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ACM Planning Meeting on Mississippi Studies

Mississippi Studies re-imagines the river and its tributaries as a coherent cultural and research corridor, fostering new ways of conceptualizing its shared environment, heritage, and rich role in the history of the United States.

Because of ACM colleges’ proximity to the Mississippi River and its tributaries, we can have an important role in drawing attention to the challenges facing the region, including:

  • Increasing frequency and severity of flooding and other major natural hazards
  • Accumulation of runoff and water pollution
  • Glaring urban and rural political, economic and racial divides
  • Regional population’s health and economic vitality

The 31-state watershed (an area that includes nearly all ACM colleges) allows for engagement with the water that connects us all. Because these ideas can be applied to any proximate body of water, this meeting would be of interest to researchers at all ACM colleges. 

*Note: Content adapted from original proposal

The ACM Planning Meeting on Mississippi Studies will develop a new research initiative to encourage intercollegiate collaboration on publicly engaged projects centering on the Mississippi River.

This initiative will start the long-term objective to create the Mississippi River Research Barge, a floating cultural and scientific research platform that travels the length of the river promoting translocal collaboration and the integration of scientific research with the arts, humanities and social sciences.


We identify these learning opportunities:

Critical Regionalism

Define the Mississippi and its tributaries as a shared object of study and interconnection. Research will think about the Mississippi as involving and/or impacting multiple communities.

Translocal Collaboration

Engage diverse constituencies along the Mississippi, including ACM colleges, scientific and cultural institutions, and urban, rural and underserved communities.

Interdisciplinary Research

Bring researchers together to create integrated interdisciplinary research opportunities and share data, resources, research techniques that span the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities.

Model for Off-campus Research

Mississippi Studies can be a model for off-campus research by creating new ways to conceptualize the region and opportunities for students to pursue research on different ACM campuses and field stations.

Mississippi Studies is about collaboration and innovation at its core. It fosters them in the following ways:

New model for Defining Community

This project redefines community boundaries from artificial human constructs (what state, county, city, rural township, or college is one from?) to natural boundaries (what watershed does one live in?).

Interdisciplinarity Emphasis

This approach will facilitate the creative problem solving that is needed to address the challenges described above. We will formulate interdisciplinary research questions that span the arts, sciences, humanities and social sciences.


To initiate Mississippi Studies, we propose a two-day immersive workshop. We will select 12-14 (depending on budget) faculty participants who match the initiative’s priorities. The primary activities include the following:

June 18-20, 2018 | Launch of Mississippi. An Anthropocene River

Encourage Mississippi Studies affiliated ACM faculty to participate at Macalester College and Weisman Art Museum.

Summer 2018 | Contact potential participants

Reach out to additional ACM colleagues to participate in the planning meeting.

Late August/Early September 2018 | ACM Planning Meeting on Mississippi Studies

A mix of participant-led talks and small group discussions hosted at Luther College or Macalester College.

Fall 2018-Fall 2019 | Build a network of Mississippi Studies researchers

Explore and develop opportunities for collaboration between Mississippi Studies and Mississippi. An Anthropocene River.

Fall 2018 | Grant Opportunities

Identify and apply for funding opportunities, including NSF informal STEM learning grant.

Winter 2018 | Strategic Vision

Finalize the framework with meeting participants and publish online.

November 2019 | Concluding event for Mississippi. An Anthropocene River

At the Bywater Institute at Tulane University (New Oreleans).

Dissemination Strategies

Public Outreach

Further develop a website for outreach, coordination and dissemination purposes. Content for the website will include materials generated during the meeting, definition and description of Mississippi Studies, information on the project team, the strategic plan, and research materials.

Conference Participation

We have been invited by the Haus der Kunst der Welt and Max Planck Institute to collaborate on the “Anthropocene River,” a year-long, six symposia and conference series research project along the Mississippi River in Fall 2019.

Research & Public Scholarship

We will connect urban and rural communities along the Mississippi River through workshops and public sessions, resulting innovative, interdisciplinary research that can be disseminated in a variety of ways, including journals, public exhibitions and performances.

Resources & Materials

Outcomes and Significance

Strategic Vision

Define Mississippi Studies’ goals and directions and a timeline. Identify the important research questions to address and effective ways to address them.

Research Framework

Consider how the project can model off-campus research in how it engages the region, collaboration and interdisciplinarity in its planning, coordinating and organizing research that occur on the Barge and in other contexts and locations.

Stepping-Stone Process

Define how elements of this vision can be realized before the establishment of a Barge (i.e. smaller boats, existing field stations, and road-based research).

Future Grant and Funding Opportunities

identify funding and grant opportunities to support Mississippi Studies. One opportunity we will pursue (ideally, as a consortium of ACM colleges) is a large NSF informal STEM learning grant (deadline November 2018) which would allow us to powerfully support opportunities defined above.

Network of Partners and Collaborators

Building a vibrant network of ACM researchers and associated scholars who will work together on future collaborative projects is imperative to this project.

Public Outreach

Develop a website for outreach, coordination and dissemination purposes.

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