough analysis yet of The Great Drought — the most devastating known drought of the past 800 years — and how it led to the Global Famine, an unprecedented disaster that took 50 million lives.

She warns that the Earth’s current warming climate could make a similar drought even worse.

Deepti Singh.Deepti Singh, an assistant professor in WSU’s School of the Environment, used tree‑ring data, rainfall records and climate reconstructions to characterize the conditions leading up to the Great Drought, a period of widespread crop failures in Asia, Brazil and Africa from 1875 to 1878.

“Climate conditions that caused the Great Drought and Global Famine arose from natural variability. And their recurrence—with hydrological impacts intensified by global warming—could again potentially undermine global food security,” she and her colleagues write in the Journal of Climate, published online Oct. 4. The paper comes as a United Nations report this week predicts that rising worldwide temperatures will bring about more frequent food shortages and wildfires as soon as 2040.

The Global Famine is among the worst humanitarian disasters in history, comparable to the influenza epidemic of 1918‑1919, World War I or World War II. As an environmental disaster, it has few rivals. Making matters worse were social conditions, like British colonialists hoarding and exporting grain from India. Some populations were particularly vulnerable to disease and colonial expansion afterwards.

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How Understanding Soil Could Be One Answer to Help Save the Planet

Marc Kramer
Marc Kramer

The deep, dark depths of the ocean are often called the final frontier—but, according to one researcher, the soils of the Earth are little understood as well.

Some of the soil’s mysteries could reveal how to store carbon, and maybe one day, carbon dioxide—a key greenhouse gas that is causing global temperatures to reach record-breaking temperatures. In a study published on Monday, Marc Kramer, an assistant professor of environmental chemistry at Washington State University Vancouver, digs deeper into what scientists know about soil, particularly uncovering how soil minerals are associated with carbon storage in soil.

“We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about either oceans or soils on Earth,” said Kramer.

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Iron blood levels in Guatemala improve with WSU project

Washington State University students and faculty recently returned from a 10-day volunteer effort to help assess whether a health project designed to increase iron levels in the blood of rural Guatemalan people has been successful.

WSU participants worked hand in hand with Hearts in Motion (HIM), a nonprofit organization, on the medical service project.

“After my first year participating in HIM, I realized Guatemalan diets are primarily starch-based,” said Kathy Beerman, a WSU professor in the School of Biological Sciences and a veteran HIM volunteer. “This caused me to believe that many Guatemalans are probably faced with a lack of iron in their diets, and therefore at increased risk for iron deficiency anemia. That is when we started our research.”

WSU Spokane: Brown steps down, DeWald named new chancellor

Lisa Brown — who for the past four-and-a-half years has guided the rapid development of Washington State University’s health sciences enterprise in Spokane — today announced she will step down from her position as chancellor of the Spokane campus.


Daryll DeWald, the current dean of the WSU College of Arts and Sciences, will succeed Brown as chancellor. An accomplished life sciences researcher with more than a decade of experience in higher education administration, DeWald will begin his new duties on September 1.

DeWald is an experienced academic leader and professor with a strong research publication record in cell biology and biochemistry. As dean, he has overseen the teaching, research and outreach activities of the university’s largest academic unit, which spans all five of WSU’s statewide campuses and the online Global Campus. With annual research expenditures of more than $30 million across two dozen disciplines, the college is also one of the largest research enterprises at WSU.

“Daryll has done an outstanding job of leading the College of Arts and Sciences across the WSU system,” Schulz said. “His management skills, expertise in the life sciences, and dedicated outreach efforts to students underrepresented in the sciences are qualities that make him the ideal choice to lead the next chapter in our initiative to expand access to health care across the state.”

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