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The University of Maryland Launches a Presidential Grand Challenges Course on Today’s Most Pressing Issues

UMD's new Grand Challenges course, taught by University President Darryll J. Pines and featuring presentations by other top experts, offers students the chance to address and build leadership together on some of today's most important and pressing issues


Natifia Mullings , 301-405-3468


COLLEGE PARK, Md.– The University of Maryland is launching a Grand Challenges course on some of today’s most pressing issues, taught by University President Darryll J. Pines, and also featuring presentations by other top experts from UMD and around the country.

The course will meet virtually twice per week and help students address and build leadership on issues such as COVID-19, climate change,recent social unrest that has led to the Black Lives Matter movement, and threats to fair and equal voting for all. The course will provide small class settings for first-year students to get to know each other while investigating these challenges, implications for the future and possible responses.

"I want our students to know that they can indeed come up with solutions to the grand challenges of our time," said University of Maryland President Darryll J. Pines.

Current national and world events present unprecedented challenges, but also provide a meaningful chance to learn each other’s stories, to investigate today’s issues together, to examine our shared humanity and how history is recorded, and to explore new and better paths forward. This new course will introduce new students to national and campus experts working on these issues. Together, students will create their own historical documentation of current events for future UMD students. Through this course, students will more deeply understand society’s grand challenges and how to tackle them; build lasting connections with each other and with faculty and staff; and become part of a Maryland legacy.

Select lectures in this course will be presented as Presidential Distinguished Forums and opened to the campus community. Recordings of these forums will be made available on the university’s YouTube channel.

Presidential Distinguished Forums Speakers

Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, is a pediatrician, professor, and public health advocate whose research exposed the Flint water crisis. Her research revealed children were exposed to dangerous levels of lead in Flint, Michigan. She is now the director of an initiative to mitigate the impact of the crisis.

Stephanie Evergreen (Ph.D). is best known for bringing a research-based approach to data visualization to help researchers better communicate their work through more effective graphs, slides, and reports. She is founder of Maker of Data Viz Rockstars, and many data practitioners rely on Dr. Evergreen's expertise and guidance in order to effectively communicate evidence-based decisions to all members of their communities. An unfaltering supporter of social and racial justice, Evergreen often donates a portion of her Evergreen Data Academy to support causes voted by her membership base.

Reginald Dwayne Betts is an American poet, memoirist, and teacher. As a result of a carjacking he committed at the age of sixteen, he was sentenced to over eight years in prison. He has since gone on to author several award-winning works, including poetry, a memoir, and legal scholarship. He received his BA from UMD and a law degree from Yale. He is currently working on a PhD in Law at Yale.

About the University of Maryland

The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students,10,000 faculty and staff, and 297 academic programs. As one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright scholars, its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners and 58 members of the national academies. The institution has a $2.1 billion operating budget and secures more than $1 billion annually in research funding together with the University of Maryland, Baltimore. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit


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