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University of Maryland to Host Winter 2017 Commencement

December 14, 2017

Jennifer Burroughs, 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland’s winter 2017 main commencement ceremony will take place on Dec. 19, 2017. Graduates will celebrate the culmination of their UMD experience while receiving a commencement address by Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, who will also receive an honorary doctorate of public service from the university. He will be joined by this year’s student speaker, Rachel Smith, who is graduating with a degree in immigration and ethnic studies. 



  • University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh
  • Commencement Speaker Elijah E. Cummings, United States Congressman, Maryland 7th District 
  • Student Commencement Speaker Rachel Smith
  • December Class of 2017 University of Maryland Graduates


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

  • Processional – 5:40 p.m.
  • Ceremony – 6:00 p.m.

*Media should arrive prior to the processional*


Xfinity Center, University of Maryland, College Park

Xfinity Center is located on Paint Branch Dr. near the intersection of Paint Branch Dr. and Route 193 (University Blvd.) Click here for directions.


To ensure access to the ceremony, media must RSVP and show credentials upon entry. Media must park in lot 4B and enter the Xfinity Center through the loading dock. 


The ceremony will be streamed live on the University of Maryland’s YouTube channel here.


For more information, visit www.commencement.umd.edu


UMD's IBBR Awarded NIH Grant to Investigate Body's T-cell Mechanism of Attack

December 14, 2017

Vicki Buckholz240-314-6274


COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- A new research initiative by the University of Maryland's Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR) and the University of Pittsburgh could help uncover how T-cells—the "killer cells" that defend the body from microbes—are alerted to hazardous invaders in the body.  Funded by a $3.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the research will be the first to combine X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy for a unique view of the cell's alert system, which could lead to innovative therapeutics to fight viruses and tumors.

Illustration of tcell fighting cancer cellsT-cells defend the body by recognizing and attacking a foreign invader, such as a virus, through a receptor on its surface (TCR).  When viruses infect cells, they are broken up into pieces (peptides) that move to the cell surface where they are recognized by TCR's.  This causes the T-cell to activate and kill the infected cell, allowing the immune system to stop the spread of the virus.

"We have long known about the process of T-cell recognition, but not how the receptors signal to the T-cell that this recognition has taken place," says Dr. Roy Mariuzza, who, along with Dr. John Orban, are IBBR's principal investigators on the project.  "Understanding the TCR signaling mechanism may allow researchers to develop new, targeted immunotherapies, such as those used in immuno-oncology to control or eliminate tumors."

The team will apply a new approach, combining X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, two complementary techniques used for determining the structure and dynamics of proteins.  "Proteins transmit signals by undergoing changes in their structure and dynamics," says Dr. Orban.  "When the viral peptide binds to the TCR, there may be perturbations in the TCR that trigger signaling.  Our goal is to shed light on this process using our combined approach."

Mariuzza and Orban will analyze and present hypotheses about the structural changes to Dr. Dario Vignali, a prominent molecular immunologist from the University of Pittsburgh and the third principal investigator.  Vignali will test these theories by making mutations in the TCR and analyzing the effect of the mutations in biological systems.

"This research is an excellent example of fundamental science conducted at the institute that may lead to new therapeutic products.  The Institute facilitates application of groundbreaking, basic scientific research to address significant unmet medical needs.  We thank the NIH for their support of this promising area of research." said Dr. Thomas Fuerst, IBBR Director.

UMD President Joins Big Ten Colleagues in Support of DACA

December 13, 2017

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

Today, Big Ten presidents issued the following letter in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy: 

Dear Speaker Ryan, Leader Pelosi, Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

On behalf of the Big Ten universities, we urge you to take action on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy and pass a long-term legislative solution as soon as possible to protect Dreamers, outstanding young people brought to our country as children.

The stories we hear on our campuses are troubling—high achieving young adults with uncertain futures. They are nurses, engineers, and pharmacy students. They are student athletes, leaders in music programs, and active across campus.

These young people are Americans in every way but immigration status. It remains in our country’s best interest to enable them to use their knowledge, skills and energy to continue to make the strongest possible contribution to our communities.

Please let us know what we can do to support you in protecting Dreamers and finding a permanent legislative solution to protect these bright, young Americans.


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Chancellor Robert J. Jones

Indiana University
President Michael A. McRobbie

University of Iowa
President J. Bruce Harreld

University of Maryland
President Wallace D. Loh

University of Michigan
President Mark Schlissel, MD, Ph.D.

Michigan State University
President Lou Anna K. Simon, Ph.D.

University of Minnesota
President Eric W. Kaler

University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Chancellor Ronnie D. Green, Ph.D.

Northwestern University
President Morton Schapiro

Ohio State University
President Michael V. Drake, MD

Penn State University
President Eric J. Barron

Purdue University
Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr.

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
President Robert L. Barchi

University of Wisconsin-Madison
Chancellor Rebecca Blank

UMD’s Discovery District to Host 2018 Association of University Research Parks International Conference

December 13, 2017

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland’s Discovery District, an epicenter of academic, research and economic development, will host the Association of University Research Parks (AURP) annual International Conference, Oct. 22- 26, 2018.

“The University of Maryland is very proud to act as the host for AURP’s 2018 International Conference,” said Brian Darmody, associate vice president for corporate and foundation relations at UMD, and past AURP president. “The Baltimore-Washington area is a thriving technology corridor, and the University of Maryland Discovery District is a perfect venue to demonstrate the value of research parks as the true intersections of science and innovation.”

The Discovery District has been widely recognized for its leadership in research. Most recently, UMD was awarded two Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Awards by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its Greater College Park initiative, of which the Discovery District is a cornerstone. In addition, in 2015, prior to its name change, the University of Maryland Research Park was recognized as AURP’s Research Park of the Year. 

“There’s no better place than Maryland to hold the 2018 AURP International Conference,” said Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill. “Our network of university research parks – coupled with nearly 75 federal labs – make Maryland a center of science, technology and innovation. In short, our state is the perfect location to explore unparalleled research facilities, expand partnerships at home and abroad, and enjoy all that Maryland has to offer.” 

“Each year our selection committee works hard to find the best locations to showcase our host parks and the incredible innovations happening across the world at university research parks,” said AURP CEO Carol Stewart. “In 2018, the University of Maryland and its Discovery District will provide ample opportunities for some of the most innovative minds in the world to experience a stellar research park and its community.”

UMD debuted the Discovery District in 2017, which encompasses more than 150 acres that stretch from Baltimore Avenue to the research-rich and metro-accessible community along River Road. The Discovery District is home to the research park formerly known as M Square, and features amenities like The Hotel at the University of Maryland and the The Art Walk. 

The Discovery District is part of UMD’s Greater College Park initiative, a $2 billion public-private investment to rapidly revitalize the Baltimore Avenue corridor and academic campus, which includes dynamic academic spaces, a public-private research hub and vibrant downtown community. Earlier this week, the university announced that Capital One will be the first major private sector anchor to join the Discovery District with the launch of an innovation lab, which will give UMD students the opportunity to apply what they are learning in the classroom—in topics like data science, technology and automation—to real-world problems and experiences.

To learn more about the Discovery District, visit https://greatercollegepark.umd.edu/discovery-district.html


University of Maryland, Capital One Partner to Drive Innovation, Fueling Talent Pipeline in Data and Machine Learning

December 12, 2017

 Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland and Capital One today announced a partnership aimed at developing a talented pipeline of students to join the workforce in areas of key national need, such as machine learning, data analytics and cybersecurity.

A cornerstone of the new partnership will be the launch of an innovation lab in the university’s Discovery District. Situated along Baltimore Avenue, the lab will give UMD students the opportunity to apply what they are learning in the classroom—in topics like data science, technology and automation—to real-world problems and experiences.

Capital One has also invested $3 million through an endowment gift to help advance machine learning leadership at the university. The gift’s impact includes $2.1 million used to endow a faculty chair in the Department of Computer Science, and $900,000 to help support research and educational initiatives in machine learning, data analytics and cybersecurity. In addition, the university will collaborate with Capital One to develop academic courses offered through its First-Year Innovation & Research Experience (FIRE) program. 

“The opportunities that this partnership will bring to UMD will have a tremendous impact on our students’ ability to meet urgent workforce needs,” said UMD Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin. “This partnership will not only help attract and retain top faculty and students, but will also propel UMD to national prominence and excellence in these critically important fields.”

“We are thrilled to extend our long-standing partnership with the University of Maryland to this important initiative, which will further position the University as one of the leading academic institutions and talent hubs for machine learning, data analytics, and cyber security not only in the region, but in the nation,” said Adam Wenchel, vice president of AI and data innovation, Capital One. “At Capital One, we are steadfast in our belief that machine learning and data analytics can greatly enhance our customers’ experience, and we are proud to support the next generation of technology innovators from UMD that will continue to harness these opportunities more broadly.”

“Thanks to Capital One and Adam Wenchel, the Computer Science Department will be able to add more outstanding faculty to our machine learning and cyber security groups," said Larry Davis, professor and interim Chair, Department of Computer Science. "This partnership will provide more of our 3200 undergraduates and 250 graduate students opportunities to take specialized classes and work with machine learning and cyber security experts who will make major contributions to the field.” 

In August, the Maryland Department of Commerce, through the state’s Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative, provided the University of Maryland with $2.1 million in matching funds for its Capital One Chair in Machine Learning and Computer Science. These funds will endow an additional two professorships in the field, and will help elevate research, education and entrepreneurship activities. 

“Higher education institutions are significant economic drivers for the entire state of Maryland," said Commerce Secretary Mike Gill. "The research they conduct and the bright young minds they nurture fuel Maryland's economy and keep our state on the cutting edge of technology and discovery. We are proud to partner with the University of Maryland and look forward to seeing the fruits of the professorships for years to come.”

The University of Maryland maintains academically strong programs in data analytics, cybersecurity and machine learning, a subfield of computer science that allows analyses of and conclusions from patterns in data. Through the partnership, UMD will create FIRE research streams that focus on research problems in these fields. Each FIRE stream will be jointly designed by Capital One’s senior scientists and researchers in collaboration with UMD faculty.

“These FIRE streams will allow motivated students to gain valuable experience in tackling relevant challenges in these critical areas early in their academic careers," said FIRE Program Director Patrick Killion, Ph.D. "Capital One's commitment to and use of machine learning in their daily operations provides an opportunity that will greatly improve our program and help us produce the country's best and brightest graduates in these fields.”

The partnership between the university and Capital One is part of the university’s Greater College Park initiative, a $2 billion public-private investment to rapidly revitalize the Baltimore Avenue corridor and academic campus, which includes creating a dynamic public-private research hub. Capital One is the first, major private sector anchor to join UMD’s Discovery District, leasing 7,500 square feet in the “Diamondback Garage”, a mixed-use development located behind The Hotel at UMD that will bring new jobs to Prince George’s County.

“We are taking a major step forward in growing the Discovery District with Capital One’s presence in a new and dynamic facility located in Diamondback Garage,” said Ken Ulman, chief strategy officer for economic development at UMD. “This means more jobs for Greater College Park, more vibrancy in our surrounding communities, and a new model for how the University can engage private sector partners.”  

As a historically data-driven company, Capital One continuously seeks opportunities to create breakthrough consumer experiences through new technologies. The company’s Center for Machine Learning, which is home to several leading machine learning experts, focuses on the hiring and empowering of data scientists and the centralization of knowledge in a rapidly changing business industry. Along with the University of Maryland, the group has developed strategic partnerships with marquee universities across the country to attract and retain the best data science and machine learning talent. This builds on Capital One’s existing partnership with UMD as the university’s banking partner and generous supporter of Maryland Athletics. 

UMD and NASA Join Forces to Improve Global Food Security through Satellite Data

December 8, 2017

Sara Gavin, 301-405-1733

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- Inbal Becker-Reshef, Ph.D. from the University of Maryland (UMD) Department of Geographical Sciences has been selected by NASA to lead a new multidisciplinary consortium dedicated to enhancing the use of satellite data for improving food security and agriculture around the world. The Earth Observations for Food Security and Agriculture Consortium (EOFSAC) will combine the expertise of more than 40 partners to advance the adoption of Earth observations in informing decisions affecting the global food supply. The consortium will partner with NASA’s Food Security Office at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center (GSFC), strengthening the long-standing collaboration between GSFC and the UMD Department of Geographical Sciences (GEOG). 

EOFSAC image“Events such as food price spikes and food shortages related to severe weather illustrate the risks associated with knowledge gaps around food production and supply,” explained Becker-Reshef, Associate Research Professor and co-lead of UMD’s Center for Global Agricultural Monitoring Research (CGAMR). “Satellite data can help identify areas vulnerable to things like drought, flooding and fire, as well as variability in soil, crop conditions and yield status. The goal of this new consortium is to get this data into the hands of more people making decisions about agriculture and food production.”

The EOFSAC’s core objectives are to enhance the use of Earth observations by key decision- and policymakers, which can:

  • increase food security and resilience
  • reduce food price volatility and vulnerability
  • improve awareness and understanding of the applications of NASA’s and other satellite data products by users from a wide range of sectors. 

NASA awarded the EOFSAC a total of $14.5 million over a five-year period through its Research Opportunities in Earth and Space Science (ROSES) grant program. The consortium aligns with NASA’s priority to make its Earth observations freely and openly available to those seeking solutions to important global issues such as food security, changing freshwater availability and human health. It will also constitute NASA’s contribution to the G20-GEOGLAM initiative, with which faculty members from UMD GEOG are significantly involved. 

“NASA’s observations of Earth’s complex natural environment are critical to understanding the global food system. Through this partnership, NASA is interested in how uses of remote sensing data can enhance organizations’ planning and operations, and support broader food security assessments, commodity pricing, risk assessments and policy analysis,” said Dr. Christa Peters-Lidard, Deputy Director for Hydrosphere, Biosphere and Geophysics in the Earth Sciences Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Through this innovative effort, UMD is partnering with top researchers, humanitarian aid organizations, economists, policymakers, agribusiness, defense and intelligence specialists, high-tech companies, financial experts, and other disciplines and sectors. Collaborators include other U.S. institutions such as UC Santa Barbara, Stanford University, University of Wisconsin, Texas A&M University, University of Vermont, USAID, USDA; and a range of international organizations, UN organizations, NGOs, and ministries in countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Argentina, and Canada.

“The UMD Department of Geographical Sciences is uniquely qualified and deeply honored to lead this innovative program that will harness expertise from around the world to develop new solutions to challenges facing the global food supply,” said Dr. Chris Justice, Chair of the UMD Department of Geographical Sciences and scientific lead for the EOFSAC. “Providing decision-makers with access to timely, objective, accurate and actionable information can strengthen food security, market stability and human livelihoods.”

In addition to Becker-Reshef and Justice, members of the UMD Geographical Sciences team leading the EOFSAC include: Alyssa Whitcraft, Alona Bunning, Matt Hansen, Sergii Saskum, Mike Humber, Brian Barker, Christina Justice, Ritvik Sahajpal, Indrani Kommareddy, Belen Franch, Jean Claude Roger, Varaprasad Bandaru, Cesar Izzauralde, Estefania Puricelli, Catherine Nakalembe, and Mark Sullivan.

Learn more about the EOFSAC and the NASA Food Security Initiative.



UMD Professor Receives $1M from USDA NIFA to Increase Poultry Yield and Advance Animal Well-Being

December 6, 2017

Samantha Watters, 301-405-2434

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Professor Tom Porter, Ph.D. has been awarded two grants, totaling $1M, from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) to explore ways to increase poultry yield and meat production while improving the lives of the animals. Additionally, Porter will examine the natural growth hormone processes and resistance to heat stress caused by severe weather patterns. 

“By 2050, the world will be in the wake of a large food shortage,” explained Porter, professor in the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences. “To meet the demand of a growing population and combat hunger, it is anticipated that meat production alone will have to increase 43 to 47 percent across the board, with little to no new land or space for meat production. This presents a major food crisis.”

Porter has been studying the mechanisms behind natural growth hormone production in poultry for 27 years, with consistent federal funding for his work. His research has explored what controls production of the bird’s own growth hormone, when it begins, how to target the DNA to control growth hormone production, and what cellular mechanisms are involved. Porter will use the grant from USDA NIFA’s Animal Nutrition, Growth, and Lactation Program to continue this research. 

“If there is no new land for meat production, the best way to meet our agricultural and food supply needs is through more efficient and effective growth,” said Dr. Porter. 

By inducing the natural growth hormone production process a little earlier in chick development, critical parameters like body weight, yield, composition and feed efficiency (or the amount of feed needed to produce a pound of meat) may be improved, providing more insight into these mechanisms. 

In addition, funding from USDA NIFA’s Animal Well-Being Program will support a new research project. To improve animal welfare, well-being, and overall poultry production, Porter will use the grant to develop a protocol to easily condition chicks to better handle heat waves as adult birds. Chickens begin to exhibit significant heat stress at sustained temperatures of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. With the ever increasing extremes in our global climate, heat waves with prolonged temperatures over 95 degrees are increasingly common. Significant heat stress not only causes the birds to suffer, but often leads to premature death on a large scale. Eggs are normally incubated at 99.5 degrees, and chicks are kept at 92 degrees thereafter. Exposing chicks to 100-degree heat for an additional day when they are young, reduces heat stress and mortality rates by 50 percent.  What is not understood is how this mechanism works, how this affects poultry production and overall yield, and if the protocol can be optimized with more or less conditioning.

“I am a physiologist, and really an endocrinologist, so understanding the mechanisms that regulate hormones and stress is what I enjoy,” said Porter. “But everything we do is to improve the well-being and lives of the animals themselves and to ultimately improve poultry production. That is the key to this work.”  

Quantum Computing Moves Forward with Record Setting UMD-NIST 53 Qubit Quantum Simulator

November 30, 2017

Emily Edwards, 301-405-2291
Lee Tune, 301-405-4679 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- A team of scientists from the University of Maryland (UMD) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have created a quantum simulator using 53 interacting atomic qubits to mimic magnetic quantum matter. Prior to this breakthrough, leading researchers had only created quantum simulators of 20 qubits or less.

Artist's depiction of quantum simulation. Lasers manipulate an array of over 50 atomic qubits in order to study the dynamics of quantum magnetism

Quantum simulators are a restricted type of quantum computer that use qubits to mimic complex quantum matter. By deploying 53 individual ytterbium ions—charged atoms trapped in place by gold-coated and razor-sharp electrodes—the UMD-NIST quantum simulator is on the cusp of exploring physics that is unreachable by even the fastest modern supercomputers. 

The building of qubit simulators is a key step in efforts to build a full-fledged quantum computer capable of tackling any complex computational problem. And, according to the UMD-NIST team, adding even more qubits is just a matter of lassoing more atoms into the mix. 

“We are continuing to refine our system, and we think that soon, we will be able to control 100 ion qubits, or more,” said Jiehang Zhang, a postdoctoral researcher in the UMD Department of Physics, and the lead author of a paper about the team’s 53 qubit quantum simulator that appears in this week’s issue of the journal Nature.  “At that point, we can potentially explore difficult problems in quantum chemistry or materials design.” 

The UMD-NIST paper appears in Nature together with a complementary paper on a previously announced 51 qubit quantum simulator designed by Harvard and MIT researchers that uses rubidium atoms confined by an array of laser beams. 

“Each ion qubit is a stable atomic clock that can be perfectly replicated,” said UMD team lead Christopher Monroe, a Distinguished University Professor of Physics and Bice Sechi-Zorn Professor at UMD, and co-founder and chief scientist of IonQ Inc., a UMD-based quantum computing startup company. “They are effectively wired together with external laser beams. This means that the same device can be reprogrammed and reconfigured, from the outside, to adapt to any type of quantum simulation or future quantum computer application that comes up.”  

Monroe, who is also a fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute and the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science, has been one of the early pioneers in quantum computing and the UMD-NIST quantum simulator is part of a blueprint for a general-purpose quantum computer.  

Quantum hardware for a quantum problem 

While modern, transistor-driven computers are great for crunching their way through many problems, they can screech to a halt when dealing with more than 20 interacting quantum objects. That’s certainly the case for quantum magnetism, in which the interactions can lead to magnetic alignment or to a jumble of competing interests at the quantum scale. 

“What makes this problem hard is that each magnet interacts with all the other magnets,” said UMD research scientist Zhexuan Gong, lead theorist and a co-author of the study. “With the 53 interacting quantum magnets in this experiment, there are over a quadrillion possible magnet configurations, and this number doubles with each additional magnet. Simulating this large-scale problem on a conventional computer is extremely challenging, if at all possible.” 

When these calculations hit a wall, a quantum simulator may help scientists push the envelope on difficult problems. Qubits are isolated and well-controlled quantum systems that can be in a combination of two or more states at once. Qubits come in different forms, and atoms—the versatile building blocks of everything—are one of the leading choices for making qubits. In recent years, scientists have controlled 10 to 20 atomic qubits in small-scale quantum simulations. 

Currently, tech industry behemoths, startups and university researchers are in a fierce race to build prototype quantum computers that can control even more qubits. But qubits are delicate and must stay isolated from the environment to protect the device’s quantum nature. With each added qubit, this protection becomes more difficult, especially if qubits are not identical from the start, as is the case with fabricated circuits. This is one reason that atoms are an attractive choice that can dramatically simplify the process of scaling up to large-scale quantum machinery.  

An atomic advantage 

Unlike the integrated circuitry of modern computers, atomic qubits reside inside of a room-temperature vacuum chamber that maintains a pressure similar to outer space. This isolation is necessary to keep the destructive environment at bay, and it allows the scientists to precisely control the atomic qubits with a highly engineered network of lasers, lenses, mirrors, optical fibers and electrical circuitry.  

“The principles of quantum computing differ radically from those of conventional computing, so there’s no reason to expect that these two technologies will look anything alike,” said Monroe. 

“Quantum simulations are widely believed to be one of the first useful applications of quantum computers. After perfecting these quantum simulators, we can then implement quantum circuits and eventually quantum-connect many such ion chains together to build a full-scale quantum computer with a much wider domain of applications,” said study co-author Alexey Gorshkov, a NIST theoretical physicist, JQI and QuICS fellow, and adjunct assistant professor in the UMD Department of Physics.

Photo: Artist's depiction of quantum simulation. Lasers manipulate an array of over 50 atomic qubits in order to study the dynamics of quantum magnetism. Photo credit: E.Edwards/JQI.

UMD Joins Regional Leaders, Coalition of Stakeholders to Launch Pathways to Opportunity along Maryland’s Purple Line

November 29, 2017

Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland, along with government and community stakeholders, nonprofit organizations, small businesses, and local residents, joined together to launch a landmark agreement to create pathways to opportunity for all who live, work and invest along the Purple Line corridor. Pathways to Opportunity: A Community Development Agreement for the Purple Line Corridor, developed and led by the Purple Line Corridor Coalition (PLCC), articulates a collective vision for equitable economic and community development along the 16.2-mile Purple Line light-rail corridor, and advances strategies to achieve that vision through the pursuit of four shared goals: support and grow local businesses; build a thriving labor market; ensure housing choices for all; and support vibrant, sustainable communities. It is the largest collaborative effort by regional leaders and public and private community stakeholders to shape development along the corridor. 

Photo of Montgomery County Executive Leggett, Prince George's County Executive Baker and  Loh“What this event really signals is the true beginning of this project— to ensure that the Purple Line light-rail creates a place of opportunity for all who live, work and invest in the corridor, and to sustain and support vibrant, healthy communities,” said Gerrit Knaap, director of the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth and architect of the PLCC. “We are at the cusp of an unprecedented opportunity for economic growth and expansion—not just along this corridor, but for the entire metropolitan region. And we have a shot to shape that growth sustainably, equitably and in ways that create new pathways to opportunity, particularly for the culturally rich but economically fragile communities that dot the corridor.”

The community agreement is the result of a four-year process spearheaded by the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth and several community stakeholders, who together, form PLCC. The launch event, which was held on Tuesday, November 29,  attracted over 200 stakeholders from throughout the state, including UMD President Wallace D. Loh, Congressman Jamie Raskin (D), Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, and representatives from PLCC partners— Enterprise Community Partners, CASA, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, and Purple Line NOW

The event helped further conversations around the opportunities and challenges surrounding the four goals, as well as the next steps needed to move the vision forward. A key strength of Pathways to Opportunity: A Community Development Agreement for the Purple Line Corridor is the full range of expertise available within the coalition. Coalition members are experienced in areas such as housing, transportation, job creation and community development. In addition to individual expertise, data analytics developed through the National Center for Smart Growth, which pinpoint areas of opportunity and vulnerability, will be used to inform policy recommendations and fortify efforts to pursue support and funding. 

The Purple Line Corridor Community Development Agreement was created over several years through an open, inclusive stakeholder process led by PLCC, which engaged more than 300 residents, business owners, nonprofit leaders and public officials. The Purple Line light-rail project broke ground in August. Running from New Carrolton, MD to Bethesda, MD, the light-rail project is 16.2 miles and comprises 21 stations. It is the first transit line to connect the Washington Metropolitan Transit System and represents one of the region’s largest transit investments in the 21st century. Inspired by successful and sustainable transit projects in Denver, Seattle and Minneapolis–Saint Paul, the PLCC plans to leverage this major transit investment to benefit both current and future residents, employees, and property owners throughout the region. 

“Considerable research and experience suggests that communities are better able to capitalize on major public investments when they work together, think corridor-wide, and plan ahead,” said Knaap. “The community development agreement was an important first step.”


Photo (from l to r): Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker and UMD President Wallace D. Loh. Photo credit: University of Maryland

University of Maryland Named a Top College for LGBTQ Students

November 27, 2017

Jennifer Burroughs, 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The University of Maryland has been named the seventh best college for LGBTQ students in the 2017 ranking by Campus Pride and Best Colleges. UMD’s LGBT Equity Center is featured for its campus impact within the ranking.

The new ranking combines the Best Colleges academic and affordability metrics and the Campus Pride Index Score, which measures LGBTQ-friendly campus life. Only universities with a 4.5 or 5 star rating, indicating above average performance in all eight of the LGBTQ-inclusive factors on the Campus Pride Index, were considered.

“Excellence is embodied by continuous improvement and engagement across diverse campus communities," said Nic Sakurai, Acting Director, LGBT Equity Center. “No campus is a perfect place for LGBTQ+ people, but what makes the critical difference and what makes the University of Maryland a great place to be is active involvement of LGBTQ+ people and allies across many spheres of academic and campus life, working together to promote intersectional social justice for all.” 

The LGBT Equity Center has been at the forefront of the university’s efforts to cultivate strong communities for Terps of all gender identities and sexual orientations since its inception in 1998. Recent strides made by this office, in conjunction with Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy (MICA) and many other campus partners, have helped make UMD a place where all are welcome: 

  • TransTerps: A campus-wide campaign that identifies, disseminates, and implements good practices for transgender inclusion on campus. The centerpiece of this campaign is to offer tools for offices and student groups to be able to assess and continuously improve their good practices for trans inclusion on campus, including sample syllabus language about names/pronouns, examples of ways to share about pronouns, and examples of good practice for demographic data collection and inclusive restroom signage. Dozens of departments and groups on campus have signed on and are working to improve the climate for trans and gender non-conforming people. 
  • Lavender Leadership Honor Society: A first-of-its-kind collegiate leadership honor society focusing on LGBTQ+ social justice. The society has inducted over 100 members of UMD students, staff, faculty and alumni to the group in addition to honorary inductions for several notable figures including, the Mayor of College Park Patrick Wojahn; actress and advocate Laverne Cox; and noted scholar Cathy Cohen. The society is advised and supported by a student board, and is also affiliated with a series of workshops focusing on leadership development that puts racial justice into focus in the LGBTQ+ community context.
  • LGBT Studies: Both a minor and a certificate in LGBT Studies are offered through the Department of Women's Studies. The program has been in existence formally since 2002 and as of last year has graduated 89 students with certificates and 43 with minors. All LGBT Studies graduates are recognized during the annual Lavender Graduation ceremony hosted by the LGBT Equity Center and supported by the Novak Family LGBT Student fund. 

For more information on UMD’s LGBT Equity Center, visit: https://lgbt.umd.edu/

LGBT Equity Center

LGBT Equity Center

Lavender Graduation


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