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Water power

Posted 9:59 a.m. Friday, June 10, 2022

A rendering of Research Vessel Prairie Springs that will equip the River Studies Center. The earliest possible delivery date for the new research vessel would be July 2023.

Research partnership gets students on the Mississippi using future workforce technology

A partnership will get students out on the Mississippi River using the water-related technology they’ll need in the future workforce in freshwater science

The La Crosse-based company J.F. Brennan Company Inc. — a century-old, nationwide leader in marine environmental solutions — is partnering with UW-La Crosse to strengthen research, curriculum and the company's talent pipeline. 

“Our business, like any business, is fundamentally based on the ability to recruit, train, and retain good people,” says Matt Binsfeld, president and CEO of J.F. Brennan Company, Inc.  

The partnership between UWL and J.F. Brennan was formed through the initiative of Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust and the UWL College of Science and Health, with the assistance of the La Crosse Community Foundation

In early 2022, it was announced that Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust gave the La Crosse Community Foundation $430,000 to fund construction of a new research vessel for UWL’s River Studies Center: Research Vessel Prairie Springs.  

In relation to the vessel, J.F. Brennan will provide maintenance support, a storage location and instrumentation expertise.   

Partnership will also shape curriculum

Partnership will grow students' experiential learning outside of the classroom, preparing them with use of equipment and skills training used in the workforce. UW-La Crosse grad student Courtney Baker investigates microplastics in the Mississippi River in this 2019 photo.

J.F. Brennan will also be entering into a new agreement with the UW-La Crosse River Studies Center to help shape classroom curriculum to continue to produce top graduates. UWL students graduate with great technical background such as an understanding, analyzing and reporting geospatial data that applies to careers, Brennan staff say. Still there is room for students to grow through experiential learning outside the classroom. 

“They saw an opportunity and said, 'You know, would you like to have more dialog about what we’re looking for? Because there’s a huge need out there for these types of students,'” explains Roger Haro, UWL College of Science and Health associate dean. 

The partnership is considered a public-private partnership, explains Binsfeld. 

“How can we work more closely with UWL and the River Studies Center to provide the experiential learning opportunities for young people, so that they’re not only getting the high-value and first-class in classroom experience, but they’re taking that and they’re putting that together with these opportunities to do actually what we do as an organization,” says Binsfeld. 

While UWL offers high quality classroom experiences, one of the primary science facilities on campus is severely outdated and impacting those experiences. This video shares the top 10 reasons why the  Prairie Springs Science Center Completion Project/Cowley Hall demolition is needed.


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