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Monica Dean’s coursework at Sacramento State often found her along the nearby American River, examining the water’s life-giving properties as an Environmental Studies major.

Now she plans to use her knowledge of water to foster peace in some of the globe’s most conflict-ridden regions.

“Water is scarce,” Dean says. “Wars are fought over it. If we are able to find ways to share resources, we can promote peace.”

Dean, who minored in Biology, is graduating as the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies’ Dean’s Award winner.

Michelle Stevens, an assistant professor of Environmental Studies, describes her as “more of a colleague than a student.” Dean interned with Stevens for two semesters, during which time the student’s interest in water issues deepened.

Dean’s first project was to transcribe Stevens’ interviews with Iraqi scientists who were studying the devastation stemming from former dictator Saddam Hussein’s decision to drain parts of the Tigris-Euphrates watershed. Taking away the water had a horrendous effect on the area’s people and environment, Dean says.

Stevens and Dean are co-authoring a peer-reviewed publication on the watershed. The two are also in the final stages of launching Hima Mesopotamia, a nonprofit organization aimed at enhancing water equity and peace in the Middle East.

“Monica is very dedicated to issues of water and peace in the Middle East,” Stevens says.

While at Sacramento State, Dean took a leadership role with Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity. She organized community service events and charity fundraisers, often involving hundreds of her fellow students.

She credits her parents with instilling in her the value of being a global citizen.

“Their philosophy is to do the right thing, because that’s what you’re supposed to do,” she says.

Dean has been accepted to graduate school at Tel Aviv University in Israel. She also may accept an Environment America Fellowship.

Although the decision between the two options is difficult, Dean is confident that either choice will help her work to resolve conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.

Dean, an eternal optimist, says wherever her career takes her, she wants to change the world.