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By Natalie Kornicks

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an elegant award-winning writer from Nigeria, but if you ask her she’ll tell you she’s just like her grandmother—“a trouble maker, fierce and difficult,” all of which she loves.

“I think Africans have a tendency to romanticize who and what we are,”Adichie said to the sold-out crowd at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center during the third installment of the 2012-13 WORLDWISE Arts and Humanities Dean’s Lecture Series.

Early in the conversation on Tuesday, Feb. 19, Adichie described a moment that took place in her family's ancestral hometown of Abba, on her way to visit her Uncle Mai—“My father’s only brother. My favourite uncle,” she wrote in an article for the Financial Times in Nigeria last year.

“A woman walking ahead of me tripped and fell, and then she said ‘f***, f***.’ That was the last thing I expected to hear from her. Part of me was taken aback—I probably would have wanted to say something deep and moving, but this woman said f***,” Adichie laughed. “The reality of things is how you want them to be. It’s the reality—you say f*** when you fall down.”

Hearing that word come out of the mouth of such an accomplished author, a MacArthur “genius” award winner who graduated summa cum laude from Eastern Connecticut State University and completed a master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, delighted the crowd with “mild shock,” said Associate Professor Sheri Parks, who moderated the lecture.

“It helped make her point,” Parks said. “For us to see that it made her realize that she had romanticized her homeland.”

A place, where according to Adichie, others in the African community would say of the incident if it were to occur in one of her books, “That’s not Nigerian.”

But even if Adichie is writing about someone else’s experience, it’s authentic. And she doesn’t worry about what other people think about her portrayals of reality and place, because she is telling her own truth, she said.

“I think place is very important for me…I don’t think that what I am—whatever that is—is unable to coexist with Africaness—whatever that is,” she said. “I think I grew up in Nigeria and my sensibility is Nigerian.”

While her two most notable books, Purple Hibiscus (2003) and Half a Yellow Sun (2006), took place in Nigeria, not all of her stories take place in Africa. Yet Adichie said all of her writing is really about exploring “Nigerianness,” which she does through her characters.

Even if the story is set in the U.S.—a country that is filled with “an abundance of unreasonable hope”—it is really about Nigeria, she said.

After soliciting suggestions from the campus for the series and a considerable deliberation process, Adichie was chosen for her relevance across multiple departments of the College of Arts and Humanities to make a balanced and engaging event, according to members of the lecture series committee.

“[Adichie] embodies the spirit of global innovation and connectedness that is at the heart of the University of Maryland’s mission to be a leading internationally recognized institution that fosters cosmopolitan citizenship,” said Assistant Professor of English Keguro Macharia, who recommended Adichie as a potential speaker. “Her works are already widely taught on campus—so students are familiar with her—and her status as a successful African immigrant woman would be inspirational.”

Adichie’s significance to Maryland transcends literature and is not only inspirational to students of English, but also students of theatre, dance, history, linguistics, women’s studies and language and culture.

But overall, Adichie just wants people to tell truthful stories, whether they are good or bad, she said.

When Parks asked Adichie how she felt about being called wise, Parks read the following quote from renowned novelist Chinua Achebe:

“We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers. Adichie knows what is at stake and what to do about it…” Parks read.

“I memorized that,” Adichie said.

And the two finished reciting the quote aloud in tandem, “She is fearless or she would not have taken on the intimidating horror of Nigeria’s civil war. Adichie came almost fully made.”

To hear another motivational conversation, attend the last lecture of the series with Cathy Davidson, who will speak about digital humanities on April 18 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

For more information on Adichie visit: http://www.l3.ulg.ac.be/adichie/

By Jackie Zakrewsky

Hacker. Brainiac. Creative genius. Email savior.

These labels don’t faze software entrepreneur Dave Baggett ’92, founder of the Bethesda, Md.-based company Arcode – though they’re flying thick and fast in the flurry of reviews generated among tech bloggers about Arcode’s first product, Inky.

“So much for the slow organic growth path,” the 2009 Distinguished Alumnus of the College of Arts and Humanities noted in a recent email.

That ubiquitous technology, which Baggett simply calls “mail,” happens to be his current entrepreneurial target. Through a simple download at inky.com, Baggett aims to offer the world a better email experience, with “smart” features such as a unified inbox that consolidates a user’s email accounts and sorts messages by relevance.

Baggett is the first to admit Arcode wasn’t ready to unleash Inky on the world.

“We’re hardly out of [initial] alpha [testing] at this point and are focused primarily on fixing bugs,” he wrote in late December in a post on the Hacker News website.

But Inky’s unexpected debut in the tech community has found Baggett fielding questions about a host of issues, ranging from security and privacy concerns to requests for mobile versions of Inky. The magna cum laude graduate with a double major in linguistics and computer science offers straight-up answers, no matter how much “geek argot,” or tech lingo, is thrown his way.

If you question whether Inky is “wrapped with Chromium Embedded Framework (CEF), with web page JavaScript calling native Python scripts,” Baggett has a simple answer that doesn’t give away the company store: “Yes, it embeds Python and uses CEF. But there’s a lot of other native code running there as well.”

For the past two decades, Baggett’s programming acumen and entrepreneurial spirit have served him well. As he wrote on Hacker News, “I'm a hacker who (long ago) co-wrote Crash Bandicoot (1&2) and co-founded ITA Software, which was sold to Google in 2010.”

That track record led to an extensive overview of Inky in the influential online media hub known as Tech Crunch and prompted one blogger to write, “I’ll try Inky just because of your credentials.”

Meanwhile, the hard work of getting Inky right continues. In an interview at Arcode last year, Baggett noted that making “this transition from the dumb mail client to a smart one entails solving a lot of hard [technical] problems”—to the extent that “larger companies with more resources will not easily clone what you do.”

He also recognized that getting the product right wasn’t the only hurdle he faced in creating Inky.

“The biggest challenge with consumers is you have no idea what they’re going to like,” he said. “It’s worth pointing out that you have to do everything right and then get somewhat lucky to have that happen.”

You can try Inky for free at http://inky.com

Area students explore music technology and career opportunities at the School of Music FAME summer camp. 

By Kelsi Loos, Office of Communications

A roomful of young students tap on samplers and edit keyboard melodies on software they just learned how to use. A few sing softly into microphones.  A teacher walks around, answering questions. It should be chaotic, but it isn’t. Everyone is focused and completely absorbed by their projects. This is the FAME Music Technology Program.      

The program gives area students grades 8 through 12 a chance to explore cutting edge recording software and music composition. Even more importantly, said Toni Lewis of the Foundation for the Advancement of Music and Education (FAME), it gives students a glimpse of educational and career opportunities in music and prepares them to take advantage of those opportunities.

With funding from the United Way and The Community Foundation for Prince George’s County, FAME, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting music education to youth, offers the program free of charge and provides lunch.

The two-week summer camp was founded last year when School of Music graduate Mike Maddox suggested that Professor Bill Evans collaborate with FAME .

Maddox and Evans had worked together teaching at Sherwood High School and Maddox knew that Evans was already planning a music camp of his own.  

They joined forces with FAME and started building a curriculum while FAME began contacting area schools for student nominations.

The course was based on Evans’ MUSC463 “Applications of Music Technology” class which teaches students to use the recording software Pro Tools, Sibelius and Garage Band. Students also learn songwriting skills, music theory and how to share and promote their music online.

Students can record in the piano lab or jazz ensemble room and edit their compositions in the computer lab. For most of the students, it was their first chance to work in a professional studio.

Evans and Maddox were also sure to include lessons on the music industry as a business.  Composer Robin Hodson from SoundTree, the educational division of Korg, was invited to speak to the students and share his career experiences.

“They’re actually getting a little bit of college curriculum,” Evans said, adding later that it demonstrates to the students, “ok, college is something I could do.”

Destiny Williams, 18, a recent Oxon Hill High School graduate said the program “most definitely” prepared her for a college career in music.

The response from the students and the community has been very positive and the number of students rose from 16 last year to 19 this year and the number of applicants doubled, Lewis said.  The program also expanded from one week to two weeks. FAME hopes to further expand the program to a month-long summer program next year.

“From day one, I was hooked on it,” said David Dixon, 16, a student at Eleanor Roosevelt High School.

To hear student work, please visit soundcloud here or here

See a Youtube video promoting the camp.

TDPS explores the cross-cultural possibilities of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

By Beth Cavanaugh, Terp Magazine

How would Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” sound if performed in two countries by a cast speaking two languages? Like a unique cultural exchange, say organizers in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies.

Two dozen Maryland faculty and students are collaborating with peers at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts to put on the play, first on campus in September, then in Beijing. They’ve been working out the challenges of a production with double sets and locations, along with the language barrier and 7,000-mile distance between participants.

 “Splitting a production in two—it sounded impossible. We really had to sit down and figure out how you do it,” said theatre Professor Mitchell Hébert, who is co-directing the production with Yu Fan Lin in China.

Noted costume designer and Professor Helen Huang first shared the idea for a co-production while teaching a master class at the National Academy and quickly won the support of faculty there.

Emails, Skype meetings, translators and visits in both Beijing and College Park facilitated the process, and by February 2011, the group decided it could be done.

Maryland faculty and students will design and construct the costumes and set, and play the parts of the fairies and mechanicals. Their Chinese counterparts will build a duplicate set in Beijing and take on the roles of the court, lovers and supernatural characters. Shared responsibilities include directing and technical aspects, such as lighting.

All actors will perform in their native language. Audiences in both countries will read translations through supertitles.

Laree Lentz, a master of fine arts student who helped design the costumes, worked closely with the Beijing academy students to develop ideas that represented both cultures. “Through this process of two cultures coming together,” she says, “we realized that no matter how different we seemed to be, we are actually similar in so many ways."

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