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Saturday, July 4, 2015

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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 Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary of Historic Deep Impact Mission

July 2, 2015

Matthew Wright 301-405-9267 

Deep Impact and its subsequent investigations transformed our understanding of comets

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Ten years ago, University of Maryland astronomers led NASA’s  Deep Impact mission—when a spacecraft interacted with the surface of a comet for the first time. The mission made history and worldwide headlines.

On July 4, 2005, the Deep Impact Flyby spacecraft released a washing-machine-sized probe that collided spectacularly with comet Tempel 1 at 23,000 mph, while the main craft observed the results. The explosive impact gave scientists their first-ever view of pristine material from inside a comet’s nucleus—the solid central lump of ice and debris that gives a comet its shape. Much to the surprise of scientists and contrary to most theoretical models, Tempel 1 had a fairly uniform composition of ices, with proportions near the surface being similar to those 20 meters deep.

The mission also showed that comets are surprisingly fluffy. Tempel 1’s nucleus has a very low density—only about half that of water. To produce this low density, the nucleus must have a significant amount of empty space distributed throughout to offset the higher density of the dust that the body contains. Measurements at the impact site suggest that the nucleus of Tempel 1 is at least 75 percent empty space, or about as fluffy as freshly fallen snow.

This spectacular image of the July 4 2005 collision between comet Tempel 1 and the Deep Impact probe was taken by the main spacecraft 67 seconds after impact.   Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD

The Deep Impact mission, which sparked a decade of comet discovery and innovation, was led by principal investigator Michael A’Hearn, a UMD Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy. The Deep Impact science team also included more than a dozen other UMD scientists, including co-investigator Jessica Sunshine, a UMD professor of astronomy; Lori Feaga, an associate research scientist in astronomy at UMD, and Tony Farnham, a senior research scientist in astronomy at UMD. 

After completing the original mission to Tempel 1, the UMD-led science team convinced NASA to keep the Deep Impact spacecraft operational for continued comet studies, known as Deep Impact eXtended Investigation (DIXI) missions, which included: 

  • Comets Tempel 1 and Hartley 2. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD/McRELA flyby of comet Hartley 2 (2010),
  • Observations of comet Garradd (2012), and
  • Observations of comet ISON (2013).

A'Hearn was DIXI principal investigator. Sunshine served as deputy principal investigator, and Feaga and Farnham were co-investigators for the extended mission to Hartley 2 and its cometary observations. Also, Feaga was a co-investigator for the mission to observe the comet Garradd, and Farnham was a co-investigator for the mission to observe the comet ISON. 

In September of 2013 NASA lost contact with the Deep Impact spacecraft and ended operations for what was then history's most traveled deep-space comet hunter. A’Hearn said at the time, "Deep Impact has been a principal focus of my astronomy work for more than a decade and I'm saddened by its functional loss. But, I am very proud of the many contributions to our evolving understanding of comets that it has made possible." 

Comet Exploration Leadership at UMD

Since the first spacecraft mission to a comet in 1985, University of Maryland scientists have been part of and/or led groundbreaking comet missions and observations, including leading Deep Impact and its follow up mission.  UMD manages and maintains the Small Bodies Node (SBN) – a database that is part of NASA's Planetary Data System, and which specializes in archiving, cataloging, and distributing scientific data on asteroids, comets and interplanetary dust. The SBN’s Comet Subnode database, housed at UMD, collects, formats, verifies and consults on datasets concerned with comet observations as well as providing support for active comet missions and observing campaigns. Recent and current comet investigations in which UMD scientists have played key roles include:

  • The Stardust NExT mission, when NASA’s Stardust spacecraft was redirected to return to comet Tempel 1 in 2011 to document changes in the surface of the nucleus over the one cometary year (5.5 Earth years) that had elapsed since the initial Deep Impact encounter,
  • Studies of comet Siding Spring’s historically close approach to the planet Mars in 2014, and
  • The Rosetta spacecraft’s ongoing study of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

A'Hearn was a co-investigator for Stardust NExT and is a co-investigator on Rosetta’s Alice ultraviolet spectrograph instrument and Optical, Spectroscopic and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) camera teams. Feaga is currently a co-investigator working with the Alice ultraviolet spectrograph instrument on the Rosetta spacecraft. Farnham led one of the teams that performed the analysis of the dust hazards posed by comet Siding Spring during its close approach to Mars. 

Next up for the University of Maryland Deep Impact team: a proposed $450 million NASA Discovery Program mission back to Hartley 2 to investigate curious surface features and variations in composition seen during the 2010 flyby. If approved, the mission—known as CHagall (Comet Hartley Analyses to Gather Ancient Links to Life)—would blast off in 2021 and reach Hartley 2 in 2026. The spacecraft will orbit the comet, documenting its behavior as it approaches the Sun from beyond Jupiter to near the Earth’s orbit. Spending 95 percent of its mission life within 10 kilometers of Hartley 2, CHagall will repeatedly probe the comet’s subsurface compositions, structures and thermal properties before explosively excavating and analyzing more primitive materials from inside the comet. The mission will pave the way for future missions to return cryogenic samples of highly volatile ices that are uniquely preserved on comets. Sunshine is the principal investigator for the proposed mission.

The 2005 Deep Impact mission sparked a decade of comet discovery and innovation at the University of Maryland and elsewhere, significantly advancing our understanding of these “dirty snowballs.”

Baltimore Ave. Revitalization Continues with New Outdoor Community Space

July 2, 2015

Katie Lawson 301-405-4622

Lot Occupying the Former Little Tavern Will Become Small Park as part of Greater College Park Initiative

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland today announced the next step in the revitalization of Baltimore Avenue with the construction of a new outdoor community space.  

As part of the university's Greater College Park initiative to enhance the academic campus and the surrounding communities, the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, Inc. plans to revitalize the land where a building previously known as 'Little Tavern' is currently located. The building that sits at the southeast corner of Baltimore Ave. and Lehigh Rd., which has been unused and in disrepair since 2008, will become an outdoor gathering spot.

"The new development of a site that has been ignored for years is just one more step in the right direction of creating a Greater College Park. This improvement will provide a more pleasant experience for residents and visitors of this community," says Carlo Colella, UMD's vice president for administration and finance. 

The revitalized 6,743 square-foot space will include an area to accommodate food trucks, a few public parking spaces and a landscaped, park-like space that will include a seating area for students, faculty, staff and community members to enjoy for relaxation and outdoor dining. 

"This project is another example of the partnership between the City of College Park and the University of Maryland," says College Park Mayor Andrew Fellows. "This beautiful new outdoor space will be a great place for College Park residents and university community members alike to enjoy." 

Greater College Park ties together the many efforts that support the university’s goal of becoming a premier college town. It includes dynamic academic spaces, a vibrant downtown community and a public-private research hub. Greater College Park is the result of collaborative partnerships with Prince George’s County, the City of College Park, the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, the College Park City-University Partnership, UMD alumni and local developers.

This project is expected to be completed in Fall 2015. 

UMD Rises in Global Scientific Productivity Rankings

June 30, 2015

Abby Robinson 301-405-5845

Earth and Environmental Sciences Specialty Ranking Jumps 20 Spots

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The Nature Index 2015 Global, a ranking from the journal Nature, ranks the University of Maryland No. 54 among the world's most productive scientific research institutions, up one spot from 2014. UMD ranks No. 14 among public U.S. universities and No. 27 among all U.S. universities. 

The ranking, which includes non-academic institutions, is based on research productivity in the world's top science journals. Nature Index 2015 Global is based on a snapshot of data from natureindex.com, covering articles published between Jan. 1, 2014 and Dec. 31, 2014.

UMD also made Nature Index specialty lists of the top 50 most productive institutions in three subject areas:

  • No. 23 in Physical Sciences (No. 5 among public U.S. universities and No. 10 among all U.S. universities), compared with a ranking of No. 26 in 2014.
  • No. 26 in Earth and Environmental Sciences (No. 9 among public U.S. universities and No. 13 among all U.S. universities), compared with a ranking of No. 46 in 2014.
  • No. 42 in Nature and Science Journal Publications (No. 11 among public U.S. universities and No. 30 among all U.S. universities).

To create the ranking, Nature editors identified top journals with the help of an outside panel of experts and an independent survey asking scientists "where they would want to publish their most significant research." The survey yielded a list of 68 elite journals in chemistry, life sciences, physical sciences, and earth and environmental sciences. Editors counted the number of times each institution's authors appeared in the journals, adjusting fractionally for co-authorship.

The result quantifies the institutions and countries that publish the most in the top scientific journals. The U.S. led the list in national productivity, followed by China. The Chinese Academy of Sciences was the single most productive institution worldwide, followed by Harvard University.

Nature is making data from the index available online to researchers and has pledged to update the data regularly to create a rolling window on research productivity.

For more information on UMD's ranking, visit the Nature Index website

UMD Study Shows Extreme Heat & Precipitation Are Increasing Salmonella Infections

June 29, 2015

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418

Coastal communities are most vulnerable, according to UMD School of Public Health

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Extreme heat and precipitation events, which are expected to increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change, are associated with increased risk of salmonella infections, according to a study led by researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health. The study is the first to provide empirical evidence that salmonella infections related to extreme weather events are disproportionately impacting those living in the coastal areas of Maryland.

Dr. Amir Sapkota, associate professor at the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health“We found that extremely hot days and periods of extreme rainfall are contributing to salmonella infections in Maryland, with the most dramatic impacts being seen in the coastal communities,” said Dr. Amir Sapkota, associate professor at the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health (MIAEH). “As we prepare for the future, we need to take this differential burden into account.”

Salmonella, a group of food- and waterborne bacteria, is commonly found in raw poultry, eggs, beef, and unwashed produce. Salmonella causes an estimated 1.2 million cases of acute gastroenteritis (aka “stomach flu,” with symptoms including diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal cramps) in the United States each year. In Maryland, more than 9,500 cases of Salmonella infections (confirmed by cultures) were reported to the health department between 2002 and 2012. Past studies have suggested a connection between weather (temperature and rainfall) and salmonella infections, also known as salmonellosis.

This new study identified extreme heat and precipitation events during 2002-2012 and linked them with the salmonella infections data from the health department. The extreme events were identified using  ~30 years of weather data (from 1960-1989) as the baseline. The research team, which included environmental epidemiologists, microbiologists, earth system scientists and officials from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), observed that a one-unit increase in extreme heat and precipitation was associated with 4.1 percent and 5.6 percent increases in the risk of salmonellosis, respectively. The observed risk was considerably higher in coastal areas compared to non-coastal areas of Maryland: 5.1 percent versus 1.5 percent for extreme heat events, and 7.1 percent versus 3.6 percent for extreme precipitation events.


Published in the interdisciplinary journal Environment International, the study highlights the need to engage public health practitioners and policy makers to prepare for and respond to climate change-associated adverse health effects at local, state, and national levels.

Climate Change, Extreme Events and Increased Risk of Salmonellosis: Evidence for Coastal Vulnerability,” is published in the journal Environment International and written by Chengsheng Jiang, Kristi S. Shaw, Crystal Romeo Upperman, David Blythe, Clifford Mitchell, Raghu Murtugudde, Amy R. Sapkota, Amir Sapkota.

UMD Named To President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

June 26, 2015

Craig Slack 301-314-7164

Corporation for National and Community Service Recognizes UMD’s
Commitment to Volunteering, Service-Learning and Civic Engagement

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has named the University of Maryland to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.  UMD was recognized for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.

The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll was created in 2006 and inspired by the thousands of college students who travelled across the country to support relief efforts along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the CNCS recognizes hundreds of institutions each year for their achievements in overall community service, interfaith community service, economic opportunity and education.

As a land-grant institution, community service is deeply embedded in the mission of UMD across academic, student and administrative divisions. Through projects and programs such as Change the World, Partners and Print, Justice for Juniors, and Terp Service Days, UMD strives to enrich students’ educational experience and positively impact the community. More than 11,000 UMD students spend a total of 210,000 hours engaging in community service every year with close to 2,500 dedicating at least 20 hours.  

“The University of Maryland is proud to be recognized for the importance we place on volunteering and service-learning among students, faculty and staff,” said Craig Slack, Assistant Director of the Adele H. Stamp Student Union and Director of Leadership and Community-Service Learning. “UMD plays a vital role in addressing local community challenges, achieving meaningful results and placing students on a lifelong path of civic engagement.” 

UMD’s commitment to curricular service-learning is evidenced by the work of many committed faculty members. Faculty members in multiple disciplines base their research in local community settings and engage students in their research endeavors. Dedication to co-curricular community service endeavors are carried out through a variety of programs, including vibrant living and learning programs, programs offered through the Leadership and Community Service-Learning unit, faith communities, the Department of Fraternity & Sorority Life, Residence Life, University Athletics, the Alumni Association, and many multicultural and multiethnic offices across campus. Just one living and learning program at the university, which includes service as a major component of its curriculum, reaches over one-third of incoming first-year students.

University of Maryland Named to 2015 Class of Innovation & Economic Prosperity Universities

June 24, 2015

Kristen Seabolt 301-405-4621

Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities Honors 18 Public Institutions
Committed to Economic Engagement

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has been named to the 2015 class of Innovation & Economic Prosperity Universities by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). The designation honors 18 universities working with public and private sector partners in their states and regions to support economic development through a variety of activities, including innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and community development.  

“Public universities serve as economic engines for their local communities and states by conducting cutting edge research to reach new breakthroughs and developing the talent to help existing businesses grow stronger and enabling new ones to develop and thrive,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “The 18 institutions in the 2015 class of Innovation & Economic Prosperity Universities serve as wonderful models of how public research universities extend beyond their campuses to engage their communities in economic development that create jobs and improve lives.” 

Each university received the designation after conducting a thorough self-review with outside stakeholder input and submitting an application that went through a rigorous independent review process. The Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Maryland Tech Council, Maryland Space Business Roundtable and Maryland Economic Development Association provided input. 

“Congratulations to President Loh and the university on this well-deserved recognition,” said Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development Secretary Mike Gill. “Whether educating students who make history, developing new technologies that change lives, or empowering communities to grow and thrive, the University of Maryland has been a catalyst for innovation and economic prosperity in Maryland for generations. I’m proud to call UMD a partner in our economic development efforts.”

Scoring was based on a range of criteria emphasizing universities’ development of economic engagement enterprise, planning efforts around economic engagement, strategic communications around these efforts, and participation in encouraging economic engagement among peer institutions. UMD produces the largest number of STEM graduates in the state of Maryland and the Greater Washington D.C. region and is a leader in cyber security research and education with partners such as Northrup Grumman. Additionally, UMD recently announced plans for Greater College Park, an initiative to tie together efforts for a reimagined campus community with dynamic academic spaces, a vibrant downtown and a public-private research hub. 

“The Maryland Chamber of Commerce is proud of the University of Maryland for achieving this prestigious recognition,” said Brien Poffenberger, President and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. “We are excited for the opportunity to collaborate with the university on numerous projects and initiatives, and are honored to assist in the assessment and improvement of its economic development outreach programs.”

"I am thrilled that the hard work of the faculty, staff and students at UMD in engaging communities across Maryland is being recognized,” said Brian Darmody, Associate Vice President for Corporate and Foundation Relations at UMD and chair of the work group that produced the year-long self-study. “You get a sense of the growing outreach in College Park with the many construction cranes now visible, but the study demonstrated the good work UMD is engaged in away from campus in Frederick, Baltimore and the Eastern Shore."

The University of Maryland joins seven Big Ten institutions that are certified Innovation & Economic Prosperity Universities.

No 'Heckler's Veto' in Online Ratings of Doctors, UMD Study Shows

June 22, 2015

Greg Muraski 301-405-5283 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Doctors have many concerns about online crowdsourced ratings which are intended to make patients better-informed consumers of health care, but this is a big one: They worry that complainers will be the most outspoken contributors to rating sites, skewing scores and resulting in a heckler's veto.

A new study from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland finds that fear is unwarranted. Researchers compared the ratings of 1,425 doctors in three metropolitan areas — Denver, Kansas City and Memphis — on the popular site RateMDs.com against thorough surveys of patient satisfaction conducted by Checkbook.org, a nonprofit consumer research organization. The surveys were designed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The study confirmed that there was a correlation between the online ratings and the more thorough examinations of patient satisfaction. This suggests that the ratings were representative of a broad spectrum of the patient population. More surprisingly, physicians who did poorly in the government evaluations tended to receive fewer online ratings than those who did well - the opposite of what one would expect if patients with bad experiences dominated the ratings. 

"The concern that ratings aggregation sites will become digital soapboxes for disgruntled patients appears to be unfounded," wrote Gordon Gao and Ritu Agarwal of the Smith School, Brad N. Greenwood of Temple University (and a Smith PhD), and Jeffrey McCullough of the University of Minnesota in the study. Agarwal and Gao co-direct the Smith School's Center for Health Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS).

In other areas of the economy, unhappy customers tend to be the most vocal. Why might that not be true in health care? The authors offer several possible explanations. First, it's conceivable that the patients of the worst doctors might have less access to the Internet or be less familiar with online reviews. Second, patients might be worried that if they leave reviews, health-care providers might retaliate against them in some way, even if the reviews are anonymous. Finally, customers might just evaluate health care in a different way than they evaluate products on Amazon.

The effectiveness of online ratings is a subject of intense interest that is only increasing: 37 percent of patients have consulted a ratings website when they sought healthcare. According to the new study, online star ratings tended to be most helpful for distinguishing doctors in the middle 50 percent of performance (as measured by the government surveys). A "hyperbole effect" was evident for doctors in the highest-performing and lowest-performing quartiles: Their rankings tended to group together, meaning that small differences in star ratings had no significance.

One caveat is that the study was limited to an evaluation of patient satisfaction, as opposed to objective measures of patient outcomes or protocols doctors followed. A study published in the February 2015 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine by Gao and four co-authors found little statistically significant connections between patient ratings on eight websites and objective measures involving 1,299 internists.

“This is what we should keep in mind: A very high score in patient satisfaction is not wholly connected with clinical quality,” Gao says. “If you want to use the online ratings to infer how good a doctor is clinically, take them with a grain of salt.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are working on an online resource that would allow consumers to compare data on health-care outcomes of different physicians, called the Physician Compare Initiative, but it remains controversial because doctors doubt it will be possible to correct for things such as the general health of a physicians' patients and whether patients adhere to doctors' recommendations.

The study, “Vocal Minority and Silent Majority: How Do Online Ratings Reflect Population Perceptions of Quality," is forthcoming in MIS Quarterly: http://go.umd.edu/ZTL.

UMD Selects Finney’s "Head Off & Split" as 2015-2016 First Year Book

June 22, 2015

Kristen Seabolt 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The Office of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Maryland has selected “Head Off & Split,” by Nikky Finney as the 2015-2016 First Year Book.  

The First Year Book is selected each year to provide first-year students, faculty and staff a shared intellectual experience. UMD selects a featured book that provides an opportunity for the university community to look at a topic, issue or experience from different perspectives, from the sciences to the humanities and across diverse historical backgrounds, cultures, and ideologies.

The 2015-2016 First Year Book, “Head Off & Split,” is written by Nikky Finney, winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry. Finney, described as “one of the most eloquent, urgent, fearless and necessary poets writing in America today,” takes the reader from the bus seat of Rosa Parks to the piano bench of Condoleezza Rice, into the mind of a U.S. President and onto the roof where a family has been stranded by Hurricane Katrina.  This book addresses important moments in American history in a way that challenges the reader to look deeply at race and identity from the past and to the present.  

In addition to the book, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland commissioned a new poem, “The Battle of and for the Black Face Boy,” from Nikky Finney. These two works, powerfully interconnected, delve deeply into American heritage and draw a full circle back to the important issues faced today. 

Faculty and staff may pick up the book in 2110 Marie Mount Hall from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday – Friday. Any inquiries about the book or program collaboration during the 2015-2016 academic year can be directed to 301-405-9980 or firstyearbook@umd.edu.  For more information on the First Year Book program, visit www.fyb.umd.edu. 


July 2
Visit UMD this holiday weekend for an evening of fireworks, entertainment and concessions. 
July 2
Deep Impact and its subsequent investigations transformed our understanding of comets. Read
July 2
Lot occupying the former Little Tavern will become small park as part of Greater College Park initiative. Read
June 30
Earth and Environmental Sciences specialty ranking jumps 20 spots. Read