Ellen Handler Spitz, Honors College, on CBC Radio

Illuminating Childhood Ellen Handler SpitzOn December 19, Honors College Professor Ellen Handler Spitz participated in a discussion on CBC Radio on “The Secret Lives of Children.” The segment centered around the idea that advances in technology combined with a strong focus on achievement can often suppress creativity, and children’s imagination can be a strong shield against cultural confinements.

During the segment, Spitz says that high tech toys should be traded in favor of letting children explore their inner worlds: “I think that children, when we allow them to make believe, this kind of vision and this kind of connecting…we should treasure it and not stamp it out.”

Spitz’s most recent research focuses on children’s aesthetic lives, and she has authored six books on the arts and psychology: “Art and Psyche” (Yale); “Image and Insight” (Columbia); “Museums of the Mind” (Yale); “Inside Picture Books” (Yale); “The Brightening Glance” (Pantheon); and “Illuminating Childhood” (Michigan). She most recently published “Magritte’s Labyrinth,” a new e-book which analyzes the artwork of Belgian Surrealist artist René Magritte.

To listen to the full segment on CBC Radio, click here.

Roy Meyers, Political Science, on MarylandReporter.com

Roy Meyers (UMBC)In a December 15 column published on MarylandReporter.com, Political Science Professor Roy Meyers shared his thoughts on why there are no easy budget fixes in Maryland. He responded to an earlier column written by Barry Rascovar which outlined potential solutions to solving state budget deficits.

Meyers addressed state revenue estimates, adjusting the start time of the fiscal year, and sweeping under-projected revenues into the state’s surplus, all of which were discussed in Rascovar’s column.

“It’s important to remember that just as with budgets, for the budget process there is no such thing as an ‘easy fix,'” Meyers wrote in his column.

To read the full article titled “No easy budget fixes; Rascovar’s proposals to change the fiscal year are way off base,” click here.

U.S. Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, Visits UMBC

Last week the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, visited UMBC to meet with President Hrabowski, faculty and students.

WBAL’s Tim Tooten covered the visit. Tooten reported that Moniz explained that there was a growing need for underrepresented minorities to help fill the energy-related jobs of the future.

Sec_Energy_Visit14-4127Moniz first met with a group of students from UMBC’s prestigious Meyerhoff Scholars program. Students said that Moniz’s remarks made a big impact on them.

“I think I am going to go and look more into what energy can do and what I can do in research for energy,” Aida Berhane told Tooten.

“To see the amount of funding available for the future of energy and to see someone like him kind of taking charge, not supporting one particular project, but a variety of different energy-related fields, it was nice to see,” Stephen Vicchio said in an interview with Tooten.

But the visit was not just limited to students. Faculty and administrators met with the Secretary as well.

“The Secretary provided an insightful picture of the breadth and scope of the Department of Energy and its impact on scientific research, development, and technology. His inspirational approach highlighted many of the opportunities afforded by the DOE that will indeed benefit our students and faculty at UMBC,” said William LaCourse, Dean of the College and Natural Mathematical Sciences.

“It was a very successful conversation,” added Karl Steiner, Vice President for Research. “It allowed us to share with the Secretary the breadth of our expertise in energy research.”

Faculty included in the visit were: Belay Demoz, Director for the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET); Ruben Delgado, Assistant Research Scientist, JCET; Andrei Draganescu, Associate Professor, Mathematics and Statistics; Tinoosh Mohsenin, Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering; Jeff Gardener, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences; and Mark Allen, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Marie desJardins Collaborates with Howard County Parents and Teachers for HowGirlsCode

CSEE’s Marie desJardins recently collaborated with a group of Howard County parents and teachers to create HowGirlsCode, an educational program that “educates and inspires young girls to pursue computer related activities, courses, and careers.”

desjardins-3-cropped-smaller1The program–originally called Computer Mania Club–is based out of Fulton Elementary School. Over the course of ten weeks, students meet for weekly two-hour sessions, working on projects such as Lego Mindstorm robots and 3D printing. Students also work with programming tools such as MIT’s Scratch program. The curriculum for the program is largely based off of materials from the Code.org website.

UMBC alumna Katie Egan and her husband Kent Malwitz have been instrumental in getting the club off the ground. Malwitz, who is the President and Chief Learning Officer for UMBC Training Centers, originally recruited Marie desJardins to participate in a brainstorming session for the club back in 2013. Professor desJardins now serves as a member of the Advisory Board for HowGirlsCode.

Bethany Meyer, Senior Web Developer at MGH, Inc., was a recent guest speaker for HowGirlsCode. During her presentation, Meyer explained how she got into coding, citing as an example a website that she created when she was 13 years old. Meyer went on to present more recent projects, such as OldBay75.com and OCOcean.com. “I think a lot of people have negative stereotypes in mind when they think of programmers,” Meyer says. “My goal was to break down some of those stereotypes by showing…[students] that the work can be really exciting and that it involves creativity and interacting with others. I hope that I inspired some of them to teach themselves to make websites. ”

A recent Baltimore Sun article notes that there has been a marked increase in student signups for HowGirlsCode since last year. More courses will be offered in the spring, due to increasing demand. At some point, the coding club could possibly expand to other schools. Currently, Egan is trying to turn HowGirlsCode into a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, charitable organization. This would allow the club to have better access to resources such as facilities, grants and funding. Ideally, she hopes to turn the club into a nonprofit by September 2015.

The Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab has a similar program, called Girls Who Code. The Hopkins APL program, which is intended for middle and high school students, is based on a national nonprofit of the same name.

This piece originally appeared on the CSEE Web site.

Christopher Corbett, English, in Baltimore Style

Christopher Corbett, English, penned an article for Baltimore Style in which he explored the nuances of “naughty or nice” in the Christmas song “Santa Claus in Coming to Town.”

In the article, Corbett examines the lyrics of the song and makes a connection to George Orwell’s 1984. He states, “‘Santa Claus is Coming (Or Comin’) to Town’ is certainly a Santa for a dystopia—an Orwell or Huxley Santa. A Santa for ‘1984’ or ‘Brave New World.'”

Click here to read “Naughty or Nice” in Baltimore Style.

Donald Norris, Public Policy, in National Journal and the Baltimore Sun

Donald Norris UMBCIn a recent National Journal article on a potential bid for the White House by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Public Policy Professor and Chair Donald Norris was interviewed for the story and discussed how O’Malley’s relationship with the Clintons could affect the 2016 campaign.

“The Clintons and he are close,” said Norris. “He endorsed her the first time. I don’t know he could run against her without burning a lot of bridges he just doesn’t want to burn.”

Norris was also interviewed for a Baltimore Sun article about the future of the Republican Party in Maryland. “They’ve gone through this ‘pull to the right and then re-center’ dance before,” Norris said. “The tea party right and the fringe Republicans could continue what they’ve done: eating their young, going after each other in primaries to make the party even more conservative and, in turn, more marginal in the rest of the state.”

Thomas Schaller, Political Science, in Bloomberg and the Daily Beast, Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun

Political Science Professor and Chair Thomas Schaller has been in the news recently analyzing the future of the Democratic Party in the South. In a Bloomberg Politics article examining how Democrats will rebuild after the recent midterm elections, Schaller discussed what could be next for party.

Tom Schaller

“The irony for me is that even I would say, at this point, there’s no place to go but up for the Democrats,” Schaller said. “There’ve been five federal cycles, and in every single count there’re fewer Democratic officials from the South in almost all of those elections.”

“Look at the Republicans,” Schaller added. “At one point they had three of 53 house seats in New York and New England. They got to near zero. And they’ve clawed back in Maine, New Hampshire, and New York. If Democrats have a landslide cycle, that might mean three new senators from the entire South. That would mean they doubled their Southern numbers in the Senate!”

Schaller was also mentioned in a Daily Beast article which discussed a similar topic, and his most recent column in the Baltimore Sun builds off of what he discussed in his first book Whistling Past Dixie in the context of the most recent midterm elections. To read full versions of the three articles, click below:

Can Democrats Ever Compete for the Deep South? Should They Even Bother? (Bloomberg)
Dems, It’s Time to Dump Dixie (Daily Beast)
Nowhere to go but up for Southern Democrats (Baltimore Sun column)