In April, the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences hosted a weeklong festival titled INTERCONNECTIONS. The event celebrated the relationship between communities and across generations and geography, and also focused on local and global issues including water and air pollution, climate change, policy, and law.

The festival featured a series of lectures, workshops, films, and exhibits that “interconnected people with different kinds of experience and expertise, laying the groundwork for future collaboration,” according to Kim Fortun, professor and head of the Department of Science and Technology Studies, who worked with a team of students, faculty, staff, and community organizations to coordinate the event.

Program highlights included a radio show and panel focused on the unfolding water contamination crisis in Hoosick Falls, a community about 25 miles east Troy, N.Y.; a panel focused on “Science in Environmental Activism” in the context of shale oil and gas development, along with a lecture by Cornell Professor of Engineering Anthony Ingraffea, sponsored by the Department of Civil Engineering, which also addressed problems associated with shale gas development. In the lecture titled “Reflections on a Career in Fracture Mechanic,” Ingraffea called upon the audience to consider non-technical aspects of engineering products and services, and the ethical obligation of engineers.


Students tried their hands at building terrariums during one of the festival’s workshops.

The program also included a screening of the film Mother: Caring for 7 Billion, organized by Chris Bystroff, professor with dual appointments in the departments of Biological Sciences and Computer Science. The film explores the impact and issues associated with the global population crisis.

Fortun noted that Rensselaer students played important roles in the festival, both as organizers and presenters. For example, a debate about nuclear power included student involved in Women in Nuclear and the RPI Debate Team; and Bohan Chen, a junior majoring in electronic arts, media and communication, presented his vision of for high-speed rail on a panel focused on “Sustainable Transportation Futures.”

Prior to the start of the weeklong festival, an Earth Week Kick-Off event was held on April 16. The event—open to the campus community, and area children and their families—showcased environmental education and stewardship. Program highlights included poster sessions presenting research done by students in fourth through 10th grade, who were mentored by Rensselaer students, and a series of workshops, games, and sports activities. In addition, several educational kiosks were offered that focused on the trees of New York (with the U.S. Forest Service), invasive plants (Frear Park Conservancy), recycled art, and an array of other topics. All attending were encouraged to vote for the environment in an Earth Week Voting Booth. In addition, an EcoPrincess area, run by EcoLogic, a Rensselaer Union student club, created activities especially designed for younger kids. The kick-off event ended with live music organized by the student club Ground Zero Basement.

The weeklong festival culminated with the celebration of Earth Day on April 22.