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Saturday, February 13, 2016

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UMD Study Finds Connecting Uninsured Patients to Primary Care Could Reduce ER Use

May 6, 2015

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418
Hillery Tsumba 301-628-3425

Montgomery County, Md. Initiative Could Improve Health, Reduce Costs

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – An intervention to connect low-income uninsured and Medicaid patients to a reliable source of primary health care shows promise for reducing avoidable use of hospital emergency departments in Maryland. A University of Maryland School of Public Health study evaluating the results of the intervention was published this week in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs

For twenty years, use of hospital emergency departments has been on the rise in the United States, particularly among low-income patients who face barriers to accessing health care outside of hospitals, including not having an identifiable primary health care provider. Almost half of emergency room visits are considered “avoidable.” The Emergency Department-Primary Care Connect Initiative of the Primary Care Coalition, which ran from 2009 through 2011, linked low-income uninsured and Medicaid patients to safety-net health clinics. 

“Our study found that uninsured patients with chronic health issues – such as those suffering from hypertension, diabetes, asthma, COPD, congestive heart failure, depression or anxiety – relied less on the emergency department after they were linked to a local health clinic for ongoing care,” says Dr. Karoline Mortensen, assistant professor of health services administration at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and senior researcher. “Connecting patients to primary care and expanding the availability of these safety-net clinics could reduce emergency department visits and provide better continuity of care for vulnerable populations.”  

Funded by a grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the initiative engaged all five of the hospitals operating in Montgomery County, Maryland at the time, and four safety-net clinics serving low-income patients. Using “patient navigators,” individuals trained to help patients find the care they need and can afford, these hospitals referred more than 10,000 low-income, uninsured and Medicaid patients who visited emergency departments to four local primary care clinics, with the goal of encouraging them to establish an ongoing relationship with the clinic and reduce their reliance on costly emergency department care. 

Two hospitals in Montgomery County who participated in the intervention continued the program after the initial grant period concluded because of the benefits they saw for patients and for reducing emergency department visits and associated costs. These hospitals are currently testing a new version of the intervention specifically deigned to link emergency department patients with behavioral health conditions to appropriate community-based services. 

While hospital administrators and health policy experts throughout the country are recognizing that access to primary care improves continuity of care for patients and reduces avoidable use of emergency departments, the implications of this project are particularly important for hospitals in Maryland, which are now operating under a unique all-payer model for hospital payments. Within this new payment structure, Maryland hospitals will have to meet ambitious spending, quality of care, and population health goals. Reducing avoidable use of emergency departments can help in reaching these goals.

The project provides promise not only for hospitals in Maryland but throughout the nation to improve health care experiences and outcomes for their patients. Shared learning systems were an integral component of the project so participants were learning from each other and sharing best practices throughout the project and that learning has now been documented and can be replicated in other communities.

“This was an incredibly rewarding project to work on,” says Barbara H. Eldridge, Manager of Quality Improvement at the Primary Care Coalition. “We created a learning system that permits us to sustain improved communication between patients and their providers, between hospital discharge planners and community based clinics, and across five hospitals operating in Montgomery County.” The initiative has proven successful in Montgomery County, Maryland and is being replicated in communities in other parts of the country. 

“Linking Uninsured Patients Treated In The Emergency Department To Primary Care Shows Some Promise In Maryland” was written by Theresa Y. Kim, Karoline Mortensen, and Barbara Eldridge and published in the journal Health Affairs

University Launches Dynamic, Interactive Information Website UMD Right Now

December 4, 2012

Crystal Brown 301-405-4618 crystalb@umd.edu

College Park, Md. – Today, the University of Maryland launched a brand-new multimedia news and information portal, UMD Right Now, which provides members of the media and the public with real-time information on the university and its extended community.

UMD Right Now replaces Newsdesk, which previously served as the university’s news hub and central resource for members of the media. The new site is aimed at reaching broader audiences and allows visitors to keep up with the latest Maryland news and events, view photos and videos and connect with the university across all of its social media platforms.

“We designed UMD Right Now to be a comprehensive, vibrant site where visitors can find new and exciting things happening at Maryland,” said Linda Martin, executive director, Web and New Media Strategies. “Through social media, video, photos and news information, we hope to engage visitors and compel the community to explore all that Maryland has to offer.”

The new website, umdrightnow.umd.edu, contains up-to-date news releases and announcements, facts and figures about the university, a searchable database of faculty and staff experts, information highlighting innovation and entrepreneurship at UMD, additional resources for news media and other campus and athletics news.

“UMD RightNow is the place to go to find out all the things happening on and around campus on any given day,” said Crystal Brown, chief communications officer. “This website brings real-time news, events and information right to your fingertips.”

For more information and contact information for the Office of University Communications, please visit umdrightnow.umd.edu.

UMD Researchers Assess Potential Public Health Impacts of Fracking in Maryland

February 10, 2016

Kelly Blake 301-415-9418

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Following their release of a state-commissioned study on the potential public health impacts of fracking in Western Maryland, University of Maryland researchers are helping to inform the conversation about the potential risks associated with unconventional natural gas development and production.

While other states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have already begun drilling along the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation, the Maryland government awaits direction from the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission before deciding whether and how to tap the state’s natural resource. 

Recent growth of and political demand for unconventional natural gas development and production (UNGDP) has outpaced research into the risks those efforts pose for population health, according to the team of health researchers who worked on the Maryland Marcellus Shale Public Health Study. Two recently published papers from the study team provide important insights for researchers and communities that can be applied when assessing potential health risks from fracking in other settings. 

Ranking Potential Health Hazards from Natural Gas Fracking 

Devon Payne-Sturges, assistant professor in the UMD School of Public Health’s Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health (MIAEH) and Meleah Boyle, project manager for MIAEH, were lead authors of a study published in the journal PLOS One, describes the “hazard ranking” methodology they developed to assess the potential public health impacts of fracking on a variety of areas, including air quality, social determinants of health, water quality, occupational health and healthcare infrastructure.

“We felt it was important to publish this assessment methodology so other researchers and communities could benefit from a systematic public health evaluation process, which they could easily adapt for any other proposed UNGPD or resource extractive development projects,” said Dr. Payne-Sturges. “So often decisions made in sectors outside of the traditional health care sector rarely consider linkages to health, and this leaves open the potential for unintended consequences. Our methodology brings public health to the table.”

Of particular importance to the research team was developing a system that would be simple to communicate.

"We wanted a way to explain our findings to the community and policymakers that was clear and easy to understand," Ms. Boyle said. 

The study looked at two Maryland counties, Allegany and Garrett -- the only anticipated areas of Marcellus gas production in the state -- though its authors say their methodology can be expanded to examine other areas. Researchers conducted an extensive scoping process, including site visits and a literature review, to identify specific hazards that should be addressed in a Health Impact Assessment (HIA). Hazards were organized into eight categories that would specifically impact the unique populations of Allegany and Garrett counties: 1) air quality, 2) water quality (including water quality, soil quality, and naturally occurring radiological materials), 3) noise, 4) earthquakes, 5) social determinants of health (e.g. crime, injuries, mental health, sexually transmitted infections, and substance abuse), 6) occupational health, 7) healthcare
infrastructure, and 8) cumulative exposures and risk. 

The final impact assessment methodology, modified from an existing HIA, consisted of a qualitative ranking and scoring system across those eight categories. Researchers also added a color-coded system to rank evaluations in terms of the potential risk of impact to public health. Each of the hazards was assessed according to established criteria, and assigned a score, which was then summed to produce a qualitative ranking: High, Moderately High, or Low levels of negative public health impact.

The manuscript uses three examples -- air quality, water quality and healthcare infrastructure -- to illustrate in detail how researchers applied the ranking method to each hazard. 

“Should Maryland decide to move forward with fracking, our hazard ranking and overall report provided a set of recommendations that will minimize public health impacts,” wrote the study’s authors. “Our approach can be easily adapted by other communities facing similar situations as well as in other settings that entails making decisions with limited information.”

The Impacts of Fracking on Perceptions of Place and Identity

Thurka Sangaramoorthy, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology of UMD’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, was the lead author of the study examining community perspectives and experiences with fracking published in the journal Social Science and Medicine. It examined community perspectives and experiences with ongoing fracking operations in Doddridge County, West Virginia. The findings from these interviews and site visit helped inform the baseline assessment of current regional population health, the assessment of potential public health impacts, and possible adaptive and mitigation strategies.

“Fracking does a lot more than just disrupt the environment. It disrupts people’s sense of place and identity, which is very important to this region of Appalachia,” explained Dr. Sangaramoorthy. “The residents we spoke to expressed deep distress over the transformation of their land, their homes, and their relationships with each other as a result of fracking, which also influenced their perceptions of environmental and health impacts.”

The study published in Social Science and Medicine examined how community residents perceive and experience fracking in Doddridge County, West Virginia, which has a similar demographic and health profile to Maryland’s Allegheny and Garrett counties. All three are rural, with high rates of poverty, and have populations that are older, more racially homogenous and more likely to lack health insurance and suffer from chronic diseases than both Maryland and West Virginia state averages. 

The research team conducted focus groups and a multi-day site visit with Doddridge County residents to gain insight into how individuals living in communities where fracking is underway are being impacted.

One of the key issues that fragments communities where fracking occurs relates to who owns the rights to the land. “Split estates,” which separate surface (above-ground portion of land) and mineral (sub-surface) rights, are common in the Appalachian region. These were created because of historical federal acts passed to allow the federal government to retain access to future mineral discoveries. Many homeowners own only the surface rights to their property, and by law are required to allow the use of surface property for mineral access by fracking operations. Long-time neighboring residents of the same community may have different rights -- and a different sense of control and power -- because those who own mineral rights can choose to keep or sell their land for a good profit, while those who only own surface rights are unable to stop drilling companies from taking over their land. Surface owners face the potential destruction and contamination of their land and the devaluation of their property if they try to sell. 

The study authors suggest that the rapid environmental change brought about by fracking in areas like Doddridge County is affecting the physical, mental and emotional health of residents of the area. If fracking is allowed in Maryland after the moratorium expires in October 2017, these impacts should be considered in the state’s plans for further research. 

“The complex links between environmental impacts and social disruption can have long-term impacts on health outcomes. Ongoing research should examine the full spectrum of stress placed on communities that experience fracking,” Sangaramoorthy explained. “This can aid healthcare providers, community leaders and policymakers in designing programs and services for local communities who are impacted or could potentially be impacted by fracking.”  

The article Hazard Ranking Methodology for Assessing Health Impacts of Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Production: The Maryland Case Study was written by Meleah D. Boyle , Devon C. Payne-Sturges , Thurka Sangaramoorthy, Sacoby Wilson, Keeve E. Nachman, Kelsey Babik, Christian C. Jenkins,  Joshua Trowell,  Donald K. Milton, Amir Sapkota and published in PLOS ONE.

The article Place-Based Perceptions of the Impacts of Fracking Along the Marcellus Shale was written by Thurka Sangaramoorthy, Amelia M. Jamison, Meleah D. Boyle, Devon C. Payne-Sturges, Amir Sapkota, Donald K. Milton, and Sacoby M. Wilson and published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

UMD Names Susan J. Dwyer Executive Director of the Honors College

February 9, 2016

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has appointed Dr. Susan J. Dwyer as Executive Director of the Honors College. In her new role as Executive Director, Dr. Dwyer oversees all aspects of the Honors College, including establishing expectations for intellectual engagement, overseeing curricular and co-curricular activities, working with a faculty advisory committee, and maintaining regular communication with Honors students.

"I am delighted to welcome Professor Susan Dwyer, who brings vision, passion, and experience to this position,” says William A. Cohen, associate provost and dean for Undergraduate Studies. “It will be exciting to witness her intellectual leadership of the Honors College, which promises to grow even stronger as a magnet for extraordinarily gifted and ambitious students at the University of Maryland."

Dr. Dwyer joined the faculty at UMD in 2009 as associate professor of philosophy, and she holds an affiliate appointment in the Women’s Studies department. She has held various leadership positions in the Department of Philosophy and the College of Arts and Humanities, including chair of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee; chair of the Committee on Programs, Courses, and Curricula; and director of Undergraduate Studies. Prior to joining UMD, Dr. Dwyer was associate professor and chair of philosophy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she served for three years as a member of the Honors College Advisory Board. Dr. Dwyer has also taught at McGill University and at the United States Naval Academy.

She specializes in areas of moral philosophy, constitutional law, and feminist theory.  She is an internationally recognized expert on moral psychology, known, in particular, for her measured approach to research at the intersection of the cognitive and brain sciences and philosophical treatments of moral judgment. She is also well regarded for her work on three major applied ethics issues: problematic speech and free speech, abortion, and national reconciliation after great injustice.

Dr. Dwyer has been an Honors College Faculty Fellow at the university for the past six years, and has earned three recognitions during her time at UMD. In 2011, she received the UMD General Education/CORE Teaching Award; in 2012 she was named a Philip Merrill Presidential Mentor; and in 2015 she was named GEMSTONE Mentor of the Year for the Class of 2017. 

“Because the University of Maryland is a crucible for great ideas and a leader in translating research of all kinds into teaching and into innovations beyond academia, we offer our students a world-class 21st century education,” said Dr. Dwyer. “Our outstanding faculty, our commitment to inclusion and diversity, and our proximity to the Nation’s capital consistently attract the brightest young people to our campus each year. At the helm of the Honors College, I am honored to work with exceptional students, committed faculty and excellent staff to make a substantive contribution to the intellectual and moral development of the young people in whose hands our futures lie.” 

Dr. Dwyer earned her Ph.D. in philosophy, with a graduate minor in linguistics, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  She received a B.A. and a B.A. Hons. 1st Class from the University of Adelaide, South Australia.

University of Maryland Debuts "Maryland Dialogues on Diversity and Community"

February 8, 2016

Crystal Brown 301-405-4621

Series of events on issues of race, diversity and inclusion include conversation
with acclaimed political, cultural, literary and hip-hop voice Kevin Powell

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland is kicking off an ambitious and challenging conversation on race, diversity and inclusion called the “Maryland Dialogues on Diversity and Community.” The series of events, lectures, symposia, discussions and listening sessions for UMD faculty, staff, students and alumni will begin with issues of race and racism, but will consider far more—gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity, language, religion and disability.  

“It is just as important that we listen closely to each other, as it is for us to have our say,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “As a nation, our many differences can both strengthen and divide. I have high hopes that these Maryland Dialogues will help our campus grow closer and more understanding as a community.”

The Maryland Dialogues keynote event will be a conversation with acclaimed political, cultural, literary and hip-hop voice Kevin Powell, titled “There’s No Safe Place Called Careful: A Conversation on Race & Racism in America.” Author of 12 books, including a forthcoming biography on Tupac Shakur, Powell is the founder of BK Nation, a multicultural organization focused on issues of education, civic engagement, arts and culture, and job and small business creation.  The conversation will take place on March 8, 2016, at 4:00 p.m. in the Hoff Theater, Stamp Student Union at the University of Maryland. 

“A diverse educational community is one of the University of Maryland’s greatest strengths and is critical to our success,” says Kumea Shorter-Gooden, UMD’s chief diversity officer and associate vice president. “The Maryland Dialogues on Diversity and Community is an opportunity for us to reaffirm our core values by deepening our understanding of identity, difference, bias and inequities, and advancing a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion on this campus.”

The President’s Student Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion, in concert with the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, will also provide up to $750 to UMD registered student groups for events and activities that further the goals of the “Maryland Dialogues on Diversity and Community.” Student organizations have the opportunity to apply for funding throughout the semester to support programs that engage students in learning about identity and bias, that enhance skills in communicating across difference, and that strengthen authentic relationships amongst students of diverse social identities.

For more information on “Maryland Dialogues on Diversity and Community,” including a full listing of events and details on the funding for student groups, visit http://umd.edu/MarylandDialogues. 

Two UMD Professors Elected to National Academy of Engineering

February 8, 2016

Jennifer Figgins Rooks 301-405-1458
Abby Robinson 301-405-5845

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Two University of Maryland faculty members have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Antonio Busalacchi, professor of atmospheric and ocean science and director of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, and James E. Hubbard, Jr., Aerospace Engineering Samuel P. Langley Distinguished Professor, will be inducted later this year during a ceremony held in Washington, D.C. 

“On behalf of the University of Maryland community, we congratulate Professors Busalacchi and Hubbard,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “All of us are proud to stand in the reflected honor of their accomplishments.”

Antonio Busalacchi, professor of atmospheric and ocean science and director of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center

Busalacchi was recognized for his contributions to our “understanding of tropical oceans in coupled climate systems via remotely sensed observations and for international leadership of climate prediction/projection research.”

Hubbard was recognized for “advances in the modeling, design, analyses and application of adaptive structures.” 

National Academy of Engineering members have distinguished themselves in business and academic management, in technical positions, as university faculty, and as leaders in government and private engineering organizations. 

An oceanographer and climate expert, Busalacchi currently serves as co-chair of the National Research Council’s Decadal Survey for Earth Science and Applications from Space. The survey committee will develop priorities and support observation activities for NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey from 2018 through 2027. Busalacchi also chairs UMD’s Council on the Environment and serves as a trustee of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

James E. Hubbard, Jr., Aerospace Engineering Samuel P. Langley Distinguished Professor

Hubbard is director of the Alexander Brown Center for Adaptive Aerospace Vehicle Technology and Morpheus Laboratory, headquartered in Langley, Va. This center is a dynamic research facility focused on aerospace applications of smart materials and adaptive structures, where his research areas involve the design, analysis, simulation and fabrication of spatially distributed systems, smart materials, smart structures and smart transducers. 

Today’s announcement brings the total number of active UMD faculty members in the NAE to 25. There are 2,277 NAE members nationwide and 233 foreign members. This group includes NAE President and former UMD President and Regents Professor Dan Mote Jr.

For the complete list of new academy members, visit the NAE press release: https://www.nae.edu/Projects/MediaRoom/20095/149240/149788.aspx

UMD Study Concludes Iranians Strongly Support Rouhani & Growing International Engagement

February 5, 2016

Jonas Siegel 301-405-4020

Study also finds Iranians retain negative and wary stance toward the U.S.

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—While views of President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif have declined from their heights immediately after the nuclear deal, the University of Maryland has found through opinion polls—among other viewpoints—that the two leaders continue to enjoy very high levels of popular support in Iran, and their allies have good prospects in the upcoming elections. Views of the nuclear deal continue to be very positive, though some of its less popular aspects have become more apparent. Going forward there is support for growing engagement with the international community, especially in regard to dealing with the problem of Syria and the fight against ISIS.  

A new University of Maryland survey of the Iranian public finds that that nearly 8 in 10 Iranians say they have a favorable opinion of Rouhani (82 percent) and Zarif (78 percent). With Iran’s parliamentary elections about a month away, nearly 6 in 10 Iranians (59 percent) want Rouhani supporters to win. More than 7 in 10 Iranians still approve of the nuclear deal. 

Rouhani’s new efforts to engage with the international community on dealing with the conflict in Syria have received overwhelming support, with 80 percent approving. Of those who know about the Vienna agreement, 7 in 10 (72 percent) approve of it.

Rouhani receives high marks for improving Iran’s security (86 percent) and deepening its relations with European countries (80 percent). Two thirds (66 percent) say relations with Europe have improved and 54 percent have a favorable view of Germany—up 10 points from 2014. 

Nonetheless, views of the U.S. continue to be quite negative. Seventy-one percent have an unfavorable view of the U.S. Only 1 in 3 (34 percent) have confidence that the U.S. will fulfill its obligations under the nuclear deal—down 11 points from September 2015.   

Though very large majorities approve of Iran sending military personnel to Syria to help with the fight against ISIS (63 percent) and approve of military attacks conducted by various countries against ISIS (65 percent), only a bare majority (51 percent) approve of cooperating with the United States as both countries try to help the government of Iraq and counter ISIS, down from 59 percent in August 2015, soon after the nuclear deal was signed.

A majority of Iranians (74 percent) say they disapprove of U.S. involvement in Syria. They see it as primarily motivated by a desire to increase U.S. influence and power in the region (69 percent), to protect Israeli (63 percent) and Saudi (50 percent) interests, to decrease Iran’s influence and power in the region (59 percent), and to topple the Assad government (53 percent). Only 17 percent of Iranians believe that U.S. involvement in Syria is primarily motivated by a desire to degrade and defeat ISIS. 

Though approval of Rouhani is very high, there are also some negative trends. Those who strongly approve of the nuclear agreement have dropped from 43 percent to 30 percent. An increasing majority thinks that Rouhani has not been successful in reducing unemployment (57 percent). Iranians have become substantially less optimistic about Iran’s economy, with less than half (47 percent) now thinking that the economy is getting better compared with 57 percent in August 2015.

Popular expectations about the nuclear deal’s benefits have also declined since the deal was signed. While 6 in 10 (60 percent) expect to see more foreign investment within a year, this is down 12 points from last year.  Fifty-six percent expect better access to medical products from abroad within a year this is down 11 points. While last year 63 percent expected a tangible improvement in people’s economic conditions as a result of the deal, this has dropped to 51 percent. 

Some of these declines may be related to the Iranian public having a somewhat more accurate understanding of the less popular aspects of the deal than before. About half (49 percent, up from 33 percent) now realizes that Iran has accepted limits on its nuclear research. Almost half (44 percent, up from 30 percent) also knows that many U.S. sanctions are not covered by the agreement and will continue. Yet, a growing majority continues to believe incorrectly that under the deal the IAEA is not permitted to inspect Iranian military sites under any conditions (64 percent).

One factor that may contribute to Iranian motivations to participate in international negotiations over the future of Syria is an intense concern about ISIS. An extraordinarily high 98 percent have a very unfavorable view of ISIS. Nine in ten (87 percent) Iranians approve Iran supporting Shiite groups that are fighting ISIS. Interestingly, an equal proportion (88 percent) also approve of Iran helping Kurdish groups that are fighting ISIS, despite the fact that these Kurdish groups are predominantly Sunni.

“While it is widely assumed that Iran cares more about preserving Bashar Assad’s hold on power than anything else,” said Nancy Gallagher, interim Director of the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM), “this study reveals that Iranians are significantly more concerned about the rise of ISIS than Assad’s hold on power.”

While there have been suggestions that the Iranian people would want to spend the frozen funds released with the end of sanctions only on domestic priorities, two thirds (66 percent) say that Iran should send at least a little of these funds to allies abroad, who would presumably include groups like the Syrian government, Hezbollah, and Shiite militias in Iraq, all of which are fighting ISIS. 

The telephone poll of 1,012 Iranians was conducted December 29, 2015 – January 15, 2016 for the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland by IranPoll.com, an independent, Toronto-based polling organization. The margin of error was +/- 3.2 percent.   

View the full report: http://cissm.umd.edu/publications/iranian-attitudes-advance-parliamentar...

View the questionnaire and frequency tables: http://cissm.umd.edu/publications/iranian-attitudes-advance-parliamentar...

UMD "PALS" Program to Partner with Anne Arundel County, City of Annapolis

February 4, 2016

Maggie Haslam 202-258-8946

New partnership puts university assets to work for a more sustainable Maryland

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—The University of Maryland’s Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability Program (PALS) has announced its fourth community partnership, this time with Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis, Md. Set to launch in August, the yearlong collaboration will match coursework across a variety of disciplines on UMD’s College Park campus with economic, environmental and social challenges prioritized by county and city governments, as they look to improve quality of life for those who work and live in the Chesapeake Bay Region. 

"The University of Maryland's PALS program is exactly the type of innovative partnership that can help address the critical issues facing our County," said Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh. "Our administration is excited to team up with students to provide data-driven solutions that will make our County the best place to live, work and start a business in Maryland."  

"This program will help the City of Annapolis leverage resources and gather information necessary to be successful when planning various initiatives including transportation, economic development and historic preservation," said Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantilides. "Along with the University of Maryland, I am thrilled to partner with the county again in an effort to help us address the current need for information that will help us complete critical projects benefiting both the city and county."

Developed by the university’s National Center for Smart Growth, PALS pairs faculty expertise with student ingenuity to tackle sustainability issues facing Maryland communities. PALS partners with one or two communities each academic year, matching customized coursework with the specific challenges described by the partner community to deliver research and recommendations on a host of sustainability challenges. Offering on-the-ground civic engagement, PALS coursework also provides a living case study for students, offering a rewarding community experience that best mirrors future professional interactions within their disciplines. 

Building on Results 

PALS initiated its first partnership with The City of Frederick, Md. in September of 2014, adding a second, smaller collaboration with College Park in January 2015 and launching its third partnership with Howard County, Md. and the Columbia Association (CA) last September, which is currently underway. Since its inception, PALS has engaged nearly 900 students, 12 campus schools and colleges, and provided over 100,000 hours of work directed towards tackling social, economic and environmental challenges throughout the state; the work done in The City of Frederick alone is worth about one million dollars in consultant costs. The partnership with Howard County and CA, which spans 33 courses, makes PALS the largest action-learning program in the country. 

“I was so impressed with the level of work,” said The City of Frederick Alderman Michael O’Connor. “If we can do ten percent, five percent, even one percent of what they brought forward, then this partnership has been worth it for The City of Frederick.”

Enhancing Quality of Life on the Bay

The new partnership with Anne Arundel County and Annapolis is the first time PALS will be partnering with both a city and county concurrently, a nod to newly elected County Executive Steve Shuh and Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides’ continued efforts to collaborate for stronger, more sustainable communities. The combined jurisdiction, over half a million people, is nearly double the size of PALS’ latest efforts in Howard County; the size and scope of work will allow the program to target a wide range of topics for both undergraduate and graduate school courses as well as a potential collaboration with the county’s community college. 

“We are very excited about joining forces with Anne Arundel County and Annapolis,” says Uri Avin, Director of the PALS program. “Because of the diversity of the area, which includes rural and urban settings, and the Chesapeake bay, this partnership will expand the breadth of projects from previous years and really take advantage of the whole of the university’s assets.”

Sustainable Communities remain at partnership core

The mission of PALS is to help communities improve their quality of life through the vast resources available at the university. PALS was initiated by Dr. Gerrit Jan-Knaap, director of the university’s National Center for Smart Growth, in response to two very distinct—yet interconnected—issues: a lack of “real world” experiential opportunities for students to practice classroom skills, and the contemporary struggle local governments face with dwindling budgets, overburdened staff and mounting sustainability issues. Through interdisciplinary and cross-community collaboration, the PALS program represents an integral part of the university’s land grant mission to create a more sustainable Maryland. 

“PALS offers a platform for communities and the university to work together to solve some of our state’s most pressing issues in sustainability,” said Knaap. “We are very excited to be working in Anne Arundel and Annapolis this year and I am eager to see the partnership results—both in the community and in the classroom.”

Learn more about PALS here.

UMD Announces Inaugural Presentation of the "Intersections" Series at The Phillips Collection

February 4, 2016

Graham Binder 301-405-4076

Helen Frederick’s Acts of Silence and future exhibitions explore intriguing intersections
between old and new artistic traditions

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Beginning February 4, the University of Maryland presents its debut Intersections exhibition at The Phillips Collection. A major component of the vibrant partnership between both institutions to transform scholarship and innovation in the arts, the University of Maryland is now the primary presenter of all Intersections exhibits at the Phillips Gallery. Helen Frederick’s work titled Acts of Silence is on view through May 1, 2016 and will continue the bold series of Intersections installations that highlight contemporary art in conjunction with the museum’s permanent collection, history and architecture.

Frederick’s Acts of Silence addresses the endangerment and degradation of the environment, and aligns with American artist Morris Graves’s (1910-2001) intellectual approach to nature. Graves possessed a unique kinship with the landscape and culture of the Pacific Northwest with a dedication to finding and creating images of creatures in the night. 

Highlighted within Acts of Silence are pulp prints and paintings surrounded by projected images of the forest, light-based sculptures, and sound pieces creating an immersive, multisensory, and interactive space. They reinforce a meditative experience of art while bringing awareness of human responsibility toward the environment. Acts of Silence offers new meaning to Graves’s artistic process, revealing the subconscious and evoking psychological exploration. 

“This is the latest fruit of our blossoming partnership with the Phillips,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “As with this exhibition, our relationship will enrich the cultural life of the region and strengthen both of our institutions.”

“I’m thrilled that our first UMD-presented installation in the museum’s ongoing Intersections series, inaugurated in 2009, exhibits the work of Helen Frederick,” said Director Dorothy Kosinski. “Inspired by nature and social issues, Helen’s work intersects art and science, humanities and technology. The Phillips and UMD embrace this convergence of disciplines because we believe that this kind of ‘creative construction’ will reach new audiences, disrupt conventional thinking, and inspire new heights of achievement and impact.”  

The partnership with The Phillips Collection builds on the University of Maryland’s already sterling reputation for building the future of the arts—from world-class performances at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center to cutting-edge training in arts management at the DeVos Institute.

Helen Frederick is a Regional Representative for the College Art Association 2016 annual conference. She is also the Director of Printmaking at George Mason University and founder of Pyramid Atlantic, a contemporary arts center in Silver Spring, Maryland, dedicated to the creation and appreciation of hand papermaking, printmaking, digital arts, and the art of the book. Her work has been exhibited in more then 100 private sections and at numerous institutions including the Kreeger Museum and Women’s War Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, and Tokushima Museum of Modern Art, Japan.  


Inaugurated in 2009 and led by Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Vesela Sretenović, the Phillips’s Intersections series has invited more than 21 artists from the US and abroad to engage with the museum’s collection and architecture. The artists have created diverse projects—both aesthetically and conceptually—and employed various media, from wall-drawing, rubber-painting, and digital photography to video projection and yarn installation.

Intersections is presented by the University of Maryland. 

Additional support is provided by Phillips Collectors Forum members.

UMD Named a 2016 Best Value College by The Princeton Review

February 3, 2016

Kristen Seabolt 301-405-4621 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – For the sixth consecutive year, the University of Maryland has been named a Best Value College by The Princeton Review.  The official 2016 list (and book), “Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Schools That Give You the Best Bang for Your Tuition Buck,” ranks the selected schools on a wide range of criteria - from academics and student life, to cost of attendance and financial aid. UMD was recognized by The Princeton Review for its comprehensive aid program, wide selection of merit-based scholarships, living-and-learning communities, top-notch honors program and diverse student population. 

According to The Princeton Review, "The University of Maryland, College Park offers a comprehensive aid program for students who demonstrate financial need. But it’s the university’s full suite of merit-based scholarships that make a UMD degree an exceptional value." 

“More than 100 undergraduate degrees are offered here, and the university’s location near Washington, D.C. means that top-notch research and internship opportunities are literally in your backyard," said the book’s editors. 

The Princeton Review selected the schools based on a comprehensive analysis of more than 650 colleges that weighted 40+ data points to tally ROI (return on investment) ratings for the schools. Data analyzed covered academics, cost, financial aid, graduation rates, student debt and more. The company collected that data from its 2014-15 surveys of administrators and students at the schools. It also factored in data from PayScale.com collected through April 2015 on starting and mid-career salaries of alumni of the schools.

In the book, UMD was also touted for its diverse student population.  

“UMD is an especially diverse school, and this makes people more tolerant and accepting of people from different backgrounds and cultures,” according to the book editors. A UMD student from New Jersey explained, “Coming from a very diverse area, I thought it was going to be hard to find a school that had that same representation of minority and atypical students until I found Maryland. I don’t think I have ever learned so much about different religions, cultures, orientations, or lifestyles. All of them are accepted and even celebrated at UMD.” 

The Princeton Review also ranks UMD No. 10 among undergraduate entrepreneurship programs and top 20 among green colleges. The university was also recently ranked No. 7 for in-state tuition and No. 11 for out-of-state tuition on Kiplinger’s Personal Finance's list of Best Values in Public Colleges.

The full “Colleges That Pay You Back” list and the University of Maryland's profile are available here.


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