Manil Suri, Mathematics, Reacts to Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage on Public Radio International

manil suriJust hours after the U.S. Supreme Court announced a nationwide right to same-sex marriage on Friday, June 26, Manil Suri was interviewed by Public Radio International (PRI) for his reaction to the ruling. Suri, a professor of mathematics and award-winning author, has written extensively about his experience as a gay Indian American. He has also written in the Washington Post and New York Times about Indian government policies and during the interview discussed Section 377 of the Indian penal code, reinstated by the Indian Supreme Court in 2013, which criminalizes homosexual conduct.

Suri shared his thoughts on PRI about what the implications of the U.S. ruling could mean for other nations around the world, including India. “They are bound to really look at what the US is doing,” Suri says. “It’s one of the largest countries in the world and it’s really putting its seal on this, saying marriage equality is here to stay.”

He added the American milestone is an important one as the worldwide conversations surrounding same-sex marriage continue. “There’s back and forth. And I think we’re going to see that in other parts of the world as well.” To listen to the complete interview that aired on PRI, click here.

Robert Provine, Psychology, Explains Why We Yawn in Wired Magazine

In a Wired article published on June 23, Psychology Research Professor and Professor Emeritus Robert Provine shared insight into why humans yawn when they do. Provine has done extensive research on the topic and is author of Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond.

Robert ProvineIn the article, Provine noted that we tend to yawn when we are tired: “Right after waking and before bedtime,” he said, “which is consistent with yawning’s role in facilitating state changes: sleep to wakefulness, wakefulness to sleep, arousal to de-arousal, or vice versa.”

When further examining the reasons for yawning beyond physiological state changes, Provine shared that, “Nervous people will definitely yawn more, but there haven’t been a lot of formal studies investigating why.”

The article also stated that: “Some psychologists, including Provine, suggest that anxious yawning could be an example of what’s known as a displacement activity—i.e., behavior that results from an uncomfortable or stressful situation and that seems out of context. Examples in humans include scratching one’s head, stroking a non-existent beard, or repeatedly tugging on an earlobe. Animals do it too. Ever see a cat go after a bird, miss, and then immediately start grooming itself? That’s not some awkward attempt to play it cool. It’s a displacement behavior.”

To read the full article “Big Question: Why Do I Yawn When I’m Nervous or Stressed?” click here.

Rebecca Adelman, Media and Communication Studies, Questions Assumptions Surrounding Shark Attacks in Discovery

Rebecca Adelman, an assistant professor of media and communication studies, was recently interviewed for a story in Discovery about the narratives and sensational news headlines surrounding shark attacks. In the article, Adelman said that common language describing such attacks can often minimize the role of humans.

Rebecca Adelman“It neatly erases any kind of human culpability for the shark bite while underscoring the notion that humans […] ought to be able to roam freely and safely anywhere on the planet, regardless of what other creatures might have preceded them there by millions of years,” she explained.

“Yet it also makes a kind of sense out of the event of a shark biting a hapless child, swimmer, surfer, or fisherman by attributing a kind of malevolent agency to the offending creature. It deflects the question of whether the human might have made a mistake by being in that part of the ocean at that time (or might have made a faulty calculation about the risk associated with their actions), but also provides a defense against the terrifying idea that bad things just happen,” she added. The full article can be accessed here.   

Kimberly Moffitt, American Studies, on Midday with Dan Rodricks and WBAL-TV

Following the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina last week, Kimberly Moffitt, an associate professor of American studies, was a guest on WYPR’s Midday with Dan Rodricks to share her thoughts and perspective.

Kimberly MoffittMoffitt said that she is largely focusing her energy on what she is teaching in her classes: “I try to talk to my students and educate them on what the power structures are that exist in American society that are implicitly embedded in ways where we carry out certain actions in life that impact other groups of people in very negative ways,” she said.

“We can talk about housing policies, public education, a wide range of issues…the legal and judicial system and how that inadvertently or negatively affects people of color in this country. Those are the issues that I think students in particular who are young need to have access to and to see in order to understand how problematic the actual structure is.”

The following day on WYPR, Moffitt covered Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s announcement that he has advanced non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other local and national news topics. Earlier in the week, Moffitt appeared on WBAL-TV to discuss Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys, a charter school opening in the fall in which she is a co-founder. To listen to and watch all of the segments, click below:

Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys (WBAL-TV)
Talking about Charleston (Midday with Dan Rodricks)
Midday Politics (Midday with Dan Rodricks)

Manil Suri, Mathematics, Writes New York Times Op-ed on The Politics of Yoga in India

In light of the International Day of Yoga, Mathematics Professor and New York Times Contributing Opinion Writer Manil Suri wrote about the viewpoints surrounding Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plans to promote it within the country: “Some Muslim preachers and opposition politicians have accused Mr. Modi of using the day to foist Hinduism on religious minorities under the guise of yoga.”

manil suriHowever, Suri explains in his column that, “Yoga is big business, estimated at $10 billion a year in the United States alone, and India needs to be associated with it — not just to attract tourists to yoga retreats, but also to assert its intellectual rights. The country has been fighting attempts by Western gurus to patent yoga poses, assembling a repository of over 1,500 asanas to keep them free.”

He added: “Within India, the goal is different. Those on the Hindu right have always harbored the vision of returning to India’s greatness as an ancient civilization. A practice with Vedic origins that has nevertheless attained such secular popularity is the perfect vehicle to create a shared national consciousness. The physical engagement, mental discipline and sublimation of desire enshrined in yoga meld seamlessly, yet discreetly, with the more militaristic tenets of organizations like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.”

To read the full column titled “India and the Politics of Yoga,” click here. Suri also appeared live on CNN International on Sunday, June 21 to discuss his column.

Joan Shin, Education, Writes about the International Children’s Song Approach in The Conversation

Joan ShinJoan Shin, education professor of practice, recently published an article in The Conversation that examined the power of using children’s songs to introduce children to different cultures and the world around them. “Without realizing it, children learn language and content simultaneously. Songs build skills that help children distinguish the sounds of a language, and connect sound to script and assist with vocabulary building,” Shin wrote.

Shin discussed the teaching approach she developed that combines her song research and search for cultural materials to teach English as a global language. Shin’s “international children’s song approach” uses songs from around the world as a method of teaching English to young children.

“Whether children are learning English as a second language, or even a third or fourth language, they are being exposed to it at earlier and earlier ages worldwide. Using international children’s songs from around the world is an effective approach for teaching English as a global language to kids. Language is a carrier of culture, and English is uniquely positioned to communicate across cultures around the world. Materials to teach it should embrace all cultures,” Shin described.

To read the full article “How should kids learn English: through Old MacDonald’s farm or Ali Baba’s farm?” click here.

Denise Meringolo, History, Describes Baltimore Uprising Project in the Baltimore Sun

Denise MeringoloAn article published June 18 in the Baltimore Sun examined a digital history project documenting the unrest surrounding the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Denise Meringolo, an associate professor of history, is collaborating with the Maryland Historical Society and University of Baltimore to collect images, oral histories, and videos taken by everyday citizens documenting the events. Meringolo, who is featured in the article, set up a website for the project.

“I decided to establish a site that allows people to participate directly in the act of collecting,” Meringolo said. “When you study social movements from the past, sometimes what’s missing are the experiences and perceptions of the people who were in that moment. You find the official reports, but it’s very difficult to get a sense of what that protest was like viscerally from the ground view.”

To read the article in the Baltimore Sun, click here.  For additional coverage by the Associated Press, click here. To learn more about the project, visit