by Gabriella DePinho, Senior Writer
The students in Manhattan College’s chapter of the New York Water Environment Association see their club as a space where students can explore and pursue their environmental passions. While the ongoing pandemic has prevented the club from offering its usual, numerous in-person activities, the club has remained active and dedicated to its mission.
According to the organization’s website, NYWEA was founded in 1929, “by professionals in the field of water quality as a non-profit, educational organization” and though membership continues to be diverse in activities and backgrounds, “all are concerned and involved with protecting and enhancing our precious water resources.”
Liz-Marie Lee, a senior civil engineering major with a minor in environmental engineering, was the Manhattan College chapter’s president for the 2020-21 school year. As a long- time member of the chapter, Lee is very passionate about NYWEA’s mission.
“Our primary focus is water quality and the new technologies that are emerging in water quality,” she said. “So that’s our primary focus, but we do a lot of environmentalism and volunteer work here as well.”
Since the fall, the club has promoted a Tibbetts Brook and Putnam Trail cleanup, sustainable food week events, general member meetings, a tree bed cleanup, a young professionals panel, opportunities to work in the college’s rooftop garden and a NYWEA metropolitan area water industry career showcase. While the club offers a wide range of activities and supports other campus environmental groups’ endeavors, it just means that students of all majors can find something they want to do within the club.
Lee also loves that NYWEA offers a lot of professional and academic opportunities. Students can attend the regional conference to learn more about water issues and present research. Lee was actually able to present research at a recent conference, research that she only conducted with NYWEA’s vice president, Lauren Finnegan, because NYWEA introduced them to their area of interest.
“We were exploring topics in risal filtration, which is basically how to make surface water more clean by just removing heavy metals in the water and using plant roots,” Lee said. “So that was just our sophomore project and we’re like ‘oh my God we’re sophomores and we just got picked to do this big research thing, that’s incredible.’ And now that has actually opened the door
for many opportunities.” NYWEA even offers scholarship opportunities. Matthew Sweeney, a former executive board member of the club and a senior civil engineering major, was a 2020 scholarship recipient. The most recent Jasper to receive a NYWEA scholarship before Sweeney was Lisa Marie Nilaj in 2016. Prior to that, stretching back to 1999, at least one Manhattan College student, if not two, won a scholarship nearly every year. Finnegan, another senior civil engineering major, also cherishes the research opportunity she had with Lee, but finds that her favorite events were volunteer events.
“It’s really fun to get out there in the environment and actually make a difference,” she said.
While the pandemic has hindered some of their in-per- son plans, the club was still able to have some meaningful events this year.
“We have a lot of remote students, so we weren’t able to do a lot of the in person speaker talks that we planned but we’ve kind of adapted to that,” Finnegan said. “We’ve moved them virtual and we’ve actually been able to get more speakers that way just because speakers don’t have to come to campus and we still had a good turnout for outdoor events just with masks.”
While Finnegan and Lee are looking ahead towards graduation, they know the club will be in good hands.
“We wouldn’t have NYWEA if it weren’t for the dedicated students every year who always make sure it continues on,” Lee said.
While they both look back on their time as members of NYWEA fondly, they want to continue to encourage students to join and see the club grow, even when they’re gone.
“Anyone can join the club, it doesn’t just have to be environmental engineering students,” Finnegan said.
“It could be any major. This past year we’ve actually gotten a lot of people from different majors and different areas of study on campus and it’s been really great to have people from different areas of campus.”