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A Drink For Tomorrow Credit: Kai Tang

While incoming freshmen learn about Penn’s annual theme each September, most don’t hear about it once New Student Orientation is over.

Each year, the Office of the Provost sponsors events around a chosen theme. This year’s theme is the Year of Water.

Most undergraduates connect the annual theme with the Penn Reading Project, in which all incoming freshman are required to participate.

This summer, students of the Class of 2014 read The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters by Rose George.

However, Wharton freshman Jessie Ai, admitted she did not read the entire book.

Although Ai noted “there were some people in my hall who analyzed the book and read it front to back,” most students she spoke to agreed with her that the PRP was “a hassle.”

Since NSO, Ai hasn’t thought much about the Year of Water.

“I actually haven’t seen anyone promoting [the Year of Water],” she said. “There isn’t much going on.”

College freshman and Eco-Rep L.T. Verrastro disagreed. He said that for the Eco-Reps, “our year is centered around the Year of Water.”

He added that Eco-Reps have made a concerted effort to reduce the usage of bottled water this year. Last Monday, Verrastro helped transport students to see an exhibit of art made of empty water bottles.

Frederick Scatena, department chairman for Earth and Environmental Science, said that Hayden Hall, where he has his office, “has completely gotten rid of bottled water” as a result of Penn’s increased commitment to sustainability during the Year of Water.

This year, the Provost’s Office also featured courses relating to the Year of Water.

Environmental Science professor Alain Plante said he modified the curriculum for “Introduction to Environmental Science” to put an emphasis on water-related issues.

Plante did not explicitly reference the Year of Water to his students. Rather, he let them make their own connections to the theme.

According to David Fox, director of Academic Initiatives, the theme gives a coherent goal to a large and diverse campus population.

Each year, a theme is chosen because “it offers a topic around which all of Penn’s schools and centers can find areas to program. Penn is such a large and diverse place, and the theme gives us a focus we can share across the university,” he wrote in an e-mail.

College junior Juliana Schott said the theme “Year of Evolution” during her freshman year helped her connect with others, but for different reasons.

“It’s the common topic of conversation when you don’t have anything to talk about with your freshman year hallmates: that none of you actually read [the assigned book],” said Schott.

Schott added that she was not aware that this year was the Year of Water.

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