University Research Week Spotlight: Dr. Meenu Tewari
November 2, 2018 | Sophia Ramos
University Research Week, Nov. 5-9, 2018, is led by the UNC Office for Undergraduate Research. The semi-annual, campus-wide event is designed to improve awareness of what it means to be a research university, align the University’s missions of producing world-class research and providing a world-class undergraduate education, and promote opportunities for students to discover and engage in research and scholarship.
At the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, research that results in publication, exhibition, composition and performance is a pillar of the IAH’s work and support for faculty. To celebrate University Research Week, we speak to Dr. Meenu Tewari, IAH Faculty Fellow in 2017, about her project with the IAH Honors Carolina Collaboration Grant which led to new approaches and insights as she worked with an Honors Carolina Student.
Looking at water’s past to impact the future
How does a city provide a public good, like access to water, all while making it financially viable and sustainable? Dr. Meenu Tewari, associate professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning, seeks an answer. As part of research for her book Water Stories, she is looking into patterns, institutional arrangements, sequences and hidden and unexpected outcomes of water interventions in cities in South Asia, drawing lessons as well, from other global cities around the world.
Dr. Tewari received a grant provided by the Institute for the Arts and Humanities to explore one specific aspect of good performing water systems: namely, how they are funded. She decided to focus on the history of New York City’s public water system and its unique mechanism that has historically separated yet closely yoked the funding arm of the system from the implementing agency. Dr. Tewari was able to utilize the IAH Honors Carolina Collaboration Grant to work with Connor Nielsen, an undergraduate student at UNC. The Honors Collaboration Grant offers a unique pairing: Honors Carolina students get the opportunity to work on a research project directly with faculty that are or have been fellows at the Institute.
Connor Nielsen, a student that studied both dramatic arts and economics, joined Dr. Tewari’s research team. Nielsen’s interest in both visual arts and city and regional planning spurred an interdisciplinary connection that moved the project in new directions. Together they aimed to create a five-minute video that shows how New York City took an inverted sequence when it came to funding the water it provides to its residents, and seeing if this history offered lessons to other systems in other contexts. Coming full circle, Dr. Tewari plans to share the video in the classroom here at Carolina.
“The grant allowed me to break the project into smaller pieces, and explore avenues I may not have thought of pursuing in some depth. This project wouldn’t look the way it does without the skills and insights that Connor brought to it,” said Dr. Tewari. “It has been very rewarding, and I am grateful to the IAH.”
The IAH Honors Collaboration grant provides students with the rare opportunity to pursue research with a faculty member during their undergraduate experience. It is one example of how research matters at any stage of a career, no matter if you’re sitting in the classroom or teaching it.