Beacon Institute to host Clarkson’s “River University”

You might have missed it, but last October, the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries (BIRE) officially became a subsidiary of Clarkson University. One might think that Clarkson – located in Potsdam, on the opposite side of the Adirondacks from the headwaters of the Hudson River – would be more interested in the St. Lawrence River than in the Hudson; but in fact it’s a good match for the Beacon-based environmental research organization. Clarkson’s Institute for a Sustainable Environment offers baccalaureates in Environmental Science and Policy, Environmental Health Science and Environmental Engineering, along with graduate degrees in Environmental Politics and Governance, Environmental Science and Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering. Clarkson also has a program in robotics that ties in nicely with the River and Estuary Observatory Network (REON) that BIRE has been developing for real-time monitoring of the Hudson at a variety of locations.

Beginning this July, Clarkson’s satellite “campus” on the Hudson at Dennings Point will become the site of “River University”: a summer program where undergraduates from any college can pick up nine credits in environmental studies. Longtime former Riverkeeper and Pace University professor John Cronin, BIRE’s founding director, has stepped down from that post to put on a new hat as Beacon Institute Fellow at Clarkson University, cementing the relationship, and he’ll be the one overseeing the River University (RU) program.

Running July 8 through August 3 in this inaugural year, RU will offer up to 25 students an opportunity for hands-on learning on the River, since the interdisciplinary program will wind up with a five-day sojourn aboard the sloop Clearwater. The three courses this summer will include “Applied Environmental Policy: The Clean Water Act,” taught by Cronin himself; “The Ecology of American Rivers,” taught by Tom Langen, PhD, associate professor of Biology and Psychology at Clarkson; and “Green Infrastructure for Non-Point-Source Pollution Control,” taught by Shane Rogers, PhD, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Clarkson. Rogers also serves as a special research environmental engineer at the National Risk Management Laboratory of the US Environmental Protection Agency.


“River University is designed to provide students with a firsthand experience of the Hudson through three different lenses: ecology, engineering and policy – and then teach them to apply their knowledge to real-world problems,” said BIRE’s new president and CEO, Timothy F. Sugrue, PhD, who is also dean of Clarkson University’s School of Business. “Today’s students have a deep sense of responsibility toward the environment; River University will give them depth and tools to understand the cause-and-effect relationship between human action and environmental result.”

The application deadline for River University’s summer 2012 session is March 15. Visit for more information about curriculum and faculty, tuition costs, housing and commuter options, Frequently Asked Questions and the online application. To learn more about the Beacon Institute, visit, and for more info on Clarkson University, visit


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