Professor Honored for Implementing Student Project on Pure Water San Diego

Chung TN

Leeva Chung, PhD, learned early in her 17 years to date as a University of San Diego Communication Studies professor about the importance of giving students opportunities to challenge themselves, but also a sense of personal growth, problem-solving capabilities via real-life experiences and even a possible job audition.

Chung's classroom has often been a space for students to participate in meaningful community-oriented projects. A Changemaker Faculty Champion, Chung and her students have been particularly focused the City of San Diego’s Pure Water San Diego project and working with Katz and Associates since Fall 2014.

Student groups in Chung's Fall 2014 and Fall 2015 class, Small Group Communications, developed social media marketing campaigns — a video, an infographic and hashtag promotion — and presented their ideas to increase -awareness and educate young adults, ages 18 to 26, and mothers with children ages 12 and under, on the value of potable water reuse.

Importance of Awareness

Being in a city where 85 percent of its water supply is imported, the importance of educating the public about the Pure Water San Diego program was vital.

"We wanted (our students) to understand their water footprint,” said Chung. “Water is a real-life concern, and with Daniel (McArdle-Jaimes, a former Katz employee and USD alumnus), we made it into a project about water, something they might take for granted. It provided an eye-opening experience that they can take with them."

The students' work has been presented at the end of both fall semesters to Katz and Associates and the City of San Diego officials, alumni, and USD community partners such as the Changemaker Hub, the Office of Sustainability and the Karen and Tom Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness and Social Action. This fall, Chung said, USD's Information Technology Services provided her student groups with iPads to help them present their messages.

"It was really wonderful to see the different groups on campus all come together to help our students be successful," Chung said.

Student Presentations

Students in the 2014 class had creative ideas that included a video in which students knew the names of TV’s Kardashian family and who was the 2014 Major League Baseball World Series winner, but didn’t know where San Diego’s water supply came from. Another featured two children who explained San Diego’s water supply issues and offered valuable information in a fun format.

Earlier this week, students in the 2015 class presented campaigns that featured a mascot named Splash, another in which children explain things that their mothers told them while growing up. Still another promoted love for water in a unique message delivery.

"It has been a wonderful journey with Dr. Chung, Daniel and Pure Water. It's been so exciting to see the students so excited, engaged and so creative," said Sarah Katz, founder of Katz and Associates. "Leeva is so passionate about challenging her students on working together, collaborating and meeting deadlines.”

Brent Eidson, deputy director for external affairs for the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department and a 1991 USD alumnus, said the Pure Water Project's value to the city of San Diego is important to its future and working with USD students and Chung on community outreach has been a productive endeavor.

"We were impressed by the quality and innovation in the students' work," he said. "We've used their materials in our communications for presentations and conferences. But all of this wouldn't have been possible without Dr. Chung. I'm very proud to be a USD alum and I'm proud of the students."

The Pure Water San Diego project and USD’s involvement was spotlighted in the November 2015 American Water Works Association journal.

Mike Williams, director for the Changemaker Hub, said USD is in the midst of a campuswide focus on examining California’s water issues. Chung and her students' projects figure to help inspire others.

"This collaboration demonstrates not only what work can be done by connecting what's happening in the classroom with what's happening outside of the classroom, but I think it also highlights the ways in which USD is trying to get involved in significant and important local and global issues," Williams said.

Rewarding Innovation

As a result of her work, Chung received USD’s Innovation in Community Engagement Award at a Dec. 9 reception. The award was given for her applied problem solving through community partner engagement as well as her novel approach to mobilizing student teams and governmental organizations. Then, on Dec. 16, following student presentations, Chung received a San Diego City Council proclamation for "Dr. Leeva Chung Day.”

Chung deflected all of the praise of her awards to her students, for whom she credits for their creativity and vision to produce content that can have a long-term impact. Participation in the project and Chung’s desire to give students a challenge was well received.

“We had students come up and tell us how meaningful this experience was for them,” said Katz. “(Giving the presentation) was treated like a (job) interview and they thanked us. That’s a credit to Leeva’s creativity, her wanting to make these partnerships work and her knowing how important it is for her students.”

— Ryan T. Blystone