Maurice Berger, CADVC, Latest “Race Story” in The New York Times

In the latest essay for his Race Stories column in The New York Times, Maurice Berger, research professor at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, shares his take on the thousands of photographs flooding out of Ferguson, Missouri. “Historically, photography was integral to the fight against racism and segregation. Leaders from Sojourner Truth to Malcolm X embraced the photograph’s potential as evidence and its ability to combat stereotypes,” writes Berger. “But sometimes, as in Ferguson, the camera has served as a more spontaneous ‘weapon of choice,’ as the photographer Gordon Parks called it, wielded by the oppressed in moments of anger, fear or frustration.”

Read “In Ferguson, Photographs as Powerful Agents” and view the photographs at The New York Times Lens blog.

Berger’s Race Stories column, which appears monthly on The New York Times website, is “a continuing exploration of the relationship of race to photographic portrayals of race.”

Linda Dusman, Music, and Eric Smallwood, Visual Art, Awarded TEDCO MII Grant

Symphony Interactive Screen

Symphony Interactive Screen

Linda Dusman, Music, and Eric Smallwood, Visual Arts, in partnership with the School of Music at the University of Maryland, College Park, have received a $150,000 Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) grant for their work on the tablet app, Symphony Interactive. MII was created as a partnership between the State of Maryland and five Maryland academic research institutions (Johns Hopkins University; Morgan State University; UMCP; University of Maryland Baltimore; and UMBC), and is managed by TEDCO, created by the Maryland State Legislature in 1998 to facilitate the transfer and commercialization of technology from Maryland’s research universities and federal labs into the marketplace. The MII program promotes the commercialization of academic research conducted in the partnership universities. Symphony Interactive is only the second project within the humanities ever to receive an award from MII, and the first to be funded in the arts and humanities at UMBC.

SI_CommaderControlSymphony Interactive provides contemporary audiences a novel way to engage with live orchestral performances. Through both text and images presented through a unique interface at the exact moment the information is most pertinent to the music, SI enables an enriched experience for users by allowing them to learn about the music and its cultural history during its performance. Acting as an informed “friend,” the app subtly provides information to enhance engagement, keeping the experience of the live performance paramount. During the grant period, the SI team will create a library for thirty of the most performed orchestral works, producing unique textual and visual information for each piece. Over the next nine months, the grant funding also will enable developing a more fully featured proof of concept application, expanding the social media extensions of the app, and performing valuable market research to aid in the commercialization process.

The Symphony Interactive project has been in development since 2011, with support from the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the Office of the Vice President for Research. Development has progressed through collaboration with many faculty, staff and students from Music, Visual Arts, the Imaging Research Center, Human Centered Computing, and the Department of Information Technology. Symphony Interactive has been tested in performances by the UMBC Symphony, and most recently at the National Orchestra Institute at the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

Robert Provine, Psychology, in BBC Future

As Psychology Professor Robert Provine puts it, “yawning may have the dubious distinction of being the least understood, common human behavior.” A recent in depth story published in BBC Future attempts to answer the baffling question of why we yawn, and Provine, one of the leading experts in the field and author of Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond, is quoted extensively in the story.

Robert Provine

In the article, Provine discusses how contagious yawning is: “Around 50% of people who observe a yawn will yawn in response,” Provine said. “It is so contagious that anything associated with it will trigger one…seeing or hearing another person, or even reading about yawning.” He also discussed how audiences frequently yawn as he is giving presentations: “It makes a very effective lecture,” he said. “You talk and then the audience starts yawning. And then you can ask people to experiment on their yawns – like closing the lips, or inhaling through clenched teeth, or trying to yawn with the nose pinched closed.”

To read the full article in BBC Future titled, “One of science’s most baffling questions? Why we yawn,” click here.

Kimberly Moffitt, American Studies, Guest Hosts The Marc Steiner Show

On Wednesday, August 13, Kimberly Moffit, associate professor of American studies, guest hosted The Marc Steiner Show on WEAA 88.9 FM. Filling in for Steiner, Moffitt led discussions on mental health in the African-American community and the Positive Social Change Theater Program, among other topics.

Moffitt interacted with guests such as Dr. Grady Daleclinical psychologist and co-founder of the American Institute for Urban Psychological Services, Mothyna James-Brightful, Visionary Director for Heal A Woman To Heal A Nation, and Koli Tengella, 2010 Open Society Institute Community Fellow and Executive Director of the Kulichagulia Project.

You can listen to the complete program that aired on Wednesday by clicking below:
Mental Health in the African-American Community (The Marc Steiner Show)
Positive Social Change Theater Program (The Marc Steiner Show)
This Week in City Paper (The Marc Steiner Show)

Ancient Studies Department Announces 49th Annual Study Tour in Turkey

The UMBC Ancient Studies Department will conduct its 49th annual study tour in Turkey March 13-22, 2015. The price of $2,650.00 (based on a group of 30) includes all air, land, and sea travel, twin-share accommodation for eight nights at four-star hotels, buffet breakfasts, three dinners, one lunch, and entrance to all archaeological sites and museums on the itinerary. Single rooms are available at an additional cost. ANCS majors and minors, UMBC students, faculty, staff, alumni, and members of the community are welcome on the tour. The trip can be taken as a 3-credit course in the Winter 2015 term (ANCS 301; winter semester tuition applies). Scholarships are available to Ancient Studies majors taking the course for credit. Places are limited, and a $350.00 deposit is required by September 26, 2014 to reserve a spot.

The tour begins in Istanbul with visits to monuments of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires: the church of Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome, Tokapi Palace, and the Blue Mosque. The following day, the group braves the waters of the Dardanelles for a ferry ride to Çanakkale before spending a day at the site of ancient Troy. From Çanakkale, the group flies inland to Ankara to visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, the sacred Hittite site of Yazilikaya, and Hattusa, the sprawling capital of the Hittites. From Ankara, there is a flight to Ismir (Smyrna), catching the splendor of Ephesos, the city where Artemis was worshiped in earnest and an early outpost of Christianity, before settling in at the seaside resort of Kuşadasi. On the final day, the group tours the ancient cities of Priene and Miletos and visit Didyma, site of the magnificent temple and oracle of Apollo.

Contact Domonique Pitts atdpitts@umbc.edu or at 410-455-6265 (5-6265 from campus) to register your interest now. For more information, click here.

Governor’s Summer Internship Program Holds Closing Ceremony Celebration

O'Malley with students 2

Gov. O’Malley meets with GSIP students after their presentations.

Another successful summer for the Shriver Center’s Governor’s Summer Internship Program (GSIP) came to a close with a celebration at the Maryland State House in Annapolis on Thursday, August 7. Student interns who participated in the program presented policy papers on significant issues in Maryland government to Governor Martin O’Malley and received feedback from the governor and his staff.

The Governor’s Summer Internship Program introduces Maryland college students to the unique challenges and rewards of working within state government. Interns work for ten weeks during the summer in state government agencies doing substantive tasks ranging from drafting speeches and correspondence to researching policy options and assisting with constituent case work. The program is led by the Shriver Center in partnership with the Office of the Governor.

O'Malley with Hannah, Michele and Roy

Gov. O’Malley with UMBC’s Roy Meyers, Hannah Schmitz and Michele Wolff

Colby “Ricci” Conley, a political science major, represented UMBC in the program and worked at the Maryland State Department of Education in the Division of Academic Policy and Innovation. At the closing ceremony, his team presented a policy paper that advocated for use of multi-tiered systems of support to address the emotional and psychological needs of students in Maryland. Other presentations from program participants included incentivizing energy efficiency in state buildings, bringing awareness to labor trafficking, improving secondary land use leasing contracts, and local growth for sustainability. UMBC Political Science Professor Roy Meyers worked with the students to develop their policy papers.

Other Shriver Center Public Service Scholars Programs came to a close at the beginning of August, including the Walter Sondheim Jr. Maryland Nonprofit Leadership Program, which offers summer internship opportunities in the nonprofit sector to college juniors, seniors and graduate students attending Maryland institutions.

Several UMBC students were participants in this year’s programs. For a complete list of UMBC students and their mentors, click here. You can learn more about the Shriver Center Scholars Programs by clicking here.

Robert Provine, Psychology, in New York Magazine

Can just talking and reading about bedbugs make you feel itchy? That’s a question New York Magazine set out to find the answer to in a recent post on its “Science of Us” blog. The author asked Psychology Professor Robert Provine the question and this was his response:

Robert ProvineItching and scratching, like yawning, laughing, coughing, and vomiting, is contagious. Simply seeing someone scratching is enough to trigger your own bout of clawing, in a vain effort to rid yourself of pests, real or imagined. You don’t need to actually be bitten by a bedbug, louse, or flea — simply seeing their image, thinking about them, or reading about them — as you are doing now — may trigger a seesaw bout of itching (the stimulus), and scratching (the response).

This hair-trigger, contagiousness and hyper sensitivity to itchy stimuli makes sense. Your neighbor’s pest may jump ship and infect you. Better start scratching, just in case. Unfortunately, scratching causes more itching, locking you into an escalating cycle of itch and scratch.

Provine is author of Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccuping, and Beyond. To read the full blog post in New York Magazine, click here