Kate Brown, History, Wins the 2014 Ellis W. Hawley Prize from the Organization of American Historians

On Saturday, April 12 in Atlanta, History Associate Professor Kate Brown was awarded the 2014 Ellis W. Hawley Prize from the Organization of American Historians (OAH) for the best book-length historical study of the political economy, politics, or institutions of the United States, in its domestic or international affairs, from the Civil War to the present.

plutopia

Brown received the award for her book, Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters (Oxford University Press, 2013), in which she tells the stories of Hanford, Washington and Ozersk, Russia. The Soviet and American governments created these communities to produce the plutonium that fueled the nuclear arms race during the Cold War.

In a press release announcing the award, OAH stated: “Brown notes that the major accidents at Hanford and Ozersk were largely unknown to the public, in contrast to the recognition today of Chernobyl and Fukushima. But the costs to the well-being of the workers and the environment were arguably far higher. This revelatory history provides a highly readable and deeply researched model of transnational history.”

Last month, Brown was awarded the 2014 George Perkins Marsh Prize from the American Society for Environmental History (ASEH), also for her book, Plutopia.

George Derek Musgrove, History, Op-Ed in The Washington Post

Washington, D.C. hasn’t directly funded its shadow delegation to Congress, the city’s official statehood lobby, since the first elections for the positions were held in 1990. However, just last week, Mayor Vincent Gray released a budget for fiscal 2015 that includes $100,000 for the delegation.

Derek Musgrove

George Derek Musgrove ’97, history, assistant professor of history, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post titled, “D.C.’s shadow delegation: It’s not the money, it’s the strategy,” in which he argued the money could help the delegation, but only if it changes its approach.

“Since its creation, the shadow delegation has focused its energy on lobbying members of Congress on Capitol Hill. Though its efforts get support from the small number of members who already favor statehood, the delegation has never been able to persuade those on the fence, let alone outright opponents, to support their cause,” Musgrove wrote.

Musgrove wrote in order to attain its goals, the delegation must learn from lessons in D.C.’s history, such as the campaign for the D.C. Voting Rights Amendment.

“The 2015 budget could give the shadow delegation funding it needs to expand its lobbying operation. But the history of the struggle for D.C. self-determination teaches that, to have any success, it needs to adopt a strategy that can reach the folks back home,” he adds.

To read the full op-ed in The Washington Post, click here.

Jessica Berman, English, Appointed to the Modern Language Association’s Publications Committee

Jessica Berman, Director of the Dresher Center for the Humanities and Professor of English, has been appointed to a three-year term to serve on the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) Publications Committee.

The committee oversees all of MLA’s book publication programs, including its “Approaches to Teaching World Literature” and “Teaching Languages Literatures and Cultures” series. It assesses prospectuses and approves final manuscripts and it’s also charged with consulting on priorities and policies for the scholarly communication program and assisting with new initiatives in scholarly communication. Congratulations, Dr. Berman!

Robert Provine, Psychology, in The New Yorker

An article published April 15 in The New Yorker explores the surprising science behind yawning and what makes it so unique. Psychology Professor Robert Provine, author of Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond, was interviewed for the article and commented on his research studying the concept.

Robert Provine

“Yawning may have the dubious distinction of being the least understood, common human behavior,” Provine observed. The article discusses Provine’s studies that explored contagious yawning, one of which found eighty-eight per cent of people who were instructed to think of yawns yawned themselves within thirty minutes. It also examines how the contagious nature of yawning may be highlighted by something very different than empathy, but rather as a form of communication.

“We’re getting insight into the human herd: yawning as a primal form of sociality,” Provine said. “It’s often said that behavior doesn’t leave fossils,” he added. “But, with yawning, you are looking at a behavioral fossil. You’re getting an insight into how all of behavior once was.”

To read the full article in The New Yorker, click here.

Donald Norris, Public Policy, in The Washington Post

An article published in The Washington Post April 15 examines the steps Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has taken during the last year in preparation for a potential White House bid in 2016. The article states O’Malley has been pivoting toward the left and has energized the Democratic base on issues such as gun control, same-sex marriage and raising the minimum wage.

Donald Norris UMBC

Public Policy Professor and Chair Donald Norris was interviewed for the article and said it is clear to many that O’Malley is attempting to appeal to the left ahead of the 2016 election.

“I think everybody in Maryland who pays any attention to politics has come to that conclusion,” Norris said.

Norris was also interviewed for an article in The Diamondback on the state legislature taking a very different look next year after Gov. O’Malley’s term comes to an end and with 25 percent of the legislature changing. Norris said the state leadership system will be an important factor next year.

“As long as that structure remains in place, losing or changing 20, 30, even 40 delegates and senators doesn’t actually change the operation of those houses,” Norris said.

To read the full article in The Washington Post, click here. For the complete article in The Diamondback, click here.

Judah Ronch, Erickson School, in The Baltimore Sun

Judah RonchAn article published April 9 in The Baltimore Sun explores how Columbia resident Shirley Johannesen Levine has entertained audiences around the country with her puppetry skills and her company Puppet Dance Productions, with a focus on her recent trip to the Ellicott City Senior Center.

Erickson School Dean Judah Ronch was interviewed for the article and said productions such as Johannesen’s not only provide entertainment for elders, but they can support wellness.

“At any age, interaction is key to a sense of engagement and meaning of life,” Ronch said. He added interactive activities such as puppet shows can promote autonomy and self-esteem. They can also help elders with dementia positively respond to an environment that isn’t overwhelming. “The more you can do for engagement, the better,” he added.

To read the full article in The Baltimore Sun, click here.

Lia Purpura, English, in City Paper

Lia Purpura, English writer in residence, was featured in a Q&A in City Paper about her participation in Baltimore’s CityLit Festival and commented on the creative, artistic community at UMBC.

Lia Purpura

“It’s a completely vibrant, alive place and diverse in every possible way—students from all over the world, of all ages and backgrounds,” Purpura said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had more rigorous or engaged discussions on complex issues with undergraduate classes. My students are curious, brave, unselfconsciously creative, eager to learn, prepared to discuss.”

Purpura is reading at CityLit with colleagues Michael Fallon and Holly Sneeringer, along with three UMBC English majors covering all genres.

“CityLit is a totally unique, homegrown, but in no way provincial event—it presents nationally known authors alongside emerging voices and local talent, and it represents writers of all genres,” Purpura added.

To read the full article in City Paper, click here.

Kimberly Moffitt, American Studies, on The Marc Steiner Show

Kimberly Moffitt, an assistant professor of American studies, participated in a panel discussion on The Marc Steiner Show on April 10 that focused on what the true meaning of “happiness” is in the context of WEAA’s Happiness Spring Membership Drive.

The panelists discussed the pursuit of happiness and what it meant to the founders of the United States, what it means to Americans today and how it’s possible to create a world where everyone has the right to happiness. During the program, Moffitt weighed in on her view of the definition of happiness.

“I think it does mean freedom, and I think that’s what our founders wanted it to mean. I think where we are now is that we see freedom in very different ways,” Moffitt said.

“In some respects I think we’ve moved away from what the original founders wanted to see in terms of this idea of freedom. At the same time of encouraging freedom, we’ve created so many social hierarchies that make it difficult to actually have the freedom to do much of what we’d like to do,” she added.

Other panelists in the discussion included Jeff Singer, Founder and former Executive Director of Health Care for the Homeless and instructor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and Alex Bostonformer director of Homeless Services in Baltimore City and Country Director for the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan and Jordan. To listen to the full segment on The Marc Steiner Show, click here.

John Rennie Short, Public Policy, on Writer’s Voice

John Rennie ShortAs part of Environment Month at Writer’s Voice, a national radio show and podcast featuring author interviews, readings, and reviews, Public Policy Professor John Rennie Short was interviewed about his recent book, Stress Testing the USA (Palgrave MacMillan). In his book, Short applies the stress test concept to four major events the United States experienced at the start of the 21st century: the invasion of Iraq, the financial meltdown, Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.

“These four major events are the equivalent of an incredible cardiovascular workout for the United States where you saw things that didn’t work so well. When everything is going along well, there is economic growth, and things are progressing and everyone is happy, the system is self-justified,” Short said.

“But when things go wrong, that’s when it reveals things that often we don’t want to discuss or are hidden below the surface,” he added.

To listen to the full interview on Writer’s Voice, click here. The interview was scheduled to air on Writer’s Voice broadcast stations across the country throughout the week of April 7.

Humanities Forum: Corazon del Sol: Truth, Lies and the Construction of Reality: A Conversation about Book of Lies (4/16)

On Wednesday, April 16 at 6 p.m. in the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery, Los Angeles-based artist and curator Corazon del Sol presents, “Truth, Lies and the Construction of Reality: A Conversation about Book of Lies.”

Book of Lies

Image: Tom Marioni, Pi Is a Lie, 2005.

In conjunction with the display of Book of Lies at the Library Gallery (more here), Corazon del Sol will discuss the exhibition, which was conceived of—but ultimately left unfinished—by her mother, conceptual artist Eugenia P. Butler. Del Sol will examine the lie as a human strategy for coping with life and how artists use the lie to explore our relationship with the truth.

Butler’s Book of Lies project began in 1991 and examined how other artists use “the lie to explore our relationship with the truth.” Known for her collaborations and interactions with other artists, Butler held three artist dinners where she asked her guests to consider the questions, “What is the lie with which I am most complicit?” and “What is the truth that most feeds my life?”

Admission is free. The event is sponsored by the Dresher Center for the Humanities and is co-sponsored by the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery. For more information, click here.