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Revitalizing our Roots, Raising the Bar: Creating the Campus Farm of the Future

December 20, 2012

Sara Gavin 301-405-9235 sgavin@umd.edu

College Park, Md. -- In the middle of a bustling, expanding, urban university, the University of Maryland campus farm serves as a small patch of rustic tranquility and a constant reminder of UMD’s heritage as an agricultural college. Now, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) is embarking on a bold mission to turn this working farm into a teaching facility for the future. With help from experts at Blackburn Architects, the College of AGNR has developed a Campus Farm Master Plan, which it recently unveiled to the public. 

“The University of Maryland is one of the only land grant universities with a working farm actually located on its campus,” said Cheng-i Wei, Dean of the College of AGNR. “Current national trends and emerging interests in topics like urban agriculture, buying locally grown products, micro-farming and food security make this the perfect time to invest in upgrading what is already a major asset for our College and university.”

Proposed improvements to the campus farm include expanding and renovating current structures, creating indoor teaching spaces, streamlining the layout to more efficiently move animals throughout the site, improving accessibility and increasing the farm’s visibility on campus – all while preserving its bucolic charm.  

Campus Farm Renovations

Although it sits on just 4.3 acres, the campus farm is used for hands-on instruction in a variety of undergraduate courses offered through the Department of Animal & Avian Sciences, ranging from livestock management to equine nutrition and small ruminant parturition, affectionately known as “lamb watch” at the university.  One of the major goals of the Campus Farm Master Plan is to expand curriculum to better meet emerging agricultural industry trends.

The College of AGNR is currently in the process of securing funding to make its dynamic vision for the campus farm a reality. In a show of confidence and enthusiasm for the project, Dean Wei announced the College will match any monetary gift donated specifically toward revitalizing the campus farm. Blackburn Architects estimates the total renovation could cost between $5 million and $7 million.

To learn more about the Campus Farm Master Plan, please contact Brian Magness at (301) 405-9235 bmagness@umd.edu.

Top Lockheed Martin Innovation Award Goes to University of Maryland Research Scientist

December 19, 2012

Ted Knight 301-405-3596

Dr. Benedict's Award Winning Turbin DesignRevolutionary wind turbin design could be used to generate power for roof top farms and other urban projects

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - A University of Maryland research scientist in the A. James Clark School of Engineering has won the grand prize in the Lockheed Martin 2012 "Innovate the Future Challenge." Aerospace Engineering's Moble Benedict won the prize for his concept of a "highly efficient, vertical axis wind turbine design for clean energy generation in urban environments." The award comes with a $25,000 prize.

The Innovate the Future Challenge is sponsored by Lockheed Martin as part of its centennial celebration. The international competition seeks to encourage and nurture innovative technologies that will lead to a secure future for our planet.

A Highly Efficient Turbin Design

While at Maryland, Benedict has conducted pioneering research on next-generation Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) concepts, Cyclocopter and Flapping-wing aircraft.

His award-winning technology for the Lockheed Martin competition (right) involves an efficient small-scale, stand-alone wind turbine design. A key advantage is that the turbine is self-starting at speeds as low as 3.3 mph, can capture energy regardless of fluctuations in wind direction, and is highly efficient even at low tip speed. The wind turbine design was developed after eight years of intensive research in cycloidal-rotor design, development, and testing led by Benedict in the Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center at the University of Maryland.

Benedict says applications could include small roof-top farms using micro wind turbines that generate wind power efficiently in urban environments, where energy needs are very high and wind-conditions are extremely unpredictable.

As part of the grand prize, Benedict will also receive an incubation contract with University of Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) to advance his design toward commercialization.

Earlier this year, Benedict won the 2012 Hal Andrews Young Engineer/Scientist of the Year Award.

Watch a video about Dr. Benedict's research and the potential of the vertical axis wind turbin:


Fiscal Cliff, Slow Progress Darken Housing Forecast: UMD Expert

December 19, 2012

Greg Muraski, 301-405-5283 or gmuraski@rhsmith.umd.edu

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - After its greatest collapse in 80 years, the housing market appears to be bottoming out with stabilizing home prices and many markets experiencing price gains. Still, “it may be premature to call this a ‘real recovery,’” says Cliff Rossi, Tyser Teaching Fellow and executive-in-residence for the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “Looking into 2013, the ‘fiscal cliff,’ regulatory reform and other factors could put a drag on markets through the year.”

Despite historically low interest rates, potential buyers face a lot of questions before jumping in on what is their largest investment. For sellers, conditions continue to build on 2012’s nascent recovery. But will credit be readily available for first-time and repeat homebuyers?  Will there be additional efforts to help struggling homeowners under water on an existing mortgage?  

Gauging the Market

The Fed recommitting to low interest rates through 2013 should yield one bright spot in below-4-percent mortgage rates. Coupled with continued shedding of debt and increased savings by consumers, mortgage affordability will remain high based on home prices increasing 4 percent between the third quarters of 2011 and 2012.

Still, the average home price remains well below its 2007 peak. Its continued recovery hinges on increased credit availability, plus a continued decline in vacant homes and continued growth in the economy and employment, says Rossi, who has held senior risk management positions with likes of Citigroup, and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

But the economy is expected to remain sluggish – as signaled by the Fed’s December announcement to continue purchasing mortgage-backed securities and Treasuries, he adds. “In that case, demand would curtail and home prices would increase 2-3 percent instead of four.”

Momentum for Sellers

The glut of properties in distress or in foreclosure continues to decline, 2.6-to-2.3 million (10.2 percent) in the past year, leaving a six-month shadow inventory supply. “Couple this with a continuing decline in new-building activity, and the gap between demand and supply should continue to narrow, helping to further stabilize home prices and reducing the time it takes to sell a home,” Rossi says. “New home permits and housing starts were down last year and new home inventories were at record lows.”

Another sign of a shrinking supply backlog is the decline in vacancy rates, now at 2.1 percent.  The rate, normally about 1.5 percent, peaked at 3 percent at the height of the housing crisis. “With 1.5 million housing units needed to accommodate population growth and household formation, the 600,000 single-family and multifamily units built last year clearly put less pressure on supply,” says Rossi.

Prospects for homeowners looking to sell should be “at least as good as 2012,” Rossi concludes. “But don’t look for it to revert to a seller’s market any time soon.  And since all housing markets are local, your home may sell faster if it is in a desirable location, on a good commuting route and has exceptional curb appeal and amenities.”

For Buyers: Tight Reins on Borrowing

As credit remains accessible to borrowers with strong credit history, stable income and employment, “expect to bring a 10-20-percent down payment to the closing table – or more – as lenders continue to maintain high underwriting standards for this important risk factor,” Rossi says. “And with recent FHA trouble caused by its insurance fund showing an actuarial loss, there may be fee increases and tighter lending standards ahead for first-time buyers.”

The market in 2013 also could absorb the effects of government plans to reduce the impact of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, he adds. “This could spell higher fees and rates for borrowers. And with new rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau defining the characteristics of qualified mortgages, some tightening in lending standards may also occur.”

‘Fiscal Cliff’ Factor

The wild card is the “fiscal cliff” – the end-of year legislative puzzle of expiring tax cuts and dramatic spending cuts established by Budget Control Act of 2011. “I expect the political brinksmanship to come to a solution that will bring a modicum of stability to financial markets,” says Rossi.

However, concessions could reduce or eliminate historically important tax deductions such as that for mortgage interest. Plus, expiration of the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007, which has facilitated short sales and thus has helped move distress inventory off the market, “could have more than just a chilling effect on a weak housing market.”

“All of this suggests that housing in 2013 will not emerge from its struggles in 2012, but the trends should be at least as good as last year unless we go over the ‘fiscal cliff.’”

Video: Cliff Rossi summarizes 2013 housing market forecast: http://youtu.be/_kAoLmySNAQ
Contact Rossi: at 301-908-2536 or crossi@rhsmith.umd.edu.


At U. of Maryland, an Effort to Make Introductory Courses Extraordinary (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Required introductory courses are as important as they are unloved.

They are a key part of the general-education curriculum, which makes up as much as one-third of the typical baccalaureate student's education, and they are the subject of seemingly never-ending revitalization efforts.

UMD Philanthropy Class Donates $7,000 to After-School Group that Teaches Problem Solving through Chess  

December 18, 2012

Jennifer Talhelm - (301) 405-4390 

MSPP logo(Updated Dec. 18, 2012)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The 28 students in Professor Robert Grimm’s Art and Science of Philanthropy class in the School of Public Policy began the semester faced with a dilemma few college students experience: They had $7,000 to make a real difference by giving to a local charity focused on educating low-income children.
The question was which one – and how to reach a consensus.
The students, who take the class through UMD’s Honors College, learn about charitable giving by operating as a mini philanthropy; the class makes a real grant award.  They wrote a mission statement and a request for proposals, reviewed applications for 13 charities, conducted six phone interviews, made five site visits, and debated for four full class hours.  Ultimately, they settled on Chess Challenge in DC, a group that uses chess to teach strategic thinking to elementary school-aged children primarily from disadvantaged backgrounds.
On Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 the students awarded the grant for $7,000 to Chess Challenge at a ceremony in Taliaferro Hall Library on the UMD campus.
Chess Challenge in DC operates in 21 sites throughout Washington where chess coaches, who also have youth development experience, use chess as a stepping stone to teach reading, math, critical thinking and other skills – even poetry writing.
UMD Student Kyle DaileyThe Art and Science of Philanthropy students’ grant will enable Chess Challenge in DC to open a new site and serve 20 more children through its after-school program.

(Photo - UMD Philanthropy student Kyle Dailey holds DC Chess Challenge T-Shirt during the award ceremony. Photo by Jennifer Talhelm.)
Harrison Bridge, a sophomore finance major from North Potomac, Md., said he was initially skeptical that chess could resonate with young kids who face enormous challenges in life.  But he changed his mind when he saw the group in action.  The coaches use questions like “what chess piece would you most want to be” to encourage the kids to think through problems and defend their decisions.
“I’ve never taken part in a course where the culmination is so satisfying,” Bridge said.  “I wasn’t expecting it to be as rewarding as it was.  Chess Challenge is an amazing organization.”
Grimm, who teaches the class and directs the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at the School of Public Policy, said that hands-on experience makes the class a powerful learning experience.  This will be the eighth grant award made through Grimm’s class, which has rapidly become one of the most popular courses offered on the UMD campus.
The first part of the class, which was first offered in spring semester 2010, is “philanthropy boot camp” and covers how to set up a grant program.  The class then reviews applications, interviews applicants, does site visits, and finally makes the tough group decision about which applicant most deserves funding and why.
Along the way, students learn about the evolution of philanthropic giving in American society.  They also learn about the importance of consensus building in order to make an impact as a group.
Bridge said the skills he learned will serve him well long after the class is over. “It’s so much more than just donating $7,000 to an organization.  And it has definitely inspired me to want to become involved in philanthropy for the rest of my life.  In learning to look at philanthropy from a strategic approach, we were shown how to most effectively make the greatest impact, and that is what has made this course such a rewarding experience.”
Grimm said that’s exactly what he hopes to accomplish through the class.
“It's not so much a class as an experience,” Grimm said.  “By the end of the semester, I want students to be using their heads as much as their hearts, to think objectively about which applicants are a good investment and how to work together to reach their goal.”
About the UMD School of Public Policy
The School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland is an internationally renowned program dedicated to improving public policy and international affairs.  It is the only such school in the capital area embedded within a major public research institution.  The school prepares knowledgeable and innovative leaders to make an impact on the profound challenges of the 21st century.  Faculty include the 2005 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics;  former officials who have held key positions in Democratic and Republican administrations, including U.S. trade representative, undersecretary of defense, commissioner of the Social Security Administration, and director of the U.S. National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect; and leading researchers in a host of public policy disciplines.
Media interested in covering the award ceremony should contact Jennifer Talhelm at the School of Public Policy: (301) 405-4390 or jtalhelm@umd.edu.

Former NASA Astronaut Reightler is Winter Commencement Speaker

December 17, 2012

David Ottalini 301-405-4076

Crystal Brown (Day-of at Comcast) 301-405-4621

Former NASA Astronaut Ken Reightler is the Fall, 2012 Commencement speaker at the University of Maryland.COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland will welcome former NASA Astronaut Kenneth S. Reightler, Jr. as its winter commencement speaker December 19.

As a young U.S. Naval Academy cadet watching the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing, he says "a lot of things in my head" clicked. The son and grandson of naval veterans, serving in the Navy came naturally to him. Reightler wasn’t as clear, though, about how to meld his interest in flight, the country’s burgeoning space program and his strengths in math and science.

“I started looking at résumes of people who were in the space program. What did they do? What did they study?,” says Reightler, the Robert A. Heinlein chair in the academy’s aerospace engineering department.

“A path started to take form for me.” After graduating in 1973, he entered the Navy’s aviator flight training program. Reightler later became a test pilot, studied aeronautical engineering in graduate school and then served as a the chief flight instructor at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

In 1987, he joined the NASA astronaut program, piloting two shuttle missions before retiring from the Navy to work for Lockheed Martin as a senior executive. Reightler joined the academy this summer, sharing his expertise and experience with another generation.

“It provides me an opportunity to give back,” he says. “I can explain, ‘This is possible and this is how you do it.’ I have the operational knowledge in addition to the theoretical. I’ve built it, tested it and flown it.” Reightler, “a true son of Maryland,” was born in St. Mary’s County to parents whose families have been in the state for generations.

“I spent many summers on the Eastern Shore, learning the life of a waterman,” says Reightler. He and his wife, Maureen, have called Annapolis home for nearly 10 years. She has her own ties to Maryland, being a direct descendent of James McHenry, for whom Fort McHenry is named.

Being back at the academy, hoping to motivate and instruct future officers, brings him full circle. “There is truly an inspirational aspect to this job,” he says.

The University of Maryland Winter 2012 Commencement ceremony will take place on Wednesday December 19 at 7 pm. at the Comcast Center. Individual school and college ceremonies will take place on Thursday, December 20, 2012. Commencement will be streamed on the web (link provided on the umd.edu home page) and on UMTV in Prince George's and Montgomery Counties.

Visit the Winter 2012 Commencement Web site

NASA Awards $36 Million to UMD for Earth Systems Study

December 14, 2012

Ellen Ternes, 301-318-4208


Hurricane Sandy COLLEGE PARK, Md. – NASA has awarded a $36 million cooperative funding agreement to the University of Maryland to continue collaborative research in the field of earth systems science.


The five-year agreement funds an already established partnership between NASA’s Earth Sciences Division, located at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GFSC), and the university’s Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) to study and forecast impacts of the Earth’s connected systems on global and regional environment, weather and climate.


“With NASA’s space-based observations and the university’s research expertise in earth systems science, we can look at how the atmosphere, oceans, land surface and frozen regions interact and make predictions about future impacts,” says Tony Busalacchi, director of ESSIC and professor in the university’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science.


The agreement will continue to give GFSC’s Earth Sciences Division access to ESSIC’s academic and research faculty, students  and its collaboration with NOAA, including ESSIC’s partnership with NOAA’s National Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in the University of Maryland M Square Research Park and the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites (CICS).


Research to be funded by the agreement includes study of aerosols and human-generated pollutants that travel long distances through the atmosphere and oceans; how models and observations are being used together to investigate how the Chesapeake Bay breeze affects surface air pollution levels and deposits over the Chesapeake Bay watershed;  ways to improve drought monitoring; and real time analysis to detect falling snow on a variety of surfaces.


Other projects include an on-going activity to make a global flood and landslide technique available for decision-making to reduce disaster around the globe; and determining how satellite observations can better diagnose ground level air pollution.


“The interdisciplinary research embodied by this new cooperative agreement demonstrates how the NASA/Goddard-ESSIC-University of Maryland partnership is focused on delivering science in support of society,” says Busalacchi.


Over the past 15 years, the university has built on its long tradition of excellence in atmospheric, climate, biological and earth science to develop major partnerships with NASA, NOAA and other federal agencies in the areas of earth science, remote imaging, climate change and energy research, including the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a partnership between the university and the Department of Energy and the collaborative UMD initiative Climate Information: Responding to User Needs (CIRUN).



Arts and Humanities Dean Thornton Dill’s Term Extended

December 13, 2012

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

Dean Thornton DillCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – Arts and Humanities Dean Bonnie Thornton Dill, who heads one of the University of Maryland’s largest colleges, will serve an additional three year term.  Originally appointed to serve through this June, her term will now extend through June 30, 2016.

“Dr. Thornton Dill has proven to be a strong and effective advocate for the arts and humanities, while at the same time, bringing an entrepreneurial and creative spirit to her college,” says University of Maryland Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin. “Bonnie has actively pursued new interdisciplinary research partnerships and grants, intensified innovative approaches to global engagement, stressed excellence through diversity, and expanded opportunities for students to apply their skills and knowledge to the solution of real-world problems.”

During their recent transition, Rankin and her predecessor, Ann Wylie, offered to extend the Dean’s two-year appointment to a full five-year term.

In her first full year leading Arts and Humanities, Dean Thornton Dill has shepherded 18 candidates through tenure and promotion, hired 20 new faculty members, presided over far-reaching leadership transitions, and worked to improve communication and cohesion.

“The skills we teach are the skills employers seek in the 21st century,” says Dean Thornton Dill, stressing the vital importance of the arts and humanities. “I like to remind people that a distinctive strength of the U.S. system of higher education has been the practice of educating all students broadly – teaching the ‘whole person.’”

 Thornton Dill is internationally recognized for her scholarship on race and gender, Black and Latina women in higher education, as well as issues such as work, family, and poverty. She led Women's Studies at Maryland to national prominence.  It is, for example, one of a select few universities in the United States to offer a doctoral degree in the field and serves as the base for the National Women's Studies Association and editorial home of the pioneering journal, Feminist Studies.

UMD's Chincoteague Hall Renovation Project Wins Gold LEED Certification

December 12, 2012

Dave Ottalini 301-405-4076

By Eveyln Rabil

Video by Louie Dane

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The Chincoteague Hall Renovation project at the University of Maryland has earned LEED Gold Certification through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, the program is an internationally recognized green building certification system.

"This is a great example of renewing an aging building in a very sustainable and energy efficient way," says Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Carlo Colella. "We replaced old building systems, connected the facility to a district chilling and heating plant, improved ADA accessibility and updated building finishes."

Chincoteague Hall is the first LEED Gold Certified Renovation project on the College Park campus.  Formerly the home of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, the 22,648 square foot  building is now home to a number of departments within the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences (BSOS) including the Sadat Chair for Peace and Development, Baha'i Chair for World Peace, the Center for International Development and Conflict Management, as well as faculty and graduate student offices.

"I am delighted by the certification at the gold level. I want to give congratulations to all those concerned with facilities in the college and university who contributed to this wonderful achievement," says BSOS Dean John Townshend.

"The accomplishment of earning LEED Gold Certification for the Chincoteague project is another milestone for the university as it learns how to best design, build and renovate buildings to strict environmental standards," says Scott Lupin, director of the university's Office of Sustainability.

Lupin says the rating system - once considered novel - has now become the standard for major building projects undertaken on campus.
"Facilities Management and other project stakeholders should be proud of this new addition to our growing list of green buildings," he says.


LEED Certification provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. LEED-certified buildings are designed to lower operating costs and increase asset value, reduce waste sent to landfills, conserve energy and water, be healthier and safer for occupants, reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and help organizations qualify for tax rebates, zoning allowances and other incentives.

Facilities Management staff involved in the Chincoteague Hall Renovation project included Mar Ossi, Paul McDonald, Greg Restivo and Skip Dean along with other members of the UMD Capital Projects team.

Innovative Drug Delivery System Wins Venture Fair at UMD Bioscience Research Day

December 11, 2012

Ted Knight 301-405-3596

Researchers Silvia Muro, Rasa Ghaffarian Recognized for Innovative Technology

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - A pair of researchers were honored at the University of Maryland's annual Bioscience Research & Technology Review Day for their presentation of a novel drug delivery strategy that uses targeted carriers capable of crossing the gastrointestinal (GI) tract into the circulation. Dr. Silvia Muro (left),  Clark School of Engineering associate professor in the Fischell Department of Bioengineering (BioE) and Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, and her advisee, BioE graduate student Rasa Ghaffarian (right), won first place in the Professor Venture Fair at the 2012 Bioscience Research & Technology Review Day. (Photo by Loretta Kuo.)

Hosted by the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), the university's Office of Technology Commercialization, and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, the annual Professor Venture Fair gives faculty inventors the opportunity to pitch their new technologies to a team of regional venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. The competition encourages scientists to consider the commercial viability of their work and challenges them to translate their ideas into a presentation for a general, non-technical audience.

Muro’s innovation uses the GI tract's built-in transportation system, the transepithelial pathway, to move orally administered therapeutic or diagnostic molecules into the bloodstream. The delivery process, which takes advantage of the natural behavior of the intestines' epithelial cells, is safe, fast, and efficient.

Oral administration of drugs and therapeutics is usually preferred due to its simplicity, low cost, and higher level of patient comfort and compliance. However, in many cases, only a fraction of the dose swallowed ever reaches its target due to the harsh environment of the digestive system. This is particularly true for biological treatments, such as vaccines or antitoxins, which cannot currently be administered orally. Muro’s group has been able to overcome this obstacle by strategically and effectively targeting biologicals to the GI epithelial cells to provide safe and speedy transport with no negative effect on GI permeability.

"We are proud to have this invention recognized in such a prestigious forum," says Muro. "It's a culmination of years of effort in what we believe to be a very important therapeutic intervention. There is no doubt that…this discovery will be able to enhance oral biological therapies as well as the safe targeting of drug delivery carriers.”

The technique, she adds, holds great potential as a general platform for gastrointestinal delivery into the circulation and for the treatment of gastrointestinal epithelial cells involved in infections, inflammatory conditions, and cancer. The delivery system also holds promise for other applications, including the oral delivery of therapeutics for lysosomal storage disorders and for Alzheimer’s disease, small molecular drugs for the treatment of genetic conditions, and treatments against inflammation, thrombosis and oxidative stress.

For more information, visit the following publication:
Rasa Ghaffarian, Tridib Bhowmick, and Silvia Muro. "Transport of nanocarriers across gastrointestinal epithelial cells by a new transcellular route induced by targeting ICAM-1," Journal of Controlled Release, 163(1):25-33 10 October 2012.


Main Administration Building on the University of Maryland campus
June 29
Maryland Senate President Emeritus Honored for His Role in Transforming Higher Education in Maryland  Read
June 29
Maryland Senate President Emeritus Honored for His Role in Transforming Higher Education in Maryland  Read
June 18
Campus Pride/BestColleges 2020 Lists Recognize Inclusivity, Academic Support, Affordability  Read
June 18
UMD leads USDA project to to help Corn Belt farmers more efficiently use water and crop nutrients Read