UM Honors College Creates Mississippi Water Security Institute

Program will help students learn to protect resources while supporting economic development

Clifford Ochs

Clifford Ochs

OXFORD, Miss. – The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi has established the Mississippi Water Security Institute to help students understand the delicate balance between promoting strong economic development and protecting natural resources.

 A $258,000 grant from the Robert M. Hearin Foundation is funding the institute, which is an educational project geared toward undergraduates. Students will study the various facets of how to best support and encourage a flourishing business environment while maintaining high water quality and availability.

“The term ‘water security’ can connote different images and meanings,” said Clifford Ochs, a UM biology professor and the institute’s director. “For us, water security refers to the challenges inherent in promoting and linking strong economic development with community health with natural resource protection.”

In May 2016, 2017 and 2018, the institute plans to offer a two-week summer workshop for rising college sophomores and juniors to explore water security in Mississippi. Those students will meet with and learn from representatives in multiple fields and also hear from the stakeholders: the business community, agriculture, law, urban planning, engineering and conservation.

The workshop promises to be “a fascinating, rich opportunity for interdisciplinary student education,” Ochs said. It also will allow students to visit sites that are caught up in the debate over how to promote and link economic development with water security.

“The workshop will include superb guest speakers from around the state,” Ochs said. “It will also include travel to representative sites where water security issues can be clearly defined and addressed. Most importantly, there will also be the opportunity to be a member of a vigorous team of students and teachers dedicated to applied and practical interdisciplinary research on water resource management in Mississippi.”

Students from all honors programs across the state are encouraged to apply, Ochs said. Only 10 spots are available for those students, but they will receive free on-campus housing for the two-week period and full board, plus a $500 per week stipend. 

Douglass Sullivan-González, dean of the Honors College, will serve as principal investigator and Debra Young, associate dean, will serve as coordinator.

“Dr. Ochs and his team of exceptional students will confront the problems of ensuring water quality and quantity to meet the needs of attracting business and industry while supporting community development and environmental stewardship,” Sullivan-González said. “The Honors College is once again proud to set the terms of debate not only for Ole Miss but also for the state of Mississippi.”

Applications for the Mississippi Water Security Institute will be available online in October. Those who are accepted will be notified by January. Application windows will be set and announced for the May 2017 and 2018 workshops at a later date.

For more information, contact Debra Young at