The University of Alabama’s Young Water Professionals organization has been selected as the 2022 Water Environment Federation Student Chapter of the Year. It’s the first time the federation has awarded the honor to an entire student group.
“It brings recognition and legitimacy to the group because we’ve only been around since 2020,” said Melanie Vines, founder and vice president of the UA chapter and a Ph.D. student in civil engineering. “Our goal is to introduce students to the vast array of water-related careers, and this award lets us know we’re on the right path.”
According to the WEF, the new award recognizes one student chapter for exemplary effort in helping the federation build a community of empowered professionals who create a healthy global water environment. The UA group, a joint chapter of the American Water Works Association and the WEF, currently has approximately 50 members. The chapter meets every two weeks and bring in experts from various water-related fields to speak and give advice.
UA’s Young Water Professionals organization is unique because it has both faculty and industry advisors. Dr. Leigh Terry, assistant professor in UA’s College of Engineering, serves as the group’s faculty advisor while Tina Sheikhzeinoddin, an assistant engineer at Hazen and Sawyer in Birmingham, Alabama, is the industry advisor.
“It connects both worlds, industry and academia. Most students will not go into academia, so we need an industry presence just as much,” said Terry. “It’s connecting drinking water, wastewater or any kind of research in water. If you’re in that space, you’re welcome in the group.”
In addition to hosting experts, UA’s organization arranges educational field trips to local water and wastewater facilities for its members. It has also sent students to local and national conferences such as the Alabama-Mississippi Water Jam conference and the AWWA-WEF Young Professional Summit. This October, Vines will represent the Young Water Professionals at the annual WEFTEC conference in New Orleans and accept the award on behalf of the group.
The WEF is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization of 30,000 individual members and 75 affiliated member associations representing water quality professionals around the world.