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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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Racing the Clock to Help Young Patients with Old Hearts

May 19, 2014

Heather Dewar 301-405-9267

UMD study of premature aging may help explain effects of normal aging

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Children with progeria, a rare disorder that causes premature aging, die in their teens of ailments that are common in octogenarians: heart failure and stroke. Kan Cao, a University of Maryland assistant professor of cell biology and molecular genetics, urgently wants to help find a cure. Cao and her colleagues have taken a big step in that direction, showing that a toxic protein destroys muscle cells inside the patients' arteries. The researchers suspect the damaged arteries are more prone to failure.

The researchers conducted their experiments on smooth muscle cells that they genetically engineered. "This gives us a very good model for testing drugs to treat progeria," said Cao, senior author of a research article published in the May 19, 2014 online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "And it may help us understand how cardiovascular disease develops in people aging normally."

    Seen through a microscope in Asst. Prof. Kan Cao's laboratory, these color-enhanced skin cells from progeria patients have been induced to become smooth muscle cells, some with abnormalities such as double nuclei.
  Seen through a microscope in Asst. Prof. Kan Cao's laboratory, these color-enhanced skin cells from progeria patients have been induced to become smooth muscle cells, some with abnormalities such as double nuclei. Image by Haoyue Zhang.

Progeria is extremely rare—about 100 patients worldwide have been diagnosed—and always fatal at an early age. Patients typically die around age 13. The disorder is difficult to study because patients are so few, and their rapid decline mostly affects internal organs. That makes the effects hard to track without invasive testing, from which researchers want to spare these young patients.

Until now, researchers didn't know what mechanism was causing the patients' deaths. They knew a genetic mutation makes patients' cells produce progerin, a toxic form of a protein that, in healthy people, forms the skeletal structure of cell nuclei. In previous studies Cao and others found that progerin builds up in cells of elderly people, suggesting that it is also linked to normal aging. But progerin's effects on smooth muscle cells were unknown before this study.

Studies in mice with a genetically engineered form of progeria found the animals lost most of the smooth muscle cells in their large arteries. This muscle type, involved in involuntary movement, is in the lining of many internal organs, including blood vessels.

Cao's team couldn't obtain human smooth muscle cells from progeria patients for their study because the process would be too invasive, so they used induced pluripotent stem cells—adult cells reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells and develop into a variety of cell types.

In a first for a progeria study, the researchers induced skin cells from progeria patients and normal adults to develop into smooth muscle cells, and then compared cell reproduction and decay in healthy cells with the same processes in cells containing the progeria mutation. Both sets of smooth muscle cells began multiplying, but after two weeks the progeria cells leveled off; as many cells were dying as were reproducing. The researchers discovered that the progeria cells accumulated toxic progerin and had abnormally low levels of PARP-1, a protein that is important in repairing cell damage.

Cells constantly repair damage to their DNA, Cao explained, and they have several ways to get the job done. When one strand in the DNA double helix breaks, cells usually use the unbroken strand as a template to make a perfect copy. PARP-1 is supposed to sense the break and start this repair process. In the study's normal smooth muscle cells, that's what happened.

But sometimes a cell simply splices two broken DNA strands together end to end. If the right two strands reconnect, the cells resume normal reproduction, splitting to form two new daughter cells in the process called mitosis. But if the repair isn't right, those cells can't successfully split.

In the current study, the smooth muscle cells created from progeria patient skin cells, with high levels of progerin and low levels of PARP-1, did not use the more accurate repair method. Instead, they spliced together segments of DNA that happened to be nearby—and usually got the sequence wrong.

After the faulty repairs, these cells could not split their contents evenly during mitosis. Some cells kept trying to divide and eventually died trying, in a phenomenon called "mitotic catastrophe." Others failed to divide and ended up as one cell with two nuclei.

Researchers think that after losing so much smooth muscle tissues, the arteries are easily damaged by mechanical stresses such as blood pressure, making them vulnerable to a variety of failures that manifest as forms of coronary artery disease. They'll test that in the next phase of their research, and will try to determine why progeria cells do not use the best pathway for repairing DNA damage. They also plan to use the smooth muscle cells derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells to test new treatments for progeria.

Cao, who has developed friendships with some progeria patients, took her entire research team, which includes three UMD undergraduate students, to a 2013 Progeria Research Foundation workshop where they met progeria patients.

"The students began thinking, 'My research is so important for the families.' It's a lot of motivation for them," Cao said, "and a lot of pressure for all of us to work quickly."

Terp Makes Dell's List of Youth Innovation Advisors

May 16, 2014

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

Individual studies major Erik Martin leads entrepreneurship efforts outside the classroom

Erik MartinCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – Recognition from one of the world's largest computer technology corporations has allowed University of Maryland sophomore individual studies major Erik Martin to add one more headline to his list of esteemed accomplishments.

Martin was recently named to Dell's 12 under 22 list of Youth Innovation Advisors (YIA), where he will work to inform Dell of challenges students and young entrepreneurs face on a daily basis and will develop solutions to address these roadblocks and improve creativity among young people. As part of the YIA, Martin will represent, inspire and mentor students to engage in their respective learning communities to make a positive impact on society.

Key priorities for the YIA include the development of next-generation skills, student entrepreneurship, access to technology, connectivity in schools and other areas that affect the preparation of students for the future.

"While the ed-tech space is very exciting, sometimes efforts to push technology into education only serve to digitize broken parts of education, but don't fundamentally change anything," Martin said. "Being a part of Dell's Youth Innovation Advisory board means I can help steer that ship to create real change."

Martin's passion for education and society reform is not just a hobby. The Terp has turned his appetite for change into a major at UMD where he is studying global civics and new media.

In addition to his work at the university, Martin is also a design consultant for FHI 360, where he helps create games that have a positive social impact on developing nations. He is also an education activist drafting a Student Bill of Rights and works closely with the for-students-by-students nonprofit organization, Student Voice.

"I think change has to be much more holistic than just ramping up STEM or 'teacher accountability' with testing," Martin said. "Education should foster resilient, passionate doers and thinkers—that's the change I work towards."

University Names Dr. Eric Denna as New Vice President for Information Technology

May 15, 2014

Crystal Brown 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh today named Dr. Eric Denna new Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer (CIO), effective July 1, 2014.

Currently the CIO of the University of Utah and the Utah System of Higher Education, Dr. Denna brings to the position 30 years of IT leadership experience in research universities and in the private sector.  

“Eric has a deep understanding of the role of IT in enabling a university to excel in its educational, research, innovation, and administrative functions,” said Loh.  “In today’s dynamic and challenging IT world, the university needed a proven leader, and we found that in Eric.”

“I am delighted to be joining the University of Maryland,” said Dr. Denna.  “This is an extraordinary opportunity because for over 150 years, the University of Maryland has demonstrated leadership in higher education and is poised to play an ever larger role going forward.”University of Maryland

Dr. Denna is active in national technology collaborations related to strategy, cyber-infrastructure, and cyber-security.  He currently serves as Vice Chair of the Kuali Foundation and Co-Chair of the Utah Education Network.  He works with the CIOs of the CIC (Big Ten institutions) on using technology to transform learning and teaching.

Previous positions include CIO and Chief Technology Officer of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City; CIO of Brigham Young University (BYU); and CIO for the Times Mirror Higher Education Group in Chicago. 

He was the Warnick, Deloitte & Touche Professor at BYU’s Marriott School of Management.  He has served on the boards of, and as a consultant to, several universities and private corporations.

Dr. Denna earned a B.S. in accounting from Brigham Young University, an M.S. in information systems from BYU, and the Ph.D. in information systems from Michigan State University. He co-authored two books on the use of information technology for business solutions. He has written numerous articles in refereed journals and other publications.  

Winter Losses Drop, Tough Times Linger for Honey Bees

May 15, 2014

Heather Dewar 301-405-9267

UMD-led national survey suggests all bee hives should be treated for common parasite

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – U.S. beekeepers lost more than one in five honey bee colonies in the winter of 2013-2014—significantly fewer than the winter before. But tough times continue for commercial beekeepers, who are reporting substantial honey bee losses in summer as well. Beekeepers who tracked the health of their hives year-round reported year-to-year losses of more than one in three colonies between spring 2013 and spring 2014.


This nectaring honey bee is pollinating a cultivar of the plant that produces canola oil. Credit: Robert Snyder, Bee Informed Partnership.
  This nectaring honey bee is pollinating a cultivar of the plant that produces canola oil. Credit: Robert Snyder, Bee Informed Partnership. Click to download image.

Those are the key findings of an annual national survey of honey bee colony losses, conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership with the Apiary Inspectors of America and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

University of Maryland entomologist Dennis vanEngelsdorp, who directs the Bee Informed Partnership, led a team of 11 researchers who conducted the survey. A total of 7,183 beekeepers, who collectively manage about 22 percent of the country's 2.6 million commercial honeybee colonies, took part.

The survey is part of a research program aimed at understanding nearly a decade's worth of high death rates in managed honey bee colonies. The losses impose heavy costs on beekeepers and could lead to shortages of some crops that depend on honey bees for pollination.

No single culprit is responsible for all the honey bee deaths. But the Bee Informed Partnership's research shows mortality is much lower among beekeepers who carefully treat their hives to control a lethal parasite called the varroa mite.

Varroa mites, like the one on the back of the honey bee just below center in this image, can spread through a hive and decimate a colony. Credit: Robert Snyder, Bee Informed Partnership.     

Varroa mites, like the one on the back of the honey bee just below center in this image, can spread through a hive and decimate a colony. Credit: Robert Snyder, Bee Informed Partnership. Click to download image.


"If there is one thing beekeepers can do to help with this problem, it is to treat their bees for varroa mites," said vanEngelsdorp, a UMD assistant professor of entomology. "If all beekeepers were to aggressively control mites, we would have many fewer losses." 

Beekeeping is not only a backyard hobby, but a linchpin of the food supply. Farmers depend on honeybees and other pollinators to fertilize valuable crops, from apples and almonds to tomatoes and watermelons. The pollination provided by honey bees adds about $15 billion to the value of U.S. crops.

The survey found that 23 percent of the managed honeybee colonies in the U.S. died between Oct. 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014. That's well below the average loss of 29 percent over the survey's history.

But summer death rates were nearly as high as the winter ones. Over the summer, about 20 percent of survey respondents' colonies died. Losses between spring 2013 and spring 2014 averaged 34 percent. (The winter and summer losses do not match up to the year-to-year losses because not all beekeepers filled out all sections of the survey.)

"Rising and falling rates of colony losses demonstrate how complicated the issue of honey bee health has become," said Jeff Pettis, a survey co-author and research leader of the USDA's Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. Pettis pointed out that the causes of honey bee colony failures are complex, including varroa mites, other parasites and viruses; poor nutrition, which can be due to a shortage of wildflowers in herbicide-sprayed or drought-stricken farm fields; and exposure to insecticides and fungicides.


Blue bars show the percentage of winter honey bee colony losses considered "acceptable" by U.S. commercial beekeepers participating in the annual national survey. Red bars show the percentage of colonies actually lost each winter by the participating beekeepers. Credit: Bee Informed Partnership.
  Blue bars show the percentage of winter honey bee colony losses considered "acceptable" by U.S. commercial beekeepers participating in the annual national survey. Red bars show the percentage of colonies actually lost each winter by the participating beekeepers. Credit: Bee Informed Partnership. Click to download image.

Now in its eighth year, the survey originally focused on winter mortality in managed honey bee colonies. The generation of bees that lives through the winter must survive months longer than summer bees' 30-day lifespan. In winter, honey bees don't produce offspring and are confined in a hive where diseases can spread. 

"We used to think winter was the critical period," vanEngelsdorp said. "But during our field studies, beekeepers told us they were also losing colonies in the summer months. So we expanded the survey and found that in fact, colonies are dying all year round."

About two-thirds of beekeepers surveyed, who ranged from hobbyists to large businesses, said their colonies suffered unacceptable losses—greater than the 19 percent mortality rate that, on average, they were willing to absorb. It was the second year in a row that most beekeepers reported unacceptably high mortality.

The beekeepers were asked to list the probable causes of their losses; and in a separate survey, some also described how they managed their hives. Those responses are still being analyzed. But an initial review, fieldwork and past surveys all point to varroa mites as a persistent—and controllable—problem.

"Every beekeeper needs to have an aggressive varroa management plan in place," vanEngelsdorp said. "Unfortunately, many small-scale beekeepers are not treating their bees, and are losing many colonies. And those colonies are potential sources of infection for other hives."

This survey was conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership, which receives a majority of its funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA (award number: 2011-67007-20017). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of the USDA.

A summary of the 2013-2014 survey results is available at

UMD Undergrads Impress IBM, Industry Pros

May 14, 2014

Greg Muraski 301-405-5283

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - This spring, IBM challenged University of Maryland undergraduates to develop ideas for implementing its recent customer service innovation, the Watson Engagement Advisor. The competitors were UMD Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams (QUEST) students. An IBM grant in 1993 helped establish QUEST as a multidisciplinary, reality- centered program for UMD undergraduates from the Robert H. Smith School of Business, the A. James Clark School of Engineering, and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.

    Team HomeWiz took home the First Place Prize in the 2014 IBM Watson Engagement Advisor Case Competition
  Team HomeWiz took home the First Place Prize in the 2014 IBM Watson Engagement Advisor Case Competition

The UMD teams developed organization-specific strategies to acquire and implement the Engagement Advisor driven by "Watson," the supercomputer that defeated former grand champions on the TV quiz show Jeopardy.

The competitors applied techniques including value analysis and quantitative and qualitative analysis in developing their proposals and "brought them together and presented them cohesively," said one of the judges, Michael Fitzgerald, global technology strategy leader in IBM's Strategy and Analytics Center of Competence. "Those were some of the best oral sessions I've seen in some time – to be done by undergraduate students in a cutting-edge field is very impressive."

"The Watson Engagement Advisor has a lot of different applications. We applied it to the home improvement industry," said UMD computer science major Brendan Rowan, who proposed HomeWiz as a one-stop home improvement knowledge base for expansive do-it-yourself projects. The idea garnered first place for Rowan and teammates – computer science major Jason Rubin and Smith School students: Praneet Puppala (computer science-finance), Yash Mehta (marketing) and Jessica Manzione (accounting and finance).

A broad sports knowledge repository including game recaps and experts' columns named Bringing IBM Watson to ESPN drew second place. The presenting students were Leah Xu (computer engineering), Stephen Barbagallo (materials engineering), Eric Bailey (materials engineering) and Eric Coraggio (civil engineering).

Third place went to an app to streamline Environmental Protection Agency compliance information for individuals and companies. The team, which created Next Generation Compliance, included Eileen McMahon (mechanical engineering), Allison Thompson (aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering), Hannah Breakstone (international business/supply chain management) and Caitlin Myers (civil and environmental engineering).

Beyond their specific ideas, the students' business-technology acumen and poise in presenting their work impressed industry professionals who judged the event.

QUEST Director Joseph Bailey, a research associate professor in the Smith School, said UMD partners, like IBM, "look for us to prepare specialists who think differently about problems with the wherewithal to acquire new knowledge. Our students were able to give some suggestions to a talented team from IBM. They also learned a lot for themselves – about how they can think about technology and apply it to markets and industries," he said.

UMD, Montgomery County Re-Think the American Suburb

May 14, 2014

Planning conference examines the changing face of Montgomery County communities and suburbs across the country

Ellen Dunham-JonesCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – According to the most recent Harris poll, sponsored by American Planning Association, only 10 percent of Millennials and active boomers want to live in a suburb "where you drive everywhere." As metropolitan areas across the country grapple with the profound economic, demographic and environmental shifts of the 21st century, they also face the demand for a vastly different American suburb -- one that is more urbanized, sustainable and diverse. This past weekend, the University of Maryland's National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG), in partnership with the Montgomery County Department of Planning and the UMD Urban Planning Program tackled the changing 21st century suburb with Makeover Montgomery 2 | Moving Forward Montgomery (MM2).

The conference brought nearly 300 design and development professionals, academics, students and citizens together with some of the nation's brightest minds in planning, design, economics and development to discuss strategies and examples for shaping the future of Montgomery County, Maryland suburbs and beyond. The three-day conference engaged participants in twenty-one topic specific sessions, covering subjects ranging from public/private partnerships to public art, and closely examined national examples of successful suburban redevelopment.

"The long-held myth of suburbia has always focused on the nuclear family," said David Cronrath, dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation to a full auditorium opening night. "What I think this conference is trying to do is create a new myth; one that isn't built on the individual but, instead, is built on a community and the possibility of solving problems together, finding a better way to settle on this earth."

The conference kicked off Thursday evening with a keynote address delivered by Ellen Dunham-Jones, award-winning licensed architect and professor of contemporary architectural and urban design studios and theory at the Georgia Tech School of Architecture. Dunham-Jones, who co-wrote Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburb, outlined the profound challenges facing the American suburb, including rampant vacancies, inefficient infrastructure, quality of health and a changing demographic, which is more diverse and facing an explosion of aging boomers. "Who is living in the suburbs isn't who the suburbs were designed for," said Dunham-Jones.

Yet, in the face of such challenges, communities all over the country are re-dreaming suburbs through creative design and the sustainable rehabilitation of underused property, creating more walkable, thriving communities.

"At first, there was a story to be told about the tremendous opportunity for redeveloping suburban properties," said Dunham-Jones. "But now, the story isn't just 'retrofitting is happening.' The story is that there are some great examples out there of communities that are raising the bar. I think Montgomery County is a fabulous place to have the discussion of what some of those examples are."

This is the second time in three years that UMD has teamed up with Montgomery County's Department of Planning to cover this growing and serious issue. Several UMD faculty and students participated and presented sessions over the course of the conference. It is just one example of an on-going relationship between Montgomery County—known for innovative and ambitious community planning—and the university's Urban Planning and Smart Growth education programs, offering students and researchers the opportunity to learn and benefit from the challenges and successes of a rapidly changing suburban landscape.

"We have benefited tremendously from our relationship with Montgomery County," said Gerrit Knaap, director of the NCSG. "We trade on their international reputation of outstanding planning and have a terrific relationship that moves very gracefully from the county to the planning program to the NCSG. They regularly hire UMD planning students, both as interns and post-graduate employees, helping the planning program recruit the best students in the nation. The County also frequently taps into NCSG expertise on a variety of planning and smart growth issues."

The Montgomery County Planning Department will offer recaps and video of several conference sessions this week on To see the conference's keynote speech by Ellen Dunham-Jones, visit the NCSG website.

UMD Launches New Supercomputer to Expand High-Performance Computing for Research

May 14, 2014

Phyllis Dickerson Johnson, UMD, 301-405-4491
Cathie Hargett, Dell Global Communications, 512-728-7347

New Data Facility Opens to House Key University Asset

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland unveils today Deepthought2, one of the nation's fastest university-owned supercomputers, to support advanced research activities ranging from studying the formation of the first galaxies to simulating fire and combustion for fire protection advancements. Developed with high-performance computing solutions from Dell, Deepthought2 has a processing speed of about 300 teraflops.

The University of Maryland unveils Deepthought2, one of the nation's fastest university-owned supercomputers, to support advanced research.Deepthought2 is a significant asset of the new Cyberinfrastructure Center – a 9,000-square-foot data facility located in the Rivertech Building in the university's M Square Research Park.

"To be among the best requires research and educational facilities that are among the best," said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. "Deepthought2 will attract top researchers and students who need its data-intensive computing power," Dr. Loh said.

Several university divisions and colleges and researchers from a variety of disciplines worked together to obtain this new central computing resource and to bring online the new Cyberinfrastructure Center – a facility specifically designed to provide the needed space, energy efficient climate control, and backup power for the supercomputer.

"Deepthought2 places the University of Maryland in a leadership position in the use of high-performance computing in support of diverse and complex research," said Ann G. Wylie, professor and interim vice president for information technology. "This new supercomputer will allow hundreds of university faculty, staff, and students to pursue a broad range of research computing activities locally – such as multi-level simulations, big data analysis, and large-scale computations – that previously could only be run on national supercomputers," Dr. Wylie said.

Deepthought2 replaces the original Deepthought, installed in 2006. The new supercomputer, which is 10 times faster than its predecessor, can complete between 250 trillion and 300 trillion operations per second. It has a petabyte (1 million gigabytes) of storage and is connected by an InfiniBand network, a very high-speed internal network. Put another way, Deepthought2 is the equivalent of 10,000 laptops working together, it has 2,000 times the storage of an average laptop, and its internal network is 50 times faster than broadband.

"Supercomputers are increasingly being used in all areas of research, and computing resources that can sift through vast amounts of data at incredible speeds are becoming essential tools in expanding the frontiers of knowledge and in solving the urgent scientific and societal problems of our times," said Fran LoPresti, deputy CIO of cyberinfrastructure and research IT for the Division of Information Technology.

Ranked among the nation's top 25 public research universities, the University of Maryland has been awarded approximately $500 million annually in external research funding in recent years.

"High-performance computing is key, and Deepthought2's expanded capabilities will further Maryland's research funding competitiveness and help UMD researchers bring in new grant money to fund the science enabled by such a powerful local facility," said Derek Richardson, UMD professor of astronomy.

Based on current standings, Deepthought2 is expected to rank among the top high-performance computing clusters located at U.S. universities and among the top 500 clusters in the world. Supercomputers are qualified according to a standardized benchmarking test, and then they are ranked by the TOP500 Project.

"We are pleased to partner with the University of Maryland as institution leaders further their high-performance computing initiatives and continue to leverage technology to provide top-notch research and scholarly pursuits for faculty, students, and staff," said John Mullen, vice president and general manager, Dell Large Institution Sales.

USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan to Step Down

May 13, 2014

Anne Moultrie 301-445-2722

William E. KirwanADELPHI, Md. - William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland (USM) since August 2002, today announced that he will step down from his leadership position after a career spanning more than 50 years in public higher education. At the request of the USM Board of Regents, Kirwan will remain as chancellor until the board conducts a national search and chooses his successor.

"I am completing my 12th year as chancellor and my 50th year in higher education, and I have decided that this is the right time to announce my intention to step down," Kirwan said. "It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to lead the state of Maryland's public higher education system. Thanks to the excellent board members and outstanding USM administrators, faculty, staff and students with whom I have had the privilege to work, we have accomplished a great deal. I am enormously proud of our collective efforts, and I believe the system is poised to continue on its paths of academic excellence, inclusion, and innovation that have become its hallmark."

"It is difficult to envision the University System of Maryland without Brit Kirwan at the helm," said James L. Shea, chair of the USM Board of Regents. "Under his exceptional leadership, USM has established itself as a public higher education system focused on student success, and on service to the state, the nation, and beyond. We are very fortunate to have had Brit as the system's chancellor. He will be sorely missed, but he has built a strong system that will continue to flourish."

Kirwan has had a long and distinguished career in higher education. He has served as president of two Association of American Universities (AAU) institutions-University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), (1988-98) and The Ohio State University (1998-2002). Earlier, he served as vice president of academic affairs and chair of the Department of Mathematics at UMCP.

Guided by his long-held core belief that higher education plays a critical role in creating a more just and inclusive society, Kirwan has impacted the higher education landscape considerably. Common threads running through his career include his unwavering commitment to excellence and to increasing underrepresented minorities' access to higher education.

Among the many initiatives he has championed is Closing the Achievement Gap. USM launched this initiative in 2007 to address the gap in college participation, retention, and graduation rates between low-income students, first-generation college students, and underrepresented minorities on one hand, and the general student population on the other. USM institutions are making notable progress in this area, with gaps reduced or eliminated at some campuses.

Thanks to programs he championed as president of UMCP, that institution is one of the most diverse public research universities in the United States. And as president of Ohio State, Kirwan made diversity a centerpiece of the university's Academic Plan. When he left Ohio State in 2002, the university added his name to its interdisciplinary research institute dedicated to understanding racial and ethnic disparities worldwide, now known as the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.

USM's productive working relationship with Maryland's elected officials is another testament to Kirwan's leadership. This true partnership has yielded a strategic alignment of USM and state priorities related to higher education affordability, student success, academic and research excellence, higher education's role in economic and workforce development, and responsible stewardship of resources.

For example, working together, USM and the State of Maryland have made tuition affordability a major factor in the state's national reputation as an education leader. As a result, the average tuition for undergraduate in-state students at USM institutions, once the nation's sixth highest, now ranks 26th.  And Kirwan has led USM institutions to increase need-based financial aid awarded to students, which has jumped nearly 140 percent systemwide since FY 2005.

"Brit has been an invaluable and critical partner in our efforts to strengthen and grow our middle class by expanding access to high-quality higher education in Maryland," said Governor Martin O'Malley. "Here in Maryland, we're incredibly grateful to him for his leadership in strategically aligning course offerings to spur economic development and help close our State's 'skills gap'; his work to improve important and essential transitions for community college students to four-year institutions; and his efforts to help my Administration hold down the cost of college to the lowest levels in the nation."

Under Kirwan's leadership and the Board of Regents chaired by Clifford Kendall at the time, USM in 2003-04 launched its Effectiveness and Efficiency (E&E) Initiative to optimize USM resources and save money during a time of burgeoning enrollment, diminishing state support, and increasing costs. A systematic reengineering of USM's administrative and academic functions, E&E has become a part of the system's culture, impacting everything it does. To date, E&E has yielded more than $460 million in direct savings through joint procurement, energy conservation and more efficient use of space and buildings, improvements in business processes, and other actions.

Other marks of Kirwan's leadership success include: 

  • USM's strong partnerships with Maryland's community colleges to facilitate smooth transfer of students to USM universities. The number of students transferring from the state's community colleges to USM universities is at an all-time high.
  • More USM resources focused more strategically to drive the state's economic development.
  • Stronger programs in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) disciplines, both in terms of producing more graduates prepared to take positions in these fields and in terms of educating the next generation of teachers in the STEM areas for K-12 education.
  • University of Maryland: MPowering the State, a structured collaboration between the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the University of Maryland, College Park launched in 2012. The collaboration is leveraging resources to serve students better, increase interaction between faculty members and researchers, and boost research, technology transfer, and commercialization.
  • Completion of USM's six-year federated campaign (2006-2012) that raised $2.1 billion to support scholarships, professorships, buildings, and more.
  • Effective partnerships with educational systems in the K-12 sector.
  • Way2GoMaryland, USM's information campaign launched in 2008 to encourage more students to begin preparing for college early.
  • Advancement of USM regional higher education centers, which expand access to higher education opportunities, many aligned with regional workforce needs.
  • Leadership in sustainability efforts with 52 facilities constructed and/or planned as LEED-certified "Silver" or higher.

"Dr. Kirwan has been a visionary leader at the University System of Maryland, making a tremendous impact on education in our own state and across the nation," said U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.). "He understands how education is connected to jobs and the larger economy. His passion and unique ability have been making sure Maryland has the right workforce, whether it's in cyber-tech, bio-tech, or space-tech, for the times we live in."

"Chancellor Kirwan has been that magic combination of great intellect, long vision, and extraordinary people skills," said Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (Md.-5).  "He led the University of Maryland, College Park to become one of the country's great academic institutions. In the process, he became one of America's most respected leaders and voices.  I know all Marylanders join me in thanking Brit and his wife Patty, who has been such an important partner in his and our success."

On the national level, Kirwan's leadership has helped to position USM as a model public higher education system in several areas, including enhanced stewardship of resources (especially related to the E&E Initiative) and academic transformation. With the launch of its Course Redesign Initiative in 2006, USM became the nation's first university system to redesign entire courses, supported by the innovative use of technology. To further facilitate academic transformation and excellence, the USM Board of Regents in 2012 approved the establishment of the Center for Innovation and Excellence in Learning and Teaching to develop, apply, and evaluate more ways to deliver high-quality courses optimizing technology and other resources systemwide.

In addition, Kirwan serves on several national boards, including the Business-Higher Education Forum. He chairs the National Research Council Board on Higher Education and Workforce, and co-chairs the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics and the U.S. Senate Education Committee Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education.

Statewide, Kirwan serves on the boards of several organizations, including the Greater Baltimore Committee, Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, Maryland Chamber of Commerce, and the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education. He also serves on the Governor's P-20 Leadership Council.

Among Kirwan's honors are the TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership (2010) and the Carnegie Corporation Leadership Award (2009), two of higher education's most prestigious awards.

"Brit Kirwan is among those rare leaders who have made a profound impact on American higher education," said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education. "He has led some of our nation's most respected academic institutions and mentored and influenced several generations of college and university presidents. Courageous and compassionate, Brit has embraced the toughest and most important issues of our time-cost, accountability, diversity, athletics-and succeeded in forging consensus and change. We are better as an industry-and I, personally as a leader-because of his great work."

"Brit Kirwan's leadership has helped reshape the landscape of public higher education and will have a lasting impact on Maryland, Ohio, and the whole country," said Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. "His drive and focus to expand access to public higher education in order to serve more underrepresented students has inspired others to join him in tackling the toughest challenges and opportunities facing our colleges and universities."

Kirwan received his doctoral and master's degrees from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and his bachelor's degree from the University of Kentucky, all in mathematics.

"While I will be stepping down as chancellor," Kirwan said, "I plan to continue to devote a major portion of my time and energies to promoting causes that mean so much to me, including programs focused on ensuring more low-income students have a chance to complete a college degree and on strategies using technology to find lower-cost means of delivering high quality higher education."

USM Board Chair Shea within the next several weeks plans to appoint a committee to conduct an extensive national search for USM's fourth chancellor. The committee will comprise representatives from the system's many constituencies.   

The University System of Maryland comprises 12 institutions-Bowie State University; Coppin State University; Frostburg State University; Salisbury University; Towson University; University of Baltimore; University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Maryland Eastern Shore; University of Maryland University College; and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies. USM also includes two regional centers-Universities at Shady Grove and University System of Maryland at Hagerstown-at which USM universities offer upper-division (undergraduate junior- and senior-levels) and graduate courses.

Student enrollment systemwide exceeds 153,000. In FY 2013, USM and its institutions competed successfully for nearly $1.2 billion in external grants and contracts. USM institutions and programs are among the country's best in quality and value according to several national rankings.

U.S. Consumption Linked to Global Distribution of Wealth, Pollution

May 12, 2014

Laura Ours 301-405-5722
Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A new interdisciplinary study by University of Maryland researchers illustrates how countries with the greatest amounts of global wealth and highest consumption rates, led by the United States, are responsible for the greatest shares of global pollution.

consumerThe study identifies a country's position within the global trade network ("core" or "periphery"), and establishes their share of wealth and pollution along different global supply chains—core countries have larger shares of global wealth than global shares of pollution. The study shows how inequalities between nation-states can be shaped by patterns found within a global trade network. Countries that trade more are more central to the network. These core countries tend to acquire more benefits and to suffer less of the resulting pollution, leaving countries in the periphery with fewer options. This paper considers how such differences in trade patterns coincide with levels of pollution and wealth, as prompted by American consumerism.

The study, "The Economic Gains and Environmental Losses of U.S. Consumption: A World-Systems and Input-Output Approach," appears in a new issue of Social Forces. Authors Christina Prell of UMD's Department of Sociology and Kuishuang Feng, Laixiang Sun, Martha Geores, and Klaus Hubacek of UMD's Department of Geographical Sciences said the paper offers unique insight into the strong corollaries between economic and environmental inequality, as well as the impact of consumer behavior on environmental sustainability.

"One example of this phenomenon is when an American purchases an automobile, that purchase triggers an entire global supply chain of production. Along that global supply chain, jobs are created and pollution is generated. Thus, Americans' consumption behavior can prompt wealth and pollution levels in countries around the world," Prell said. The paper also closely examines examples of global production chains of clothing and associated distribution of wealth and pollution.

What's more, the researchers have found that those countries that experience greater shares of wealth as opposed to shares of pollution tend to be those countries that are central to the global trade network. Thus, American consumerism tends to reinforce the inequalities between nation-states that sociologists have long observed.

"Our findings also show the extent to which the United States "triggers" global inequalities in the world-system. This is potent stuff when thinking about issues of environmental justice, that is, who is responsible for pollution and who is most affected," Prell and her coauthors write.

Another key finding of the paper is China's status as the big outlier of this phenomenon—although it is very central in the trade network, in this study China resembles a more peripheral country in terms of its relatively high pollution to wealth ratio, meaning it gets more pollution for each unit of  wealth than other core countries.

"Given that many scholars and analysts are uncertain about China's future trajectory, our findings support the ambiguous, yet important, role China seems to play in the world economy," Hubacek said. "China has moved into the core in terms of its position of global trade network but hasn't managed to acquire many of the advantages that would come with such a core role. China's share of wealth is relative low compared to the high volume of pollution related to many of the global commodity chains due to a range of factors such as its relative inefficient production structure and high dependency of coal as well as the role global companies play in China, it essentially remains peripheral."

This is not the first time members of this research team have taken a cross-disciplinary examination of economic and environmental issues. Previously, Hubacek, Prell and Feng worked on a study with a researcher from a leading university in Spain that demonstrated which sectors could put the entire U.S. economy at risk when global oil production peaks ("Peak Oil").


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