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Shining a light on water insecurity

Mar 15, 2021
by Sydney Gorak, '21

Recent alumna wins Pulitzer Center grant to report on water issues in Jordan.

Jordan Neisler holding a watering can.

From a young age, Jordan Neisler has always been interested in investigating water and food insecurity – the lack of consistent access to enough of the two necessities to lead healthy lives. Growing up in New Smyrna Beach and surrounded by the water helped her appreciate the importance of clean water for human life, and how it isn’t always accessible to everyone.

“I remember as a child that I was always interested in environmental issues,” she said. “As I grew older I realized how crucial clean water is to not only a better environment but also to human life. I think it really just made me think about how clean water should be a basic human right, since we all need it to live. But it is not accessible to everyone.”

That interest led the December 2020 Flagler College graduate with a major in Strategic Communication to win a Pulitzer Center grant in May 2020 for her examination of the water crisis in Jordan. The Pulitzer Center Global Reporting Grants support in-depth, high-impact reporting on issues of global importance that are often overlooked in the media.

She won the grant in Flagler’s Pulitzer Center & Global Issues class in the Spring of 2020, and she said the reporting project in Jordan will help her take a significant step towards her future career path and making a difference in the world.

Her courage and desire began in The Pulitzer Center & Global Issues class taught by Associate Professor of Social Sciences Brenda Kauffman. While her trip has been delayed due to COVID-19, her goal for this project is to research how refugees are coming to Jordan in search of a better life, but are faced with limited access to water.

“My goal is to bring more awareness to the current water crisis that is going on in Jordan,” she said. “I hope that my reporting can help people become more educated on the water crisis not just in Jordan, but globally.”

Jordan is ranked as the fifth driest country in the world by the World Resources Institute’s Water Risk Atlas. The Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation predicts that by 2050 the demand for water is going to exceed their resources by 26%. Although refugees have been regularly reported on in Jordan, water scarcity is a topic that is often underreported. She plans on interviewing Jordanian citizens and local experts from universities, and then reporting these moments through articles, photos and social media posts.

Neisler was one of 40 Reporting Fellows selected in 2020 to cover underreported issues in 23 countries across the globe. The Pulitzer Center awards fellowships to students at its Campus Consortium partners, which includes liberal arts college like Flagler, and pairs them with an adviser who has expertise on the topic. The Pulitzer Center raises awareness of underreported global issues through direct support for quality journalism across all media platforms and a unique program of education and public outreach.

Sharing common interests in water insecurity and issues with Joanna Krajewski, an Assistant Professor of Strategic Communication at Flagler College, sparked her interest in just how underreported this topic was. Neisler continued to research more information on these issues and became more interested on shining a light on water insecurity and potentially helping find solutions to these problems.

“I think the biggest thing that sparked my interest was just how underreported this topic was,” Neisler said. “The country of Jordan had never really been on my radar as a country that faced water insecurity until I talked to Dr. Krajewski about her trip. As I continued to do research on this issue I just got more and more interested on bringing coverage to this issue and potentially helping find solutions for it.”

This continues Neisler’s interest in trying to make a difference in the lives of people who need help. Since freshman year, she has been actively involved with Flagler College Volunteers (FCV) organizing events from helping feed the homeless, beach/community clean-ups and helping local animal shelters walk and bathe dogs. The club, which she served as president for, guided her to a passion for non-profit work and allowed her to grow as a leader.

“If I had never found FCV, my college experience and future plans would likely be vastly different, so I am truly thankful that I had the opportunity to be involved with the organization since my freshman year,” she said. 

The recent alumna, who also has minors in History and Advertising, hopes to eventually work in the communication field for a non-profit that specializes in water or food insecurity.

“Even though I haven’t traveled to Jordan yet, my experience with the Pulitzer Center has been great,” said Neisler. “I am super excited to eventually go to Jordan and get to report there. I plan to use my experiences to further my education by pursuing a master’s degree in Public Policy and then eventually working at a non-profit that focuses specifically on water and food insecurity, most likely in the Washington, D.C. area.”

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