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Research and Scholarly Work


Maryland history department's Freedmen and Southern Society Project, directed by Professor Leslie Rowland, wins $325,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to continue work on the publication of its volumes.


Linda Aldoory, professor of communication and associate dean for research and development, is part of a research team that has received a five-year, $12 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC has awarded the Prince George’s County Health Department a $12 million, five-year cooperative agreement to improve access to chronic disease care for an estimated 1.2 million residents in Prince George’s, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties. The cooperative agreement will fund strategies that establish or strengthen the integration of clinical practice with evidence-based public health programs to improve treatment resources, prevention programs and overall health outcomes for patients at high-risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Partners include: Calvert County Health Department; Charles County Health Department; Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients; Community Care Coordination Team; Existing CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Programs; Health Quality Innovators; HealthCare Dynamics International; Institute for Public Health Innovation; Maryland Department of Health; Maryland Rural Health Association; P3 Pharmacist Network (University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, Maryland Pharmacists Association, Maryland General Assembly, Maryland Department of Health); Prince George’s County Healthcare Alliance, Inc.; St. Mary’s AccessHealth; St. Mary’s County Health Department; Totally Linked Care, LLC (CalvertHealth Memorial Hospital, University of Maryland Capital Region North, Doctors Community Hospital, Fort Washington Medical Center, MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, Area Agencies on Aging, Maryland State Medical Society and Primary Care Providers, Prince George’s County Health Department, Calvert County Health Department); University of Maryland, School of Arts and Humanities, Department of Communication; University of Maryland, School of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology & Public Health; and the University of Maryland, School of Public Health, Horowitz Center for Health Literacy.

Aldoory is the Health Communication Lead on the cooperative agreement. The CDC awarded only 14 teams across the country to improve chronic disease health care and prevention. The local team that Aldoory is part of will focus on Prince George's County and Southern Maryland. Aldoory's work will involve developing and implementing tailored messaging to reach underserved communities with the goals of 1) increasing awareness of diabetes and cardiovascular disease and 2) eliminating barriers to participation in programs for prevention and disease management.

Students and audiences will experience the composer’s complex musical range.

Kurt Weill is one of the most influential American composers of the twentieth century. He also happened to be an immigrant to the U.S., fleeing Nazi Germany in 1933 after riots broke out at his performances and propaganda campaigns warned against attending his productions.

The University of Maryland (UMD) School of Music (SOM) will highlight the complex history of Weill’s life and works in a yearlong festival launching this fall. The SOM received a Collaborative Performance Initiative grant from the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, chartered to preserve the legacies of Weill and his wife actress-singer Lotte Lenya, to support the Kurt Weill Festival. The grant will help fund performances of Weill’s concert and staged works, including “The Road of Promise,” “Zaubernacht,” "Mahagonny Songspiel" and "Street Scene,” throughout the year as well as bring scholars and guest lecturers to campus to give insight on Weill as both an immigrant and a composer. The festival will engage nearly all of the 450 undergraduate and graduate music students through the study and performance of Weill’s works for the concert stage and theater.

“This festival offers a unique opportunity for our faculty and students to explore works that are infrequently heard and that provide insight into the development of a composer whose output touches on so many important aspects of the twentieth century,” says Jason Geary, director of the SOM.

The Kurt Weill Festival is part of UMD’s campus-wide “Year of Immigration,” which aims to transform dialogue into impact on urgent issues related to immigration, and to foster open conversation and greater connection with the university’s large and diverse international community. The festival will examine Weill’s work in both Europe and America, where he composed for Hollywood and Broadway, and the rise of a musical theatre style that combines elements of popular and classical music. Festival participants and attendees will also learn about his collaborations with artists such as Bertolt Brecht, Ira Gershwin and Langston Hughes, and about the social issues found in Weill’s work, such as racism, religion and domestic violence.

“Weill created works that responded to and addressed the society in which he lived,” says Craig Kier, artistic director of the Weill Festival and director of the Maryland Opera Studio. “The issues he explored in his compositions some 75 years ago continue to resonate in today’s world.”  

This grant builds on an existing relationship between the foundation and the SOM. In 2016, the Maryland Opera Studio received funding for its production of “Regina,” by Marc Blitzstein, whose musical and literary estate is administered by the foundation.

“Collaborating with the SOM on the shaping of this festival has yielded exciting results thus far,” says Brady Sansone, director of programs and business affairs at the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music. “We look forward to the continued partnership, to some excellent performances of Weill's music and to the opportunities afforded by this festival to illuminate facets of his life and work.”

Image of Kurt Weil Courtesy of the Weill-Lenya Research Center, Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, New York

By UMD Right Now Staff | UMD Right Now

"COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The University of Maryland (UMD) is part of multi-institutional team tasked with building a powerful set of language technologies that can unlock information that has previously been unsearchable, and ultimately unfindable.

"The four-year project, funded by a $14.4M grant from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), is expected to produce a language processing system that allows a user to type in a query in English and have information returned in English—even if the content is only available in a lesser-known language like Croatian."

Read the full announcement in UMD Right Now

Photo via UMIACS 


UMD professors are researching how studying the arts impacts academic achievement.

An interdisciplinary team of scholars from the University of Maryland (UMD) is exploring the relationship between the arts and academic achievement. Led by Kenneth Elpus, associate professor of music education in UMD's School of Music, the team is using newly available data sets and innovative statistical methods to compare the academic achievement of K-12 students who voluntarily enroll in arts courses with those who do not. The research is supported by a two-year, $600,000 Arts in Education research grant from the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.

“Our research is asking important questions,” said Elpus. “What happens when students study arts in high school?  Are they more engaged? Does that engagement yield benefits during and after the transition to college?”

Two other UMD professors are collaborating with Elpus on the project: Stephanie Prichard, assistant professor of music education, and Laura M. Stapleton, professor of measurement, statistics and evaluation in UMD's College of Education.

The research builds on Elpus’ previous work, which focuses on the demographics of students enrolled in arts courses and the social and academic impact of those courses on students.

There is already some research which suggests that students who study the arts are more likely to get into college and complete a degree, but Elpus says that these studies do not account for the variety of arts courses available to students or the differing types of curricula that count as “arts education.” His own past research, for example, looks at the relationship between music education and academic achievement. This current study looks at participation in arts education more holistically by analyzing data from students studying not only music, but also dance, film, theater and studio art, all of whom are following the specific arts curricula developed by the International Baccalaureate (IB) Organization as part of its IB Diploma Programme.

Elpus also cautions that past research does not always account for the clear link between arts education and socioeconomic status. Students who study the arts tend to come from families with more social and economic resources than non-arts students. Moreover, students with greater social and economic means tend to have higher academic achievement in general. They are more likely to apply to and attend college, and they are more likely to complete their degrees.  

“Adolescents who study visual art, music, theater, or dance are already a select population,” Elpus said. “In order to make a fair comparison between kids who study art and those who don’t, you need to take into account all of the interwoven social and economic variables at play.”

To do that, the team is using a statistical research method called propensity score matching, which allows them to model how different variables are connected to the likelihood that a student would study an art form. First, they examine all the demographic characteristics of each individual in the data set and determine how each characteristic influences the likelihood that a student would enroll in an IB arts course. Based on this analysis, they calculate a score for each student in the data set that represents how likely that student is to study the arts. Then, they make comparisons among students with overlapping scores.

“Many of the students will have similar background characteristics, leading to similar propensity scores, but one will be an arts student and one will not,” said Elpus. “Propensity score matching lets us tell a fuller story about who studies the arts and how it impacts them by making a statistically fairer ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison.”

Bringing a creative, humanistic approach to quantitative research allows the team to ask unexpected questions that go beyond the original intentions of existing data sets. To conduct their analysis, they are using data from several different sources, including the National Student Clearinghouse, an educational reporting and data exchange organization, even though the data were not specifically gathered to research the impact of arts education on academic achievement.

“This pioneering research embodies the bold, innovative creativity for which the School of Music has become known,” said Jason Geary, director of UMD’s School of Music. “It holds the potential to fundamentally reshape the ways in which educational leaders think about the relationship between the arts and academic achievement.”


Program leverages UMD’s language expertise to create professional development network.

Through a four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Foreign Language Center (NFLC) in the College of Arts and Humanities (ARHU) at the University of Maryland is developing a comprehensive, research-based professional development program for world language teachers, with a particular focus on the needs of community colleges and instructors of less commonly taught languages.  

The program, “Professionals in Education Advancing Research and Language Learning” (PEARLL), received special designation from the Department of Education to become a Title VI Language Resource Center (LRC), joining a national network of centers developing resources to promote the teaching and learning of world languages. The program aims to create a common vision for high-quality language learning by providing language educators with new models of professional development and effective support materials.

Rebecca Damari, co-director of PEARLL and director of research at the NFLC, said that there are few platforms for world language scholars to exchange information with teachers in real-world classroom settings. Providing opportunities for educators to engage with high-quality, research-based professional development—and tracking the impact of this training on educators and students—are key program goals.

“There is so much research on what’s effective,” said Damari. “But many language educators don’t have good ways to access the research, and not all professional development is research-based.”

The NFLC is uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between scholars and practitioners because of its expertise in both research and teacher training. Through the STARTALK initiative and other federally-funded projects, the NFLC has led teacher development programs for over a decade and in the process developed a substantial catalog of resources for both teachers and students of world languages.

The project will build on these already robust materials to create an online hub of resources for language educators and offer in-person and remote professional development opportunities. Through these resources, the project aims to create a professionalized network of world language instructors.

“The needs of world language teachers are often overlooked, leaving them feeling marginalized and unsupported,” said Thomas Sauer, co-director of PEARLL and senior associate for professional development at the NFLC. “The resources we are developing will empower teachers by allowing them to connect with each other, share information and take control of their professional growth.”

NFLC is partnering with Miami Dade College and Northern Virginia Community College, both minority-serving community colleges, to pilot the resources offered by PEARLL.

“World language skills are essential to developing global understanding and fostering diversity,” said Bonnie Thornton Dill, professor and dean of ARHU. “Supporting language teachers will ensure that learners develop the linguistic and cultural literacy they need to compassionately and successfully interact with others in the global economy, both here in the U.S. and around the world.”

Merle Collins combines scholarship, literature and activism in research about Louise Langdon Norton Little, the mother of Malcolm X.

By Lorraine Graham

To write about Malcolm X’s mother, Louise Langdon Norton Little, Merle Collins is helping preserve the national archives of Grenada, researching the colonial legacy of the Caribbean and tracking down Little’s descendants. As usual, Collins refuses to separate her scholarship from the work she does as a writer, teacher and activist.

Collins is professor of English in the College of Arts and Humanities at Maryland, where she has taught for more than two decades. The university recently named her a 2018 Distinguished Scholar-Teacher in recognition of her exceptional scholarship and teaching. As an esteemed figure in the field of Caribbean literature and culture, she has produced creative work and critical scholarship in a breathtaking range of genres. On November 15 she will present her work on Malcolm X’s mother during her Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Lecture.  

“Although most of the work I do now happens inside the university,” said Collins, “I never lose sight of how universities are part of local and international communities that have complex cultures and histories.”

These connections among scholarship, creativity and practice are at the heart of Collins’ work and stem from her lived experience. The 1960s and 70s were a time of political and intellectual revolution in the Caribbean. Collins grew up in Grenada when it was still a British colony, along with many other islands in the Caribbean. When she arrived in Mona, Jamaica in 1969 to study British literature at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Jamaica had only been independent for seven years and Grenada was still controlled by the British.

At UWI, artists and intellectuals discussed not only the political future of the Caribbean, but the history and possibilities of Caribbean literature. As a child, Collins listened to her mother and maternal grandmother tell stories in English-based Creole, a distinct language that grew out of the mixture of languages spoken on the island throughout history. The use of Caribbean creoles in writing was a hotly debated topic among UWI faculty and students.

“People at Mona were debating everything—What is the Caribbean? What do we do about our colonial inheritance?” said Collins. “When I heard other writers use creole-speaking voices in their work, I thought, ‘Can you really do that?’”

Her time at UWI was formative, and encouraged her to explore ways of voicing the complex stories of Caribbean people, especially women. Her work features characters that speak both Creole and English and is infused with deep attention to the violent colonial history of the region.

This concern with history and women’s stories led her to research the story of  Malcolm X’s mother, Louise Langdon Norton Little. Little was from Grenada, and her life story lays bare the brutality of slavery and colonialism. Little’s grandparents were captured off the coast of Africa, likely near what is now Nigeria, before being freed from their slave ship by the British. They were eventually taken to  Grenada. Collins believes it is important to look at the violence that gave birth to Louise Langdon Little alongside the popular narrative about Malcolm X, who is often remembered as much for his militancy as his activism.

Collins is doing archival research and speaking to some of Little’s descendants and living relatives. Although the book will incorporate elements of biography, history and fiction, she says that the final text will not fit any existing genre. As usual, Collins is challenging ideas about what literature can be in order to integrate her scholarship, creativity and activism.

“I want my readers to question their assumptions and expectations,” said Collins. “Using a variety of forms and voices is one way to do that.”

The desire to engage readers is similar to how Collins approaches teaching, where she incorporates diverse perspectives into coursework. In a course on Caribbean literature to be held in collaboration with UWI this spring, students from both universities will be able to talk through these ideas together. Funded by a 2018 UMD Global Classrooms Initiative Grant, the course, will give students at both universities an innovative, cross-cultural learning experience.

“My hope is to show how language shapes our identities and the way we think about others,” Collins said. “Literature can help us make the imaginative leap to seeing that our assumptions about culture and language cannot be universally applied to everyone.”

The Search for the story of Louise Langdon Norton Little, mother of Malcolm X,” Collins’ talk for the 2018 “Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Lecture Series,” will take place from 4-5 p.m. Nov. 15 in the Ulrich Recital Hall, 1121 Tawes Hall. The event is free.

Image: Photo illustration by J.J. Nelson featuring undated photo of Louise Langdon Norton Little in the center. (Photo credit: Abdul Aziz Omar via PBS “American Experience”).


UMD artists and researchers open new views of opera.

By Chris Carroll | TERP

"For decades, audiences have watched from their seats as a group of nuns are marched to the guillotine at the climax of Francis Poulenc’s 1956 opera 'Dialogues of the Carmelites.'

"Now, thanks to a collaboration between the Maryland Opera Studio and the Maryland Blended Reality Center, they can be on stage with the performers through virtual reality (VR) technology.

"It can get almost uncomfortably intimate, as when a doomed young novice sings a hymn, seemingly staring into the eyes of the viewer only two feet away. The viewer is wearing a VR headset, but too immersed in the performance to even notice.

“'You can look at the micro-expressions of the performers, you can see the gleam in their eye, and really establish empathy with them,' says Amitabh Varshney, a professor of computer science, dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences and one of the project’s leaders."

Read the complete article in TERP

Image via TERP



Subject:           NEH Summer Stipends

Sponsor:         National Endowment for the Humanities

Internal UMD deadline:   September 14, 2018

Sponsor Deadline:  September 26, 2018

Summer Stipends support individuals pursuing advanced research that is of value to humanities scholars, general audiences, or both. Eligible projects usually result in articles, monographs, books, digital materials and publications, archaeological site reports, translations, or editions. Summer Stipends support continuous full-time work on a humanities project for a period of two consecutive months. Summer Stipends support projects at any stage of development.

Award Information: Summer Stipends provide $6,000 for two consecutive months of full-time research and writing. Recipients must work full-time on their projects for these two months and may hold other research grants supporting the same project during this time. Summer Stipends normally support work carried out during the summer months, but arrangements can be made for other times of the year.

Further information about the program and the submission process is available on the National Endowment for the Humanities site at: https://www.neh.gov/grants/research/summer-stipends.

Campus Nomination Process

The NEH Summer Stipends program allows two (2) nominees per institution. A three-page, single-spaced narrative and a two-page resume must be submitted through the VPR’s InfoReady Limited Submission portal by 5pm on Friday, September 14, 2018 (see below for detailed submission instructions). Campus nominees will be notified no later than Monday, September 24, 2018. The final submission deadline is Wednesday, September 26, 2018.

All materials submitted for consideration for a campus nomination must follow the NEH guidelines found at the link noted above. Materials that do not conform to the published guidelines will not be considered.

Questions regarding the application process or guidelines may be directed to Linda Aldoory, laldoory@umd.edu. TEL: 301-405-7364.

How to Apply through InfoReady

  1. Go to:   https://umd.infoready4.com/ .
  2. Use the “Log In” feature in the top right hand corner of the red heading banner to create a profile on the system.
  3. Use the blue “University of Maryland Login” button to activate your profile using your UMD directory credentials.
  4. Navigate to the “home” page on InfoReady. On the home page, a table is shown listing all the currently open competitions.
  5. Find the NEH Summer Stipend competition – click on the title to access.
  6. After reviewing all the information and guidelines for the competition, find and click on “Submit Application.”
  7. Follow the detailed instructions on how to apply and what materials to submit. Please note that materials are to be uploaded in one PDF only.



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