Johns Hopkine Magazine The latest from Johns Hopkins Magazine. Johns Hopkine Magazine Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Bedtime Math program improves kids' math skills <p>Parents teach young children to love books by reading to them, often at bedtime. Laura and John Overdeck love math, so they started giving their kids a word problem to solve each night before tucking them in. They made the little math puzzles relevant to something the family had done that day: "When we made milkshakes after dinner, we made two chocolate shakes and three strawberry shakes. How many total milkshakes did we make?" As the kids' abilities grew, Mom and Dad Overdeck raised the bar, making the problems a tad harder: "If it took two minutes to make each milkshake, how long did it take us to make all of them?"</p> <p>When her third child came into his siblings' bedrooms at age 2 demanding his own math problem, Laura, who is a member of the advisory board of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, knew she was onto something. She had made math so much fun that a kid—at least her kid—was clamoring for it. So in 2012, she began writing daily word problems, posting them to a blog she called <a href=""><em>Bedtime Math</em></a>, and sending the link to friends.</p> <p>Her email list grew by word of mouth, gradually. Things got out of hand, in a good way, when Maria Blackburn, a communications and marketing manager at CTY, shared the math-at-bedtime idea with some of her blogger friends. One of those friends was KJ Dell'Antonia, who wrote about <em>Bedtime Math</em> in the <em>New York Times</em> parenting blog, <em>Motherlode</em>, in April 2012. Months later, NPR's <em>Morning Edition</em> aired a story about Overdeck's blog, and <em>Bedtime Math</em> has grown exponentially ever since. It's now a nine-person nonprofit organization producing the website <a href=""></a> with daily problems for "wee ones" (preschool), "little kids" (kindergarten to second grade), and "big kids" (third to fifth grade). The nonprofit has organized math clubs in all 50 states and created no-frills apps to access the word problems on mobile devices. Overdeck has published three collections of the problems with kid-friendly illustrations; royalties from the books help fund the nonprofit.</p> <p>From the start, Overdeck targeted math-phobic parents as much as their young children. "When our oldest was 7, we were already hearing parents say they couldn't help with their child's homework," she says. Recently, psychology faculty at the University of Chicago validated her belief that engaged parents could help kids' math skills. In the October 2015 issue of <em>Science</em>, the researchers reported on a yearlong study in which they asked 587 socioeconomically diverse first-graders and their parents in the Greater Chicago area to use <em>Bedtime Math</em> on the tablet app for a year. Compared with a control group of families who read stories but did not pose math problems, the children using <em>Bedtime Math</em> improved their skills within months. The gains were most dramatic in families of those adults who had identified themselves as anxious about math, resulting in those children's math grade levels jumping by an average of 1.2 months when tested at the end of the year. "When parents and children interact about math story problems—even as little as once a week—children show increased math achievement by the end of the school year," wrote Sian Beilock, one of the study's lead authors.</p> <p>In another study led by Lisa Feigenson, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the Krieger School, researchers are measuring the impact of <em>Bedtime Math</em> after-school clubs on kids' attitudes toward math. Launched about a year ago, the Crazy 8s clubs provide an eight-session activity guide and some school supplies. The clubs now number more than 1,500. "Five hundred was our stretch goal," Overdeck says. "It's just going bonkers." She's pleased that the clubs serve kids of every income level. One day, she says, she took a request for a club from the Dalton School, on Manhattan's Upper East Side, and 15 minutes later a school in rural Appalachian Ohio called.</p> <p>Ultimately, the math clubs re-create what Overdeck wishes could happen in every child's home: kids bonding with others while doing fun activities that strengthen their math skills. She loves hearing reports that when sign-up sheets go up for Crazy 8s clubs, they fill in a day. "That is probably our singular achievement," she says. "There's a waitlist for math club!"</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Assistant Professor Dora Malech and high schooler Jaida Griffin design poetry course <p>Over the past year, Dora Malech and Jaida Griffin would get together to talk about writing. Malech is an assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars; her poem "Party Games" was selected for <em>The Best American Poetry 2015</em>. Griffin is a Baltimore City high school student whom Malech met last year through Writers in Baltimore Schools, a nonprofit organization that provides writing instruction to low-income students. They consider themselves poetry buddies, writers at different stages of their development sharing skills and stories. "Jaida is so mature she doesn't need my mentorship," Malech says.</p> <p>When they first started meeting up, though, Malech didn't envision them designing a course together.</p> <p>But that's what they're doing: In spring 2016, they will work together on the Writing Seminars class Readings in Poetry: Of Late—Poetry & Social Justice, which will include both Hopkins undergraduates and Baltimore City high school students. Malech is one of three inaugural Engaged Faculty fellows chosen by the Homewood Student Affairs' Center for Social Concern for the 2015–16 academic year. The program supports collaborations between faculty and Baltimore grassroots organizations to offer undergraduate courses that embrace CBL—community-based learning—which aims to link classroom discussions with hands-on civic engagement.</p> <p>Malech's class seeks to connect poetry to social justice activism. The other two fellows, Associate Professor Lester Spence in Political Science and assistant research scientist Daniel Pasciuti in Sociology, will tackle how their disciplines study housing issues, partnering with fair-housing advocate Right to Housing Alliance and the homelessness agency Housing Our Neighbors, respectively.</p> <p>Center for Social Concern Associate Director Gia Grier McGinnis, the program's coordinator, says Hopkins undergraduates have been asking for more CBL opportunities for years. Over the summer, the fellows and their community partners met to discuss class plans and logistics—Where will classes meet? How will students get there?—conversations that continued throughout the fall semester. These meetings were a chance to discuss CBL methodology, but they also allowed scholars and community organizers to share how they frame and discuss issues. Those conversations, to Malech, are what all participants gain from the model: face-to-face time with people who have different experiences of the world. As personally rewarding as volunteering at a community event can be, the potential insight gained from that isn't the same as talking and debating ideas with people who, on account of whatever obstacle, don't end up in, say, Johns Hopkins undergraduate classes.</p> <p>"I hope the class provides an opportunity for Hopkins and high school students to get to know each other," Malech says. They're not that far apart in age, she notes, and over her first year in Baltimore she's heard local high school students ask about what it's like to be in college—as well as Johns Hopkins students who want to know more about growing up in Baltimore. "Neither of those are homogeneous experiences," Malech says. "Those stories will be different for everybody, and I hope there is something to be gained from that."</p> <p>Malech would like her impending class to provide that learning opportunity by exploring how poetry has been used as a voice for social justice, touching on examples from Eastern Europe under communism to the writing that came out of African- American political activism in the 1960s and '70s. Students will also engage with Baltimore's poetry community to see how literature and politics intersect.</p> <p>Seeing how literary life and civic life come together for a small segment of Baltimore writers may seem like a small step, but social justice progresses in such incremental, sustained steps. The Engaged Faculty program fellows want to highlight what community members, students, and faculty members "are gaining from interaction, across generations or across communities," Malech says. "I believe literature and writing can start conversations and connect people across those perceived barriers."</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Biomedical engineering postgrad encourages sex workers to leave the streets <p>Aaron Chang's first trip to the bleak streets of southwest Baltimore came four years ago. He met a young woman there who said to call her "Candy—though that's not really my name." Chang, then the new guy on an outreach team from a Baltimore charity that encourages sex workers to leave the streets, had no interest in buying time with Candy. He was there to let sex workers, many of whom are coerced into their line of work, know that there are people who care about them. As the night progressed, Chang, Engr '14, who is now a postgraduate fellow in the Whiting School's Biomedical Engineering program, says, "I saw how much of this was going on in Baltimore and thought, 'This is ridiculous. I have to do something about this.'"</p> <p>And so he does. On weekends, Chang serves as an outreach coordinator for Safe House of Hope, an organization that tries to help prostitutes get out of sex work. Volunteers pass out rubber bracelets that have Safe House's phone number discretely etched on the inside. The hope is that sex workers will call the number for help. Volunteers also hand out plastic zip-close bags, each containing cookies, candy, a drink, eight condoms, and an inspirational message that other volunteers have written on a card.</p> <p>Chang is one of 100 or more Hopkins-affiliated people who have donated their time since the group was formed nearly five years ago, reaching out to thousands of streetwalkers. Right now, Chang estimates, nearly two-thirds of the group's volunteers have some Johns Hopkins connection. "We have between 15 and 40 Hopkins volunteers at any given time," says Denene Yates, the charity's founder. While taking a year off between graduation and starting his master's studies, Chang created a website that allows Safe House volunteers to schedule outreach rides, share notes on some of the prostitutes they encounter, and compile descriptions of abusive johns and their vehicles so that volunteers can warn sex workers about them. Chang often drives on street runs.</p> <p>Theresa Barberi, a postdoctoral fellow in pediatric oncology at the School of Medicine, not only works as the charity's administrative coordinator—producing a newsletter, writing grant proposals, organizing meetings, and helping with volunteer training—she is also the point person on many outreach rides. Sitting in the passenger seat, she interacts with sex workers. Because of the danger that a pimp may be lurking nearby, Barberi takes only two minutes to let prostitutes on the street know that someone else is keeping an eye out for them. "It's important to note that we're not rescuing people," says Barberi, who this year received a Johns Hopkins Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award for her volunteer work. "We're offering a way to bridge the gap between the streets and a new life."</p> <p>Tara, a 38-year-old Safe House client who had been regularly beaten and pimped out of a Baltimore hotel (and who would not divulge her last name), says Barberi has become not just an aid to her recovery but a friend. "She's taken me to her church, had me meet her friends, and when I got sick she took me to the hospital," she says. "She's become the sister I never had."</p> <p>Volunteers say that the constant contact with sex workers, very few of whom become Safe House clients, can take its toll. "You see this dead look in their eyes," says Chang, who first heard about Safe House through his church. When he saw Candy again one year after their first encounter, she looked almost skeletal. Undergraduate Christine Situ was introduced to Safe House of Hope by her dorm's resident assistant, who invited her to pen some of the message cards. Now, she spends some weekend nights sitting in the backseat during outreach runs, entering notes into her smartphone on a sex worker's appearance, gender, name, and whatever they had to say. "At first, I was surprised at the realness of it all," says Situ. "The fact that you can see someone as young as 13 working the streets shocked me. At Hopkins, you can feel trapped in a bubble until you graduate and leave. Working at Safe House has taken me out of that bubble and made me see the real need to work with underprivileged groups."</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 PhD student Seth LeJacq focuses his research on Royal Navy sex crimes <p>Seth LeJacq didn't set out to write a detailed history of sodomy prosecutions in Britain's Royal Navy from 1690 to 1840. Initially, the doctoral candidate in the School of Medicine's Department of the History of Medicine wanted to know what everyday medical care was like for common people in the 17th through 19th centuries. The Royal Navy hired surgeons as ships' doctors, and like any bureaucracy it kept records about itself. Since ships were crewed by sailors from the working class, LeJacq decided to have a look at those records. He noticed that surgeons were called to courts-martial to testify about sex crimes.</p> <p>So during his first research trip to the National Archives outside London in 2011, he thought he'd pull a few sex crimes case files and read through them; whatever he learned might occupy a chapter in his study.</p> <p>He was overwhelmed by what he found. "I started finding so many more cases than I'd been led to believe," he says. The naval courts-martial records "claim to be accurate transcripts of what happened, and they're incredibly rich. Some are hundreds of pages long. You get the profanity from sailors. You get explicit descriptions of what took place. You uncover all sorts of unexpected things. I started to realize that hundreds and hundreds of men were caught up in this, and a lot of the stories are totally unknown."</p> <p>LeJacq became so engrossed in those stories they became the new focus of his research. The time period they cover—the 17th and 18th centuries—overlaps with what other historians have wit­nessed as a surge of prosecutions in Northern Europe of men for sexual contact with other men. What that uptick means remains unclear. "Some people think this period is when we first start finding the predecessors to a gay minority in cities," he says. "The navy was probably the best record keeper of the entire era in Britain, and we still haven't reconstructed what happened in this history. I think there's nothing comparable for that time period, certainly not if you're trying to investigate the history of homosexuality."</p> <p>He notes that the British criminal and military legal systems informed those of nearly every nation the British Empire reached, including the United States. When medical professionals were called to give expert testimony regarding sex crimes, these cases provide a framework for understanding how medical fact was used to support what was legally acceptable and led to verdicts that would shape what was considered socially acceptable. LeJacq discovered that what concerned the Royal Navy wasn't the fact of men having sex with men; it was the abuse of power. Naval courts were "particularly concerned with cases where a higher status man was having sexual contact with somebody who was of a lower status," LeJacq says. What mattered most was the difference in hierarchy: a captain forcing himself on a servant, an ordinary seaman going after a boy on the ship. "That crime worried naval authorities in a way that other crimes didn't, and my interpretation is that the navy, this rigidly hierarchical system, relied on its hierarchy at every level for how the ship was run."</p> <p>This detour through men who'd been caught up in the Royal Navy's sex crime dockets, and the navy's insistence on hierarchical integrity, has brought LeJacq back to understanding the thoughts and lives of common people in this era. "The reason I felt compelled to do this work is that the ships and the navy are made up almost entirely of working-class men," he says. "They're not the kind of guys you hear from in history. Many of them were illiterate. They're very unlikely to leave any written records—maybe a will." Their testimonies become a window into understanding what they think. "What does it mean when men sleep together?" LeJacq says. "What do they think about the kind of men who do that? How do they understand this? This archive is a unique set of sources. Even up until fairly recent times, it's hard to get a sense of how ordinary people thought about sex generally—and certainly not about sex that was considered taboo."</p> <p>From Samuel Taylor Coleridge's <em>Rime of the Ancient Mariner</em> and Gilbert and Sullivan's <em>H.M.S. Pinafore</em> to C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series and the 21 novels in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series (<em>Master and Commander</em>), British navy stories have occupied popular entertainment for 200 years. "We tell ourselves stories about what those people were like," he says. "We have these stereotyped images, but I think they have a lot more to do with us than with what those people were actually like. Doing full justice to their lives is a huge undertaking, but I want to look at this little piece, at least, and excavate as much as I can about how they lived and what they thought."</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Synthetic chemist Rebekka Klausen will study silicon at the nanoscale <p>Rebekka Klausen's doctoral research focused on carbon-carbon bonds. This is common in her discipline. Carbon-carbon bonds—that is, carbon atoms bonding through shared electrons to form a multitude of molecules—are structures so fundamental to life they get their own field of scientific inquiry: organic chemistry. But as a postdoc, Klausen noted that silicon sits just below carbon in its column of the periodic table. An important aspect of that table is that elements in the same column have similar sorts of bonding and reactivity. "I became really interested in exploring that," she says. "Here is this element, silicon, that is so important in the electronics industry, but its synthetic chemistry is so much less understood than carbon's. Could I bring my skills as someone who knows how to make carbon-carbon bonds to understanding the chemistry of silicon-silicon bonds?"</p> <p>Good career move, as it turns out. Klausen, an assistant professor of chemistry in the Krieger School, recently learned she is one of the 44 young scientists who have been awarded substantial grants by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of its Early Career Research Program. She will receive $750,000 over the next five years to work on the chemistry of silicon.</p> <p>Silicon is abundant, mainly in the form of silica, a compound of silicon and oxygen that makes up 90 percent of the Earth's crust. And it's important: semiconductors, solar cells, and all kinds of tech depend on it. But abundant plus important does not automatically mean well understood. Klausen plans to use the DOE funding to study the chemistry of silicon at the nanoscale, including development of chemical reactions that precisely control the dimensions of silicon nanomaterials and their size-dependent properties. Figure that out, Klausen hopes, and she'll be able to better control silicon's electronic and light-absorbing properties, which will have powerful implications for applications like light-emitting diodes and solar cells. She is convinced the future of silicon technology will be integrating nanoscale silicon into mesoscale materials.</p> <p>Klausen is a synthetic chemist, and she has a succinct explanation of the distinction: "Chemists can be divided into make, model, and measure. Theoretical chemists model a structure or phenomenon. Then there are chemists who measure, like a physical chemist or analytical chemist. Synthetic chemists make things. I'm a maker." As a maker, she is most interested in how a material's structure determines its function. She says, "What I want to do is be able to say, 'Here's a function we want from a silicon material, and this is a structure that will achieve it.'" One source of inspiration for her is the diatom, one of the few silica-based life forms on Earth. Diatoms have remarkable and beautiful symmetrical structures, executed at a tiny, tiny scale. "As someone who builds things," Klausen says, "I'd love to have that amount of precision."</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Krieger School's Naomi Levin studies eating habits of humans' early ancestors <p>In August 2012, Naomi Levin boarded a plane from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Baltimore with ground-up teeth in her carry-on. The teeth were fossils found at the Woranso-Mille paleontological site in Ethiopia. An assistant professor in the Krieger School's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Levin had joined scientists there investigating Pliocene-epoch hominids, precursors to modern humans. Now, luggage in hand, she wanted to get the powdered teeth back to her lab to run them through a mass spectrometer and analyze the carbon isotope data. Because the body uses carbon in foods to build teeth and bones, the carbon that remains in teeth—even extremely old ones—can indicate what the owners had eaten long ago.</p> <p>Once Levin ran the tests, she was intrigued by her findings. The hominids, who scientists had believed subsisted on what could be gathered from trees and shrubs, had also been eating grass-based foods as far back as 3.8 million years—about 400,000 years earlier than previously believed.</p> <p>Published in the <em>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</em> in September, Levin's report is significant to the understanding of human evolution because it implies that hominids were dietarily versatile, and thus able to change environments, much earlier than once thought. Co-author Yohannes Haile-Selassie, principal investigator of the Woranso-Mille project and head of physical anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, sees this versatility as a key to human success over the ages. "This is where we see hominids start being generalists [in what they eat], and this is what was probably the key for their success down the line, to actually survive throughout the bad times and good times," he says. "We have some closely related hominid types which were highly specialized to certain types of food, and they were not successful. As soon as the resources dwindled, they had no choice but to go extinct."</p> <p>"This is a mammoth step forward in terms of understanding how early humans ate," Levin says. Timing is important for everything in evolution, she adds, because scientists can correlate an identified evolutionary event with others, such as when humans became bipedal, developed larger brains, began using tools, or started to migrate.</p> <p>Levin collected the teeth in her analysis from the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa. She selected samples from 152 teeth, about 16 of which belonged to hominids, picking broken specimens of little value to the museum. She drilled at the teeth, put the resulting powder in vials, and meticulously labeled and photographed the samples before carrying them home. Back at Johns Hopkins, Levin analyzed the distribution of carbon isotopes in the teeth, which told her whether they had chewed grasses or trees and shrubs. Some of the teeth were from a contemporaneous species of baboon and revealed that those now-extinct primates had expanded to a grass-based diet at the same time. To factor in possible changes to the environment, Levin compared the Woranso-Mille soil with soils from other places. She found no evidence of a large-scale environmental shift, like climate change, at the time of the hominid and baboon change in diet. That is, they did not have to adapt because new foods had suddenly shown up or their accustomed foods had become scarce. Instead, she attributes the switch to ecological factors—perhaps a new species entering the scene and causing a massive shakeup.</p> <p>While the dietary breakthrough is exciting, the work is far from complete. Filling in other gaps in the early human story will occupy scientists for years, Levin says. "Something happened in the past, and that's a very concrete thing to recognize. It's up to us to crack the codes, and that's where the fun comes in."</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Retraction Watch blog tracks published papers as they get pulled <p>On May 20, 2015 a blog called <em>Retraction Watch</em> broke some national news: A widely publicized study on altering public opinion regarding gay marriage, published in December 2014 by the eminent journal <em>Science</em>, was about to be retracted. UCLA doctoral candidate Michael J. LaCour had claimed to find that openly gay door-to-door canvassers had been able to persuade a significant number of people to change their minds and support same-sex marriage, contrary to the prevailing wisdom that it is extremely difficult to influence anyone's personal beliefs. The paper received international attention, including a lengthy segment on the popular public radio program <em>This American Life</em>. A few months later, three researchers from Yale and the University of California, Berkeley, announced finding numerous irregularities in LaCour's study, including missing data, misrepresented data, misrepresented incentives to participants, and falsely identified sponsors. Eight days later, the paper was indeed pulled at the request of Donald P. Green, a political scientist at Columbia University who had not been involved in the research but who had helped LaCour prepare the article and been listed as a co-author.</p> <p>This was not the first story broken by the blog, but it was the biggest; it attracted so much attention that <em>Retraction Watch</em>'s server crashed. The website was founded in 2010 by journalists Adam Marcus, A&S '96 (MA), and Ivan Oransky. Their intent was to monitor how the scientific community deals with wrongdoing and errors in published research; the blog describes itself as "tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process." It publishes under the auspices of the nonprofit Center for Scientific Integrity, also founded by Marcus and Oransky, which describes its mission as "to promote transparency and integrity in science and scientific publishing, and to disseminate best practices and increase efficiency in science." In December 2014, the MacArthur Foundation granted the center $400,000 to further its work.</p> <p>The Committee on Publication Ethics, an organization representing more than 9,000 editors of scholarly journals, states that papers should be retracted when there is clear evidence that the findings are unreliable or involve plagiarism or unethical research. Ferric Fang, editor-in-chief of the journal <em>Infection and Immunity</em> and a member of the Center for Scientific Integrity's board of directors, estimates that of the nearly 24 million articles listed in PubMed's database, only one out of every 6,300 has been withdrawn. A 2012 study by Fang, published in the <em>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</em>, found that most articles listed by PubMed as retracted were pulled because of misconduct, not honest mistakes, and the leading form of misconduct was fraud (followed by duplicate publication and plagiarism).</p> <p>Marcus, whose day job is managing editor of <em>Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News</em> (neither he nor Oransky takes a salary from <em>Retrac­tion Watch</em>), notes that though the percentage of published studies that are eventually retracted is extraordinarily low, the incidence of retractions has increased at a much higher rate than the increase in the volume of published papers. "The number of retractions rose tenfold while the number of papers only doubled between about 2003 and 2013," Marcus says. "It's not clear why." He believes some of the increase may be due to plagiarism detection software like CrossCheck, which has made it easier to spot pirated research. Journal editors are also paying greater attention to scientific misconduct and addressing it more transparently, he says, and he speculates that the pressure to further one's career by publishing striking results in top-tier journals may be a factor.</p> <p>Sometimes a retraction is just part of the process. "You might say, 'Well, all the retractions and lack of reproducibility mean science doesn't work,'" says Marcus. "We sort of feel like the opposite is true. They're an indication that science is working as it should—people are correcting the record. Although things we might have believed to be true [turn out to be] not necessarily true, at least people are taking the time to find that out."</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Kathryn Edin reveals the lives of people who live on $2 a day <p>Kathryn Edin has been an itinerant scholar of the poor for more than 20 years. She is a sociologist who works like an anthropologist, melding numbers and narrative to examine in illuminating detail the lives of poor people all over the United States. She has worked in Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Boston; Charleston, South Carolina; Camden, New Jersey; Chicago; Cleveland; Dallas; Milwaukee; New York; Philadelphia; and San Antonio; as well as Appalachian Tennessee and the Mississippi Delta. Her book titles signal where she has focused her effort: <em>Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work</em>; <em>Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City</em>; and <em>Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage</em>.</p> <p>In the summer of 2010, Edin was in the seventh year of a long-term study of children born in public housing in the early 1990s. At Latrobe Homes, a 700-unit housing project in East Baltimore, she encountered the 19-year-old woman she calls Ashley. "She had a two-week-old baby," Edin recalls. "When we walked into the house, the first thing I noticed was that as she was rocking her baby, she wasn't adequately supporting the head, and as a mother you know something's wrong. She just looked depressed, no expression on her face. She was visibly unkempt." Edin was sitting on the kitchen floor while she interviewed Ashley—there was only one chair—and she could look up and see there was no food in any of the cabinets. Despite six people living in the unit—Ashley, her baby, her mother, her brother, an elderly uncle, and a young cousin—there was almost no furniture. Edin noted a table with three legs that wouldn't stay upright unless propped against a wall, a filthy mattress with a Bugs Bunny fitted sheet, and a couch. The elderly uncle was on the couch nodding over in a heroin daze. Edin had witnessed plenty of poverty in her career, but not this bad. She knew from Ashley that no one in the household had a job, nor was anyone receiving public cash assistance. This was a family with no income. Edin recalls: "My first thought was that we'd found a whole new kind of poverty that we didn't think existed, and I wondered what was going on."</p> <p>Since 2014, Edin has been a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in the Krieger and Bloomberg schools, and recently she became director of the 21st Century Cities Initiative, one of the signature initiatives of the Johns Hopkins Rising to the Challenge capital campaign. But when she came across Ashley, Edin was on the faculty of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. A young visiting professor named Luke Shaefer had recently arrived at Harvard, and he was expert at mining a government data set that social scientists refer to as "the SIPP," the Survey of Income and Program Participation compiled by the United States Census Bureau. The SIPP captured more of the income of the poor than any other representative survey. "I told him about Ashley," she says, "and I said, 'Let's work out something together. Let's figure out if this is a thing.'"</p> <p>It was a thing. The SIPP polls about 40,000 households all over the United States regarding any source of cash income they have had in the previous four months, including government assistance. The data indicated to Shaefer and Edin that in any given month, 1.5 million families, including 3 million children, were surviving on cash incomes of no more than $2 per person per day. More than a third of these families were headed by a married couple. Nearly half were poor whites. Shaefer says, "I can picture in my head that very first readout of the data. I was sitting in the main Harvard library reading room. I hadn't really known what to make of what Kathy said she was seeing, and then out pops this output. I was just wowed by it. I said a couple of words I'm pretty sure cannot appear in your magazine."</p> <p><div class="pullquote"> You cannot buy shoes for your children or pay the electric bill or take a bus to a job interview without money. </div> </p> <p>For comparison, the official U.S. government poverty line for a family of three in 2015 is $20,090 in income per year; that works out to a bit more than $18 a day per person. About half of the 1.5 million families in Shaefer's data were receiving food assistance by way of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the equivalent of what used to be called food stamps. Many had lived for a time in shelters or various precarious arrangements with kin, friends, or acquaintances, and had found other forms of help including public health insurance for their children. So they were not solely dependent on $2 a day for survival. But the United States has a cash economy. You cannot buy shoes for your children or pay the electric bill or take a bus to a job interview without money. How on earth were more than 4 million people living on no income? "In Ghana, where 80 percent of the economy is barter and noncash, it's one thing to live on $2 in cash per person per day," Edin says. "What does it mean to live cashless in the world's most advanced capitalist country?"</p> <p>Shaefer and Edin were so startled by the numbers that they first tried to refute them. "One thing I don't think outsiders recognize about scientists is how hard we work to prove ourselves wrong," Edin says. They dug into other data sets, like public school reports on the number of homeless children in classrooms and the annual rolls of government food assistance, which record how many families report no cash income. They were looking for results at odds with what Shaefer had found in the SIPP. But everywhere they looked they found only corroboration. "The Census Bureau didn't believe us and chose to rerun our numbers," Edin says. "They got the exact same results."</p> <p>So Edin and Shaefer crunched economic data to find 18 statistically representative families who had recently experienced at least three months of cashless poverty. Then, in 2012, Edin and a team of research assistants began documenting the daily lives of those families, to understand how they survived on so little and what their lives were like. The results were published in <em>$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America</em> (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015). The volume includes enough history of welfare in the United States to explain how the country got to this point, plus some policy suggestions for going forward. But the heart of the book is the narrative material that vividly conveys what it means to find yourself so disconnected from the economic system.</p> <p>Politicians and commentators who favor restricting welfare benefits often portray poor people as a segment of the population that has fallen into poverty through a lack of initiative or personal responsibility, or who prefer public handouts to working for a living. To the contrary, the people Edin studied embody what Americans like to think are the cardinal virtues of upstanding citizens. They are resourceful, inventive, thrifty, and not just willing to work but eager to work. They seize every opportunity for employment and want nothing as badly as they want stable, full-time jobs. But they have fallen out of the 21st-century U.S. economy at a time when there is little in the way of a net to catch them, and they face overwhelming obstacles to clawing their way back up. And there aren't a handful of them. There are millions.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>For <em>$2.00 a Day</em>, Edin studied families in four locales that Shaefer's quantitative research told her would be representative of the larger picture. For a typical, prosperous major American city, she picked Chicago. For a once booming city now enduring a long downturn, she selected Cleveland. Analysis of the SIPP data turned up clusters of extreme poverty in Appalachia and the Deep South, which sent her team to families in Johnson City, Tennessee, which had experienced something of a resurgence, and the rural Mississippi Delta, which had been impoverished for decades. "Our initial analysis raised more questions than answers," she says. "Who are these people? How did they get into this situation? What were they actually doing to survive? Obviously, they couldn't really be living on just $2 a day."</p> <p>Edin found that life in this kind of deprivation is complex, unstable, physically and psychologically punishing, and contingent upon small day-to-day events that could put someone out of work, out of shelter, and out of luck in the space of a week. Start with finding work. To interview for a job requires a clean, decent set of clothes and the opportunity to bathe; both can be problematic for anyone living in a shelter or in a relative's apartment with six other people. Unless the job seeker has the luck to be close enough to walk to the interview, he'll need access to a car or money for the bus. Few businesses hire anyone on the spot, so the applicant will also need a $30 refurbished, pay-as-you-go cellphone for callbacks. (Sociologists often note that it's expensive to be poor.)</p> <p> <div class="embedded-image force align-right size-hub_medium portrait"> <img src="//" alt="" /> </div> </p> <p>If the person does get a job, it will probably be in the service sector for minimum or sub-minimum wage. Many employers, like big-box stores, chain restaurants, and coffee shops, have adopted computerized systems that allow them to adjust their workforces day by day in response to changes in customer flow, the effects of sales events, seasonal fluctuations in business, even changes in the weather. So anyone holding down an entry-level job with one of these businesses is unlikely to have a dependable, steady, 40-hour-a-week work schedule that allows him to plan for all the other quotidian stuff that demands time and attention. He may be called in for 12-hour shifts over three straight days, or a couple of 16-hour open-to-close shifts at a coffee shop, then work only 10 hours all the next week. He may find his hours zeroed out, which means he is still technically employed but will have no income for that week. If he can't be flexible enough to accommodate the employer, he will lose the job because there is no shortage of people desperate for work who will take his place. If a parent needs time off because her child is sick or she needs to meet with the child's teacher or the car has broken down, forget it. In these jobs no one gets sick days or personal days or vacation.</p> <p>The instability of work will be matched by instability in every other aspect of life for the poor. They may qualify for subsidized housing but are unlikely to get it since the wait list in many places is tens of thousands of people long and frequently closed. They may have enough money for a ramshackle apartment, but that will require regular income for rent, as well as for the electric and water bills. Losing a job or even a week's worth of hours can mean losing the apartment and having to resort to a shelter or a room in someone's house, and the people who take them in might well live in precarious situations of their own, not to mention three bus lines and two hours from that precious job. Children might have to spend six months in a house with relatives or strangers who have drug problems or are physically abusive. To be this poor means being vulnerable to every sort of predator.</p> <p>In <em>$2.00 a Day</em>, the reader meets several people who live like this. Jennifer Hernandez (to respect their privacy rights and abide by institutional review board rules for the research, Edin created pseudonyms for everyone in the book) and her two children moved from one homeless shelter to another in Chicago. In the two and a half months spent at the third of those shelters, she applied for more than 100 jobs before landing one with a custodial company that cleaned foreclosed houses, many of which had been broken into and trashed by squatters and junkies. Working in filthy, unheated rooms during a Chicago winter, she kept coming down with respiratory problems and viral infections that she took home to her children, which led to missed work when they were home sick, which resulted in her hours being cut back so much she had to look for another job. But even at the worst times, she would not register for welfare benefits. Welfare was a handout and she would have none of that.</p> <p>Modonna Harris, also in Chicago, had a high school diploma, two years of college, and a child from a broken marriage. For eight years, she held a full-time, $9-an-hour job at a music store but was summarily fired one day when her cash drawer came up $10 short. She then fell behind in her rent, was evicted, and had to move in with a succession of relatives who would shelter her and her daughter, Brianna, for only a few months at a time before turning them back out. Brianna still managed to make her school's honor roll one term. When food was in short supply, Modonna would turn a cup of coffee into "breakfast" by dumping in as much cream and sugar as the mug would hold.</p> <p>There was Rae McCormick in Cleveland, whose mother abandoned her soon after her father died. At age 12, she lived for a time on her own, sheltered by a sympathetic landlord who let her stay in an apartment rent-free. By 21 she had a daughter to support and the deteriorating health of a much older person. Nevertheless, she managed to secure a full-time job with Walmart and in her first six months was named "cashier of the month" twice and encouraged to apply for promotion. Then one day she could not drive to work because the family friend whose truck she borrowed had run it out of gas and she had no cash to buy more. Her boss told her not to bother coming in anymore. Soon she spiraled down to $2-a-day poverty.</p> <p>There's Paul in Cleveland who lost his house and savings when his chain of pizza parlors went bust. Martha in Mississippi who sold Kool-Aid pops and, on special occasions, a homemade delicacy, Kool-Aid Pickles, out of her living room for 50 cents apiece. Jessica Compton, a skinny, worried 21-year-old in Johnson City who sold her plasma twice a week because she had two kids and Red Lobster and McDonald's had zeroed out her and her husband's work hours when the seasonal economy slowed. They were three months behind in their rent and expected to be evicted any day, and she lived in terror that her iron levels would be too low for her to donate and receive the desperately needed $30 she collected for each plasma donation.</p> <p><div class="pullquote"> Penalties for food stamp fraud are more severe than for voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault with a firearm, or sexual contact with a child under 12. </div> </p> <p>When the people Edin studied saw no other way, they sometimes broke the law to obtain cash. A woman might have "a friend" who would pay the electric bill one month in exchange for sex. The food assistance program, SNAP, is an in-kind benefit, a debit card that can be used only to purchase food. So the extremely poor sometimes traded $100 of SNAP groceries to a neighbor or family member for $60 in cash. This was risky; under federal sentencing guidelines, penalties for food stamp fraud are more severe than for voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault with a firearm, or sexual contact with a child under 12. One woman studied by Edin in the Mississippi Delta sold her three children's Social Security numbers for $500 each to family members, who then claimed the children as dependents so they could collect tax refunds.</p> <p>The researchers were meticulous about documenting their subjects' lives and corroborating what they reported. Nearly every interview was transcribed (they had to rely on fact-checked field notes once when the recorder malfunctioned) and every transcript coded. Whenever they could, the researchers found multiple sources to confirm what their subjects reported about their communities and work environments and schools. "We have a saying, 'Hearsay is not evidence,'" Edin says. "We get as close to the source as we can. You can never be sure—someone can always be lying to you. But for every claim that was made in this study, there were multiple verifications. The best fact-checking we do is staying with people for a long time."</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>Edin's exposure to poor people came early. She grew up in northern Minnesota on the boundary of two economically depressed counties. Her father ran the local technical college, so her family was middle class, but the poor were all around her and a routine part of her childhood. Her mother held a degree in parish work and did church-based social work on behalf of the small Evangelical Covenant church the family belonged to, driving all over in a van with Edin in the back. "She was the youth leader, and man, there was no youth that didn't get a knock on the door," Edin says. "I spent a lot of time hanging out with kids at the very bottom of the income distribution. I thought it was fascinating, and I thought it was normal to have your mother running around the county treating everyone like they mattered."</p> <p>After earning an undergraduate degree at tiny North Park College (now North Park University) in Chicago, Edin enrolled at Northwestern University for graduate study in sociology. "You went to Northwestern to do one of two things. You either went to study with the great quantitative mastermind Christopher Jencks, or you went and studied with the qualitative guru Howard Becker." She cultivated both as mentors and absorbed their different methodologies. "Howie's approach was to go out to a place where you could find a lot of the people you were studying and just hang out with them. Jencks was concerned with things like sampling and gathering numbers. Howie would have me out at laundromats meeting welfare moms. But Jencks got me to systematically sample across Chicago so that I had no more than three respondents from any given social network and could claim some level of representativeness."</p> <p>While she was at Northwestern, she taught in a church basement as part of a North Park program that brought college courses to poor people. "After class, we would just sit around and talk," she says. "I would relay things that I was learning in Jencks' poverty class and then these women would say, 'Oh, girl, <em>that's</em> not how it works at all. This is how it really works.' So one day we started talking about welfare, and they said, 'Girl, don't you know that everybody has to cheat to survive? Welfare doesn't pay enough.'" This was the seed for Edin's first book, <em>Making Ends Meet</em>, written with anthropologist Laura Lein. "We showed, after six years in four cities and multiple interviews with 400 low-income single mothers, that you couldn't live on welfare alone anywhere in the country. You actually had to work under the table to survive." Most people without work did not have sufficient welfare benefits to get by, but when they had work and reported the income, they lost benefits. Either way they came up short. The only solution was to earn money by whatever means but not tell the government about it.</p> <p>Edin developed what became her signature approach to sociology: rigorous data mining to determine subjects for her to study in the manner of an anthropologist doing field work. For one project, she and colleague Paula England followed 75 couples for four years, amassing 75,000 pages of transcripts. The research for <em>Making Ends Meet</em> began with a study of census data to select cities that represented the range of labor markets and welfare systems around the country. Edin then spent six years interviewing welfare mothers and reporting the narratives that recorded the texture of their lives. The study's firm foundation in data was exemplified by the back of the book, which included 27 regression analyses, a technique for examining statistical variables and their relationships. The quantitative work applied social science rigor to the research so that it produced something more than a collection of vivid narratives, something scientifically meaningful that could also drive social policy. The narratives revealed the lives within the data. Her Johns Hopkins colleague, sociologist Andrew Cherlin, observes, "Kathy thinks like a sociologist and talks like an anthropologist."</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>One chapter of <em>$2.00 a Day</em> explicates the changes in welfare that did benefit many people but sent millions more spiraling into extreme poverty. In 1996, Congress passed and Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which was promoted as sweeping welfare reform aimed at getting people off cash assistance and into jobs. It replaced open-ended cash assistance with a severely time-limited cash program and the requirement that all able-bodied recipients had to work. Those fortunate enough to have work qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit. The EITC was cash assistance but in the form of an annual tax credit for people employed in low-income jobs. The more money they earned, up to a point, the bigger the credit, and the annual supplement could be upward of $5,000, a major boost to poor families. But if you didn't have a job, you didn't qualify. So under the new law, people who arguably needed cash the most—the unemployed, who had to pay for shelter and utilities and clothes and transportation and other necessities but had zero income—no longer qualified to receive any cash once they had run out their brief eligibility.</p> <p>The legislation was popular with voters because it encouraged work and all but did away with what they regarded as handouts. Opinion polls consistently indicate that the majority of Americans approve of helping the poor, but not if that help comes in the form of a welfare check. Peter Edelman is a law professor at Georgetown University and faculty director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality there; he resigned from the Clinton administration in protest when the president signed the 1996 law. He says, "If you ask the public, 'Do you favor education for low-income children?' they say yes. 'Do you think there ought to be help for low-income people for better health?' Yes. 'Help with hunger?' Yes. 'Housing?' Yes. But when you suggest just giving the poor money, the public has a different attitude. They regard that as giving something for nothing." Says Edin, "In America, work is about citizenship. You can't be a citizen if you're not a worker."</p> <p>The reform worked for some people. In 1993, only 58 percent of low-income mothers were employed; by 2000, that figure had risen to nearly 75 percent. Child poverty rates fell four straight years after passage of the law. The EITC tax credits meant a great deal to those able to find and keep jobs. "The more you worked, the more you got, and that made them feel a great deal of pride," Edin says, "whereas welfare had the opposite effect, making them feel shamed and stigmatized. This citizenship-enhancing feature of the EITC is like policy magic. This is probably the best policy we've ever invented for poor people. Except it leaves out our people"—the people in <em>$2.00 a Day</em>—"because they don't have enough work to claim anything. They are working when they can, but they're at the ragged edge of the labor market. It's like hanging on to a rope that's dissolving in your hands."</p> <p>The 1996 law, Edin points out, was based on the assumption that hundreds of thousands of people dropped from the old welfare rolls could find stable, full-time employment that paid living wages. And when the legislation was enacted, the economy was booming. What was not well-enough understood was that too many of the jobs provided by the labor market, especially for the uneducated and unskilled, were low-wage and unstable, and there were not enough of them to meet demand. The recession that began in 2008 further reduced the number of available jobs. In her book, Edin describes this as the "toxic alchemy" that pushed so many people into the deepest poverty. By the mid-2000s, one in five single mothers had become what sociologists call "disconnected"—neither working nor receiving welfare. During her research, Edin was struck by how many people had not even bothered to apply for benefits they were qualified to receive. They assumed, or had been told, that the system offered them nothing and they were on their own. And some simply refused to seek public assistance. "The key thing about these people is they see themselves as workers, not dependents," Edin stresses. "We know from the SIPP that only 10 percent of these families get a dime from cash benefits."</p> <p><div class="pullquote"> There seems to be little public support for a retooling of the welfare system sufficient to help the extreme poor. Part of the problem may be that to most of the American public, they are invisible. </div> </p> <p>All the people she studied during the course of her research repeatedly sought work and took it whenever they could. Recall Ashley, the 19-year-old Baltimorean with the 2-week-old baby who first got Edin wondering about the poorest of the poor. As part of the protocol for the study that had brought her and Edin together, Edin paid Ashley $50 for the interview. The next day, Edin found pretext to go back and see her again because she was so worried by what she'd seen of how Ashley was interacting with her baby. When the young woman answered the door this time, Edin says she was transformed. She had placed the baby with her mother for the day, had used some of the $50 to get her hair permed and buy a pants suit at Goodwill to make herself presentable for job interviews, and was on her way out the door to look for work. Edin remembers her as utterly changed by the mere possibility of finding a job.</p> <p>With Cherlin and fellow Johns Hopkins sociologist Stephanie De Luca, economist Robert Moffitt, and researchers from the schools of Medicine and Public Health, Edin has embarked on a yearlong project to plan a major multi­disciplinary study of the extreme poor, a project that will be the first of its kind. She has kept in touch with most of the 18 families she studied for <em>$2.00 a Day</em>. "None of our families are doing appreciably better than when we first met them," she says. "Our hypothesis, that remains to be tested, is that once you find yourself in one of these spells, the work of survival becomes so all-consuming, and the wear of physically living in this condition becomes so acute, you can't really get out of it."</p> <p>There seems to be little public support for a retooling of the welfare system sufficient to help the extreme poor. Part of the problem may be that to most of the American public, they are invisible. Before the work by Edin, Shaefer, and the rest of their team, these 4 million people were invisible even to sociologists. Says Cherlin, "In retrospect, I should have known—we all should have known—that the constriction of the welfare program would create families like this. But we didn't." In <em>$2.00 a Day</em>, Edin says, Here they are. These are their lives. And the question for Americans, she says, is this: "Does this look like the America you want to live in?"</p> <p>In 1996, when Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York argued against the welfare reform legislation, he predicted the changes to the country's social safety net would produce a million children sleeping on heating grates. "What we found is that over the course of a year, 3.4 million children are experiencing at least three months of extreme poverty," Edin says. "They aren't as visible as Moynihan thought they would be. But they are three and a half times more numerous."</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Lester Spence argues that African-Americans have bought into the wrong politics <p>Businessmen love Jay-Z. Specifically, they love one line the rapper-turned-business-owner says in Kanye West's 2005 single, "Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)": "I'm not a businessman, I'm a <em>business</em>, man." Jay-Z's declaration that he's not merely an earner in the music industry but a brand all to himself became the lead sentence in a Forbes piece titled "10 Startup Tips from Hip-Hop Lyrics," which pointed out that Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ben Horowitz uses rap lyrics to teach business lessons. In a different <em>Forbes</em> piece, entrepreneur, best-selling author, and ViSalus Sciences CEO Ryan Blair used Jay-Z, and that lyric specifically, as a signpost guiding his own evolution from a "suit-wearing, briefcase-carrying businessman" to "creating a brand in business unique to myself." Being a <em>business</em>, man: You're not just making your way—every move you make puts money in the bank.</p> <p>Lester Spence hears that entrepreneurial swagger in the lyric as well. What the Johns Hopkins associate professor of political science and Africana studies sees that line as representing, though, is more complex than a simple rags-to-riches tale of success in free-market American capitalism. For him, the lyric is a distinct comment on black labor today. Rappers, as hip-hop fans know, regularly boast about how constantly they have to work to make ends meet. Their songs are often tales of street entrepreneurs working in underground economies, sure, but the songs extol getting paid by any means necessary. They produce so everybody else—the kids and loved ones they're supporting, the fans who are listening—can consume.</p> <p>Spence sees such tales of "hustling," as the day-to-day grind is known in hip-hop, as an echo of African-American work songs, which were sung by men tethered by slavery or prison to hard labor. While the iron chains of the eras that produced those songs are gone, hip-hop's hustler wears a metaphorical chain of his own making. He hustles just to get by, the way so many people do today.</p> <p>As Spence notes in his recently published book, <em>Knocking the Hustle</em> (Punctum), from the early 1970s to the present, American labor productivity has increased 80 percent while wages have stayed stagnant or declined. That we work more to earn as much as we once did—or even less—is a standard woe of the American economy in 2015. How these hip-hop celebrations of the hustler function in African-American communities, though, is what Spence finds disconcerting. Hustling is embraced as <em>the</em> appropriate adaptation to living in today's economy. The individual's having to learn whatever it takes to get by is a virtue in today's economy. Anybody who isn't constantly looking for ways to improve the return on his personal human capital simply isn't hustling enough. And for those people who are too lazy to maintain a level of at least subsistence hustle? Their failures and their poverty are a cul-de-sac of their own making. The black church will tell them that. Black elected officials and business elites will tell them that. Hell, Jay-Z himself will tell people that. In his song "Can't Knock the Hustle," he sneers at day-job drones who <em>only</em> work 9 to 5, "lunching, punching the clock."</p> <p><div class="pullquote"> The devastation of poor and working-class black communities was caused by people, be they elected officials or thought leaders, implementing and embracing neoliberal policies and ideas. </div> </p> <p>The ideas represented in the "I'm a business, man" lyric strike Spence as an instance of popular culture reproducing a political idea and story: Successful people work hard and get ahead by investing in their human capital, and people who aren't successful simply aren't working hard enough to do that. Recall President Barack Obama on the 2014 midterm elections campaign stump, lamenting that "if Uncle Jethro would get off the couch and stop watching <em>SportsCenter</em> and go register some folks and go to the polls, we might have a different kind of politics." In other words: The problem with black people is not that the economic and political infrastructure has anything wrong with it, but that they're not doing enough for themselves.</p> <p>That there are gaps—in education, in wealth, in political power—between blacks and whites isn't what Spence is zeroing in on. Those gaps have been well-documented and studied. Black unemployment remains twice as high as white unemployment. Economic disparity between whites and blacks widened during the recent recession. Racism is real, and it continues to segregate cities, schools, and the workforce today. It fuels practices such as redlining housing policies, voter suppression, and mass incarceration. But what racism doesn't account for are the political ideas and policies that reproduce similar economic and political power disparities <em>within</em> African-American communities. Racism doesn't account for black elected officials who embrace the same economic policies that adversely impact black populations. Racism doesn't account for the belief among black leaders that the onus for improving the lives of black people falls not on addressing inequities built into economic, educational, and social infrastructures, but on addressing shortcomings in African-Americans' character.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>For Spence, the ways in which black politics has been shaped by neo­liberalism start to address how these inequalities have been reproduced within the black community over the past 40 years. The core of neoliberalism economic philosophy is the idea that society, and all of its organizations and institutions, works best when allowed to operate on free-market principles, free especially of government intervention. Neoliberalism, in the view of its advocates, produces a system that rewards enterprising people who improve the return on their human capital—the entrepreneurial hustlers. The period from the 1970s to the present witnessed the slow erosion of the domestic programs and policies enacted from the New Deal through the Great Society. When unemployment and inflation spiked during the economic crises of the 1970s, politicians and policymakers began following an economic model that insisted that a free market could fix what government regulation hampered. By the 1980s, neoliberal ideas were becoming entrenched: What was good for the economy was also good public policy.</p> <p>Political scientists, economists, and pundits wrote about neoliberalism while political scientists wrote about racial politics. But much less was written about how neoliberalism and racial politics overlap. David Harvey's 2005 <em>A Brief History of Neoliberalism</em> explored how neoliberal economic policies evolved into political policy in Western democracies. Cornel West's 1993 best-seller <em>Race Matters</em> argued that conventional liberal/conservative American political discussion ignored the role race played in social and moral public discourse after the civil rights era. Each took the short, overview approach; neither focused specifically on how neoliberal economics had slowly invaded black politics over the past 40 years. With <em>Hustle</em>, subtitled <em>Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics</em>, Spence has written that book.</p> <p>It's a dense but readable hybrid of ambitious scholarship, partly touching on the histories of economics, urban policy, and education since the 1970s, and partly showing how those developments worked to narrow the point of view in black political discussions. Spence has brought together a wide web of research—everything from academic papers in economics, political science, and sociology to pop culture criticism and daily print and television journalism—to shape his argument. <em>Hustle</em> is Spence's attempt to write a book about what one could argue is a guiding force of our era, he says. He's written it for a general reader, hoping to speak directly to the people now living under neoliberalism's fallout, people who haven't seen the policies of the past 40 years, for instance, improve schools or their job prospects or the cities in which they live.</p> <p>"Can I write a thing for black people that does some of the work that <em>Race Matters</em> did for previous generations?" he asks, adding that the devastation of poor and working-class black communities was caused by people, be they elected officials or thought leaders, implementing and embracing neoliberal policies and ideas. "When I'm thinking about who the reader is, I'm thinking about my dad. I'm thinking about my fraternity brothers. I'm thinking about people who can read this and see that there's this thing hanging over them in all these different ways, but it's the creation of human action. The neoliberal turn was the product of human action, again and again and again."</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p><em>Hustle</em>'s most revelatory chapter focuses on black churches. And it's illuminating precisely for how Spence connects the content of "prosperity gospel," a variant of evangelical Christianity, to the political imaginations of churchgoers. Rarely do academics—or journalists for that matter—look at what is presented in churches as political content, outside of how churchgoers impact elections. (For example, the emergence of the Christian right as a voting block in the 1970s.) Spence argues that what is said in church from the pulpit represents a neoliberalization of the black church.</p> <p>The chapter opens with a brief discussion of two <em>New York Times</em> articles from the Detroit area following the 2008 economic crash that hit the automotive industry and the region hard. One, "Detroit Churches Pray for 'God's Bailout,'" was a report from the Greater Grace Temple, one of Detroit's many churches that, at the time, held special services to help its congregations through a difficult time. Spence notes that in the photo that ran with the article, three white luxury SUVs shared the stage with the church's leader, Bishop Charles H. Ellis III. The article reported that the vehicles were on loan from local dealerships and that Bishop Ellis, "urged worshipers to combat the region's woes by mixing hope with faith in God." Spence sees the vehicles as having two symbolic values. For those who worked in the automotive industry, it was a symbol of what they depended on to survive. For those who didn't work making automobiles, the SUVs were status symbols, reminders of what they could have if they would only hustle harder.</p> <p>The following year, another <em>Times</em> reporter visited Pontiac, about 30 miles outside Detroit, to write about the automotive industry's role in creating a black middle class in that area, and how the industry's collapse was decimating those families. Titled "GM, Detroit, and the Fall of the Black Middle Class," the article told its story through a profile of Marvin Powell, a longtime autoworker, one of the 600 who still worked making trucks at General Motors' Pontiac Assembly Center. Powell worked the only shift the plant maintained after getting rid of nearly two-thirds of its workforce through buyouts, early retirement, and layoffs.</p> <p><div class="pullquote"> Prosperity gospel frames the problem of poor people as a problem of those who do not improve their human capital, not as something wrong with the system in which they must live. </div> </p> <p>During the reporting of the story, Powell learned that GM was planning on shutting down all of its factories for 10 weeks, which would leave him without his $900-per-week paycheck for that period. Powell said he might use the freed-up time to try and become a chef and start a catering company, adding that he had never intended to be a "GM lifer."</p> <p>He attributed his positive outlook in trying circumstances to being a Greater Grace congregant, where he led a Sunday school class and was one of the church's armor bearers, an honorary position. His leadership role in Greater Grace had made him an esteemed figure at the auto plant, and his co-workers had encouraged him to run for a union leadership role. He demurred from that, but they sought him out for advice, nevertheless. What was he going to do when the plant closed? Powell told them that he couldn't control the plant's closing, so he didn't worry about it. He also said, "I tell them that God provides for his own, and I am one of his own."</p> <p>That leapt out at Spence. Born and raised in Detroit as the son of a Ford autoworker, he was struck by Powell's resilience in the face of so much economic upheaval. But he was also taken aback by the way Powell conceptualized the situation. The autoworker didn't consider a union leadership position as providing him with an opportunity to fight for his and his co-workers' jobs. Instead, as Spence writes, "in Powell's opinion those who choose God will be saved from the worst of the economic crisis <em>while those who don't, won't</em>." Spence identifies this idea as part of the message spread by prosperity gospel, a doctrine that started in white churches in the 1950s and sprang to national attention through 1980s televangelism. It has taken strong root in black megachurches over the past two decades. Spence visited a black church in Baltimore County led by a charismatic prosperity gospel preacher who argued that everything associated with the economic crisis—debt, poverty, unemployment—was caused by a "poverty mindset." The minister reasoned that this mindset causes people to spend their money instead of saving it, causes "them to lay around when they should be hustling." And this mindset was the direct result of somebody having a bad relationship with God.</p> <p>Spence writes: "Note the logic here. People are materially poor because they don't think right. Their inability to think right makes it impossible to receive God's blessings"—which can come in the form of spiritual or material reward. And the only way to right that bad personal relationship with God is for a person to change how he or she thinks—to improve their human capital through spiritual pursuits. These spiritual pursuits, it should be noted, often take the form of sermons and books that congregants can buy and workshops they can pay to attend, in addition to supporting the church by tithing.</p> <p>For Spence, prosperity gospel, through prolific and celebrated pastors such as Creflo Dollar, founder of the mammoth World Changers Church International in Georgia, transforms "the Christian Bible into an economic self-help guide people can use to develop their human capital." It's a way to make questions about who lives comfortably and who lives in poverty a matter of which one spiritually deserves to do so. This notion, Spence writes, represents a neoliberalization of the black church—not only because the prosperity gospel frames the problem of poor people as a problem of those who do not improve their human capital (not as something wrong with the system in which they must live), but also in how the increasingly multi-millionaire leaders of black megachurches compete for their congregants' tithes and spiritual consumerism. Such a practice not only creates vast economic disparities between ministers and congregants—Spence notes an news website article that named eight black preachers who make more than 200 times what their churchgoers do—but it shapes parishioners' political imagination.</p> <p>Fighting poverty, debt, and whatever economic adversity a congregant faces thus becomes only a spiritual matter for the individual, not the collective concern of a political organization. And getting people to see the political content in a church service is something Spence hopes readers will take away from the book. "What I want is for people to read it and see their world through new eyes," he says, adding that he hopes that by pointing out how prosperity gospel reproduces neoliberalism's disparities, readers might begin to seek other solutions to dealing with it.</p> <p>There are possibilities for finding ways out of the neoliberal situation other than simply buying into the hustle, Spence says. Throughout the book, he offsets his charting of how neoliberalism seeped into black politics by citing contemporary instances of grassroots activism and political organizing to combat neoliberal advances. They may be modest, they may be temporary victories, but the examples he cites—the Urban Debate League that cultivates policy debate among city high school students; the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement that organizes communities to develop more equitable public policies; the Baltimore Algebra Project and Leaders of the Beautiful Struggle that in 2008 blocked Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's attempt to spend $108 million in taxpayer money to build a new prison to house juveniles charged as adults—actively oppose the neoliberal turn in public policies.</p> <p><div class="pullquote"> "When people write about neoliberalism, there's a tendency to make it seem like a <em>fait accompli</em>, that it's going to happen and there's nothing you can do to stop it. I wanted to make an aggressive assertion that political organizing matters." <div class="cite">Lester Spence</div> </div> </p> <p>Spence considers himself a product of such black activism. At 46, he's spent almost his entire life in majority-black cities. He was born and raised in the Detroit area; his father was a pipe fitter who worked for Ford Motor Company, his mom a substitute teacher. The Spence family lived in the predominantly black Inkster neighborhood until moving to the predominantly white suburb Redford in 1985 as economic depression hit the city, and he attended the University of Michigan in nearby Ann Arbor for both college and graduate school. But he didn't get into Michigan at first. It was only through the university's Summer Bridge Program, an introduction to collegiate life for incoming low-income freshmen and students of color, that he was able to enroll. That program was the result of black student activism on the school's campus. Between 1970 and 1987 African-American students repeatedly protested the university's practices and policies in three Black Action Movement protests, the second of which, in February 1975, led to the creation of the program that became Bridge.</p> <p>"I would argue that the reason diversity is now important at Michigan is because of black student activism," Spence says. "It didn't work perfectly, but that's how politics works. It's not pretty. It's very long term. It's not sexy. It's not going to get you on TV. It's not going to get you any of that stuff. But it matters." And he's hoping <em>Hustle</em>'s readers will take that message from the book. "When people write about neoliberalism, there's a tendency to make it seem like a <em>fait accompli</em>, that it's going to happen and there's nothing you can do to stop it," Spence says. "I wanted to make an aggressive assertion that political organizing matters."</p> <p>To make such alternatives visible is why Spence decided to place <em>Hustle</em> with the open-access publisher Punctum. A print copy can be bought through Punctum's website, but the publisher is also making a digital version available free of charge six months after release. If Spence is going to advocate knocking the hustle, he might as well do it himself. If he's writing a book that argues against being one of the many entrepreneurial hustlers just looking to get paid, then he better not put an economic barrier in front of somebody wanting to access that idea.</p> <p>"I believe in public action, to the extent that if we're going to problem-solve this world, our ability increases when we're able to see public examples," he says. "I mean, I can't live a perfect life, that's not possible. I, too, get caught up in the hustle. But at the very least I can write against that in ways that will inform not just the ideas and behaviors of people around me but also ways that can inform my own behavior. It can allow me to say, 'There's this other way to be—and you don't need to do this to yourself.'"</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 In North Korea's closed society, website 38 North has become a respected source of news <p>Curtis Melvin spends much of his day scrutinizing pictures of a country that does not like to be photographed—North Korea. He is a specialist in North Korean economic issues, and today he's studying satellite images from several of the country's northern districts, images that indicate road construction in places previously accessible only via railway. That, he thinks, suggests more North Koreans now have cars. Melvin also recently noticed the installation of cellphone towers in some remote parts of the country. The smartphone might not be ubiquitous there, as it seems to be everywhere else on the globe, but if all those towers are going up, more North Koreans must be talking on more cellphones of some kind.</p> <p>Melvin is a senior fellow at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies' U.S.­­-Korea Institute, which engages in research on the Korean peninsula and works to encourage dialogue among scholars, policymakers, and anyone else interested in the two Koreas. He writes about what he finds in satellite photos for 38 North, an increasingly influential website co-founded by two SAIS North Korea experts, Jenny Town and Joel S. Wit. The site is not easily pigeonholed. It describes itself as devoted to analysis of North Korea, and it's part platform for debate, part breaking news, part commentary, part media critic, part curator of images and videos.</p> <p>Town is the managing editor of <a href="">38 North</a>. She was born in Busan, South Korea (known as Pusan before 2000), and lived in an orphanage until age 3. She was adopted by a family from Minnesota and grew up there. After graduating in 1998 from the now-defunct Westmar University in Iowa with a bachelor's degree in East Asian studies and international relations, Town worked as director of the Washington office of the College Board before moving back to South Korea in 2004 to teach English. She returned to the United States in 2006.</p> <p><div class="pullquote"> "We saw 38 North as a response to generally bad reporting and lazy analysis of North Korea." <div class="cite">Jenny Town</div> </div> </p> <p>Wit is an expert on East Asian affairs and a senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute. In 1994, he traveled to North Korea, making him one of the first Americans to get inside the country in years, as an adviser to Ambassador Robert L. Gallucci. He has since visited the country nearly 20 times. Wit joined the institute in 2007, about the same time Town came on board as a consultant. Four years later, she was named assistant director of the institute.</p> <p>The pair founded 38 North in 2010 in response to what they considered the mainstream media's superficial coverage of North Korea. The conventional depiction of the closed country is that it is a failed state, a hermit kingdom ruled by crazy leaders who maintain massive armed forces and threaten nuclear strikes against the United States and its allies. Town and Wit believe the truth to be more nuanced. "We saw 38 North as a response to generally bad reporting and lazy analysis of North Korea [in mainstream news media]," Town says. "People didn't feel like they needed to follow any journalistic or academic standards because there was so little information and access. Anyone who ever read a book on North Korea was suddenly an expert. There was just this low bar of expertise." Wit concurs: "You had all these people writing and doing analysis who had no experience or direct contact with anyone from North Korea, at least most of them. I thought we had something new to offer."</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>Wit's concept for the website was a place where North Korea could be discussed not by self-anointed experts with dubious claims to expertise but by those who have had actual experience of the country. Wit knew many of them from his time in the U.S. State Department, including persons who worked on North Korean nuclear disarmament treaties in the 1980s and 1990s, when there was greater access to the country. These individuals, Wit says, provide a baseline for analysis of the current situation in North Korea. The site's list of contributors, now in the dozens, includes former diplomats, former intelligence analysts, scholars, NGO workers, and businessmen who deal with North Korea. Sometimes Town and Wit confer with members of the foreign diplomatic corps and others who have recently visited the country. "It's rather informal," Town says. "We'll ask general questions like, 'So, what are you seeing? How has it changed? What is your interpretation of this?' Just to find out any new bit of information to get a sense of what we should potentially be focusing on."</p> <p>In 2011, the site began to purchase commercial satellite imagery from providers such as U.S.-based DigitalGlobe and French-owned Airbus Defence and Space. This was the beginning of 38 North's photo intelligence work. Town and Wit call on their cadre of image analysts, mostly retired former intelligence analysts, to examine areas of interest captured in the photos and assess whether significant developments have taken place. Sometimes they scrutinize images to see if the pictures support statements from either North Korean or international media sources.</p> <p>In May, Melvin, who is also editor of North Korean Economy Watch, an online news and analysis site, published information about a new highway that, once completed, will offer Pyongyang its first true international trade route on a paved highway and open up new trading opportunities with China. He has to pore over the satellite pictures for indications of a factory expansion or a new transportation hub because that's the only way to track changes in North Korean economic activity and military spending. "North Korea has not published a [state] budget since 2001 or ever published its gross domestic product," says Melvin. "We have to estimate trade statistics and strength of the economy by looking at investments in infrastructure and other projects. We have to cobble this together and figure it out. They're not telling us."</p> <p>It was pictures of a North Korean launch site, which the country claimed was only for rockets ferrying satellites into space, that first raised 38 North's profile and caused major news operations to take notice. In April 2012, North Korea was preparing to celebrate the 100th birthday of former "supreme leader" Kim Il Sung. The South Korean defense ministry claimed the North Koreans might use the national celebration to test a long-range missile—banned under United Nations resolutions—disguised as a satellite launch. 38 North first published a report to ascertain how, if this was true, the rocket would be moved from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station's assembly building to the launch pad. Using satellite images of the facility, 38 North analysts the next day pointed out activity that was indeed indicative of an impending launch—a truck delivering fuel to the platform, equipment being loaded onto the gantry, vegetation cut back to prevent fires upon liftoff. The carefully labeled images turned heads. Previously, when 38 North published new articles it would generate about 1,500 visits to the site. Within hours of publishing about the missile launch, the site registered 20,000 hits. "We instantly knew we were onto something," Town says. "But we also knew we had to be careful and couch anything we post by saying, 'This is what we expect to happen based on prediction models.'" The rocket did in fact launch but flew just briefly before breaking up and crashing into waters off the Korean peninsula.</p> <p>Since that heady experience, 38 North has broken more news on North Korean military activity, eliciting coverage in media outlets such as <em>The Washington Post</em>, <em>The New York Times</em>, and CNN. In October 2014, the site first reported North Korea's development of a new class of submarine, along with a test stand for the vertical launch of sea-based ballistic missiles at the Sinpo South Shipyard, where the submarine was seen berthed. The analysis and satellite imagery offered compelling support for stories that North Korea was developing new military capability and augmenting its navy. But Town steps back from the idea that 38 North is primarily a news site. "We offer expert analysis of events in and around North Korea that sometimes breaks news," she says. "We don't claim to be journalists."</p> <p>38 North hosts a variety of commentators, including novelist James Church. Church, a former Western intelligence operative with decades of experience in Asia, has written a series of novels, including <em>A Corpse in the Koryo</em> and <em>A Drop of Chinese Blood</em>, that feature a North Korean policeman, Inspector O. For 38 North, Church contributes fictional dialogues between himself and O, a novelist chatting with his own character. One example starts with Church playfully asking O, "Seen any good movies lately?" The conversation then turns into a snappy debate about <em>The Interview</em>, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, a Hollywood comedy about a pair of celebrities sent to assassinate North Korean premier Kim Jong Un on their visit to Pyongyang. <em>The Interview</em> outraged North Korean officials and may have led to the notorious hacking of Sony Pictures' email server in 2014. Those same officials may not be fans of Church's dialogues with Inspector O, either.</p> <p><div class="pullquote"> North Korea now has three taxi companies and some fast food restaurants and coffee shops, as well as water parks and other amusement sites. </div> </p> <p>Town says 38 North has on occasion ruffled feathers in South Korea, too. "They don't like to admit it, but South Korea can be as good at propaganda as the North Koreans," she says. "They often use North Korea to divert attention from their own domestic issues." She gives the example of the Sewol disaster, the South Korean ferry that sank on April 16, 2014, killing 304 people, many of them high school students on their way to a field trip to Jeju island. When President Obama went to South Korea later that month, the South Korean defense ministry announced that North Korea was preparing a nuclear weapons test in response to his visit. But Town says that 38 North's satellite data didn't show any signs of an impending test, and the site reported that.</p> <p>The South Korean defense ministry contradicted 38 North's assertion, arguing that the government had better intelligence and insight, and that 38 North's sources had used outdated analytical methods. "It's highly possible they have more imagery than we have," Town says. "They might have spies on the ground, too. But based on what we saw, there were no signs of an impending test." The president's trip came and went, and no missile test ever occurred. 38 North got it right.</p> <p>They don't always. The site once published a story about the construction of a possible missile-launch control center, pointing in the satellite image to an orange spot surrounded by building materials. Later, the site had to amend the story when it became clear the images were of a sawdust pile.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>Town describes North Korea as still a relatively poor country and a Stalinist state, which is the standard picture of the country in mainstream American media. "But they are slowly moving into what would be called a modern mindset," she says. "The average person thinks of North Korea as this closed-off place, dystopian and never changing. But that's not true. Sure, it doesn't move at the same pace as the Western world, but it evolves and changes."</p> <p>Since Kim Jong Un came to power in 2011, she points out, the country has seen more rapid change. Analysts estimate there are more than 3 million North Korean cellphone users now—that might explain all those new towers—and more people are gaining Internet access, though that number still totals in the thousands in a nation of 25 million people. Town says there's also been a loosening of market control and the fostering of some quasi-entrepreneurial endeavors. North Korea now has three taxi companies, for example, and some fast food restaurants and coffee shops, as well as water parks and other amusement sites. "There are also variety shows on television, although it's more Lawrence Welk than Miley Cyrus," Town says.</p> <p>Roberta Cohen, a nonresident senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution and a leading expert on internally displaced persons and human rights inside North Korea, says 38 North is not just well-known inside the Beltway; it has an ever-increasing reach. Cohen, who herself has written for 38 North on human rights issues, says she knows firsthand the site has garnered a lot of attention among United Nations staff, who cite stories they've read there. After one of her articles ran in 38 North, she made copies to hand out to U.N. staffers. When she got to New York, she learned they had all read the article already.</p> <p>"I think the site has a wide reach and appeal, beyond those who are solely interested in the nuclear problem," Cohen says. "They publish on a wide spectrum of issues, and the site has become known as a place with interesting, well-informed opinions on policy-relevant issues. If you're interested in agricultural reform or human rights in North Korea, you know to check out 38 North, as they've probably published something recently on the topic. They follow the critical events and know what is going on. And you know you'll get an interesting take on the subject, whether you agree with their opinion or not. They have a finger on the pulse."</p> <p>38 North's creators now post two to three stories a week and the institute recently hired a full-time staff member who serves as a research and production assistant. They plan to bring in more production and editorial staff, with an aim to redesign the site in early 2016. Wit says the plan is to integrate more multimedia and enhanced 3-D rendering aided by thermal imagery. "We want to go beyond weapons of mass destruction and do more with economic sites, mining, and transportation," he says.</p> <p>Influencing policy, Wit says, might be a bridge too far. "Our main objective is just to inject information for public discussion," he says. "I think we've already succeeded a lot in doing that. And I think media discussion on the North has improved in the past few years. I'm not sure we can take credit for that, but maybe all the hundreds of articles we've published have had an effect."</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Mary Anne Mercer hits on a novel way to help keep mothers and babies alive: text messaging <p>Mary Anne Mercer has vivid recall of the clinic in Dili, the capital of East Timor. It was early 2000, and the clinic was filled with women in peril of dying as they tried to give birth. One showed up after being in labor at home for more than two days before her family could borrow a car to bring her in. When she finally delivered the baby, it was dead, and she was close to death from exhaustion. Another woman arrived after being in labor for days with a baby in breech. The traditional midwife who had tried to help at her home had packed the pregnant woman's vagina with leaves and rice, assuming the baby would want to eat and come out for the food. Others arrived at the clinic after being in labor for so long their uteruses had ruptured. The majority of these complications, had they been treated early on, would not have become life-threatening. But in war-torn East Timor in 2000, there was only one viable health clinic, run by an expat doctor, Dan Murphy. Part of his staff was funded by a Seattle-based NGO called Health Alliance International, and Mercer, SPH '81, SPH '87 (DrPH), was HAI's deputy director. When she had climbed off the plane to Dili, she could still smell ash in the air from so many fires.</p> <p>In August 1999, the East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia, which had invaded and occupied the country in 1975. Estimates of the death toll from Indonesia's brutal occupation and the fighting after the vote vary from 90,000 to 200,000. Several hundred thousand more were forcibly displaced, and 75 percent of the country's infrastructure went up in flames at the hands of pro-Indonesia Timorese militia and the Indonesian army. When Mercer arrived in Dili, the World Health Organization listed the maternal mortality ratio for East Timor at a staggering 660 deaths for every 100,000 live births (the 2015 figure for the United States was 17), and the lifetime risk of maternal death at one in 30. "There had been this tradition that you didn't have to have a doctor or midwife for a delivery," Mercer says, "which is OK a good part of the time. But when it's not OK, it's really not OK." She quickly learned the women didn't have options. They could be in labor for days with nowhere to go for help.</p> <p><div class="pullquote"> When Mercer arrived in Dili, the World Health Organization listed the maternal mortality ratio for East Timor at a staggering 660 deaths for every 100,000 live births. </div> </p> <p>The solution was obvious: adequate prenatal care, a midwife or doctor present for delivery, and postpartum checkups for mother and baby. But East Timor's Ministry of Health was starting from scratch, and Mercer knew a new system would not be established fast enough—or reach far enough into the mountainous, isolated rural country—to save all the women and babies who needed saving. The challenge would be keeping them alive long enough for the public health infrastructure to build out to them. How to do that?</p> <p>Mercer is bouncing along in her 1992 Nissan Pathfinder on the 250-acre ranch she owns in eastern Montana. She is on the hunt for Canada thistle—a pernicious weed that can grow over three feet tall and is notorious for colonizing pastures. "Weeds just take over. If you don't keep 'em down, they will take you down," Mercer says.</p> <p>Dozens of black cows with plastic yellow tags pierced through their ears hustle to get out of her way, mooing and looking back with indignant expressions. "Mooove, cows, moooove," Mercer croons. "All right, ladies, this isn't about you." Mercer's husband, Stephen Bezruchka, is riding shotgun. He stays quiet as Mercer remarks on the location of weeds, identifying where they need to return later that afternoon to spray with herbicide. The pair met at Johns Hopkins when Bezruchka, SPH '93, was a student, and reunited a few years later at the 1994 American Public Health Association annual meeting. After spending an evening successfully chartering a boat—they used library books to figure out how to drive, since neither had any previous boating experience—they decided that getting married was a good idea.</p> <p>Mercer spies a patch of the offending plant in the pasture: "Ah, it's too late. They are seeded out. And this one too—oh my, my, my!" Her voice has a singsong quality to it—one that's picked up the affects and accents of too many people and cultures to reflect just one of them. She speaks four languages—English, Nepali, Spanish, and French—and she's currently learning Greek. When she bought the property in 2005, she asked the realtor what the relative value of the small house was compared to the land. The realtor didn't hesitate. "Zero," he said. Buying the spread was a homecoming for Mercer. She was born in 1944 in eastern Montana and grew up on her grandfather's 5,000-acre property, eight miles from Sidney, the nearest town. Her grandfather had homesteaded with a herd of cattle in 1906. Mercer was the oldest girl of seven children in a family that lived without indoor plumbing and electricity until she turned 6. In the middle of one winter, their car wouldn't start, so Mercer's father harnessed their horse, hooked a sled to the back of the saddle, and rode the kids to school.</p> <p>Mercer left Montana for the first time in 1962 to attend the College of Saint Teresa, a small women's college in Winona, Minnesota. She hadn't dated much in high school and often caught herself staring at her male classmates, thinking, "Imagine spending the rest of your life with him. It would be so boring." Her senior year of college, she studied for one quarter at Montana State University, where she met a college dropout with a motorcycle and a disdain for most people, though not for her, apparently, as he became her first husband. He had grown up in the military and called the shots, relocating them to San Francisco, Boston, Denver, Spokane, and, in 1971, back to San Francisco, all based on his whims. Mercer was happy to lead what she then perceived to be an unconventional life, a life that pushed the boundaries, until her husband pushed the boundaries of monogamy. She asked for a divorce in 1974.</p> <p>The next year, she enrolled in the nurse practitioner program at UC San Francisco and soon after graduation began working at a small community clinic in Chinatown–North Beach, treating Chinese and Italian immigrants and patients who lived in a nearby African-American housing project. She was in the clinic one day when a friend who had recently been traveling in Nepal stopped by. "Oh my God, if there is any place you can work in the whole world, Nepal is it," her friend insisted, giddy as she recalled the beauty of the landscape and the culture. Mercer knew nothing about Nepal, but she had always wanted to go abroad. A few days after that conversation, while reading the newspaper in her kitchen, she came across an ad that read, "Nurses wanted in Nepal." She didn't hesitate. Three weeks later, after a crash language course in Nepali, she found herself beginning the first of 18 months in the country.</p> <p>The Cherry Ames novels, created by author Helen Wells, detail the adventures of a rosy-cheeked, red-lipped young nurse who bravely sprints to far-flung places on missions to help those who would die if she were not there to save them. Mercer laughs now, embarrassed, when she recalls the books, which she devoured as a teenager and credits for her decision to become a nurse. Now, in Nepal, she had become her own iteration of the untethered, continent-hopping Cherry Ames, all pluck and caution-to-the-wind. "I don't think I was really smart enough to be scared," she says. "I saw it as an adventure and an adventure I'd always wanted to have. I had no idea what an important thing it would be. Once I was there, it became clear that it would be life-changing."</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>From 1978 to 1979, Mercer's base camp was in Nepal's north-central Gorkha district. For weeks at a time, she trekked with Nepalese vaccinators to remote villages to immunize children and educate communities about basic health issues such as diarrhea and worms. Villagers sought Mercer out, day and night, with questions about their health. Their ailments ranged from stomachaches to a thyroid gland so swollen it visibly protruded through the skin of a woman's neck. Mercer learned to measure distance to a village in terms of how many days' walk it was from the one highway.</p> <p>One of Mercer's assignments took her on a three-day trek north to Gumda on trails lined with rhododendrons. When she arrived in the village, she could see Ganesh Himal, a tall mountain peak that is part of the Himalayas. A young Nepali medical assistant named Sailendra asked Mercer to accompany him on a visit to a 2-year-old boy who he believed had pneumonia as a complication of measles. As they approached the house, they began to hear eerie howling sounds ahead on the trail. "Oh no. We are too late," Sailendra told her quietly. As he explained, women make a distinctive wail after someone dies. This someone happened to be a child who might have been saved by a few doses of penicillin. Mercer had the drug in her bag. "That old saw—'People die, it happens to them all the time, they get used to it.'—that's a ridiculous idea," Mercer says. Since arriving in Nepal, she'd seen person after person die whose deaths could easily have been prevented by basic medicines.</p> <p>Those 18 months in Nepal taught Mercer that she wanted to do something beyond treating individual patients, something that would get at the systemic public health problems in places like Gumda. The newspaper ad that drew her to Nepal had been placed by the Dooley Foundation (now called Dooley Intermed International), founded by Verne Chaney, Med '48, SPH '72. From Chaney, she now learned more about public health and heard from him that she needed to go to Johns Hopkins.</p> <p><div class="pullquote"> Too often, she says, "<em>we</em> go <em>there</em> trying to tell them how they can improve their health. And we do it with this incredible hubris of not understanding their reality and what their real problems are." </div> </p> <p>Mercer applied to the Bloomberg School of Public Health right before leaving Nepal in 1979, not long after Vietnam invaded Cambodia and drove the Khmer Rouge from power. Shortly after returning to San Francisco, Mercer got back on a plane and spent six months in Thailand with the International Rescue Committee, working as a clinician with thousands of refugees who had been pushed over the border by the Vietnamese. Her mother sent her a telegram from Montana while she was there with the news that she'd been accepted to Johns Hopkins.</p> <p>She arrived in Baltimore in 1980 and earned her master's degree in international health. Feeling she'd only scratched the surface, she joined the doctoral program with a focus on maternal and child health. After Mercer completed her doctorate in 1987, she spent the next two years consulting for nonprofit groups in Asia and Africa. Then Hopkins hired her as director of HAPA—HIV/AIDS Prevention in Africa, a Hopkins public health grants program that sent her traveling throughout Africa. She worked with the field staffs of nine NGOs in seven different countries, educating them about AIDS and helping them learn how the communities they served understood the disease. AIDS was still a new affliction, but there were already many competing explanations within each country for how the infection was transmitted, prevented, and according to some, even cured. The explanations often relied on the individual community's belief systems about a topic that was largely considered off the table—sex. If anything was going to change with AIDS, it had to involve community participation and altering deeply entrenched behavior and beliefs.</p> <p>That fit with what one of Mercer's mentors at the Bloomberg School, the late Carl Taylor, had always told her: "You have to learn from people who are living this life. You can't go in and assume you understand it." The NGOs Mercer worked with in Africa were willing to ask questions in focus groups about what local people thought and believed, and to tailor their approach to various communities based on what they'd learned from them. But she found that other organizations in the field—organizations with more money and clout—were not so willing. Mercer recalls a public presentation by a prominent U.S.-based organization, whose name she declines to reveal, about the results of their work on AIDS in Africa. "There was not a word about the social and cultural influences of people's behavior, or any mention of economic factors—and that was the whole problem," Mercer says. "That blew my mind." Too often, she says, "'we' go 'there' trying to tell them how they can improve their health. And we do it with this incredible hubris of not understanding their reality and what their real problems are."</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>When HAPA's grants ended in 1993, Mercer left the program and spent a year working for a child survival support program at Johns Hopkins. By that time, she had an adopted daughter, Maia, and her second husband, Bezruchka. They settled into a new life in Seattle, where Mercer met Stephen Gloyd, a friend of Bezruchka's who taught at the University of Washington's School of Public Health and was the founder of Health Alliance International, which is affiliated with the university. Gloyd invited her to join him at HAI, which is how she ended up going to East Timor.</p> <p>Mercer and HAI's work was with the Timorese government to build up its health system. (The country renamed itself Timor-Leste in 2002.) In 2004, with a large grant from U.S. Agency for International Development, they took on a two-pronged effort to improve maternal and newborn health: educate communities, through films and visits to clinics, about the importance of health care for expectant and new mothers, and train midwives in up-to-date maternity care.</p> <p>By the time their USAID grant ended in 2009, HAI's work had reached almost half the country's population. More women than ever were getting to prenatal care, and more women had a midwife present for delivery. But all their effort still hadn't produced the improvement they wanted. In 2009, WHO's maternal mortality ratio for Timor-Leste remained stubbornly high at 557 deaths for every 100,000 live births. For the women who were still giving birth at home unassisted, any complication could be lethal. Mercer and a colleague, Susan Thompson, were at HAI's headquarters in Seattle when they started brainstorming what to do next. Timorese women still weren't accessing midwives enough, often because they didn't feel a connection to them. "We were thinking, 'What can we do? What can we do?'" Mercer says. "By that point, we were seeing mobile phones all around [Timor-Leste]. We did not know how many mobile phones there were, but we knew there were a lot." Mercer and Thompson started digging and discovered that the rate of mobile phone usage had gone from only 2 percent in 2003 to between 54 and 61 percent in 2010. Phones were everywhere, even in the mountainous, remote parts of the country.</p> <p>"What that does is give women a chance to be in contact with the outside world," Mercer says, and that contact might give them a chance to survive. She and Thompson sketched out Mobile Moms, an intervention to connect mothers and midwives through mobile phone texting. They applied for a second USAID grant, which they landed to their surprise. "We didn't have a great sense of how well it would work or whether it would work," Mercer says. It took them the first year and a half of the four-year grant to do a baseline survey and collect information from midwives and other health staff in the Manufahi municipality, work that revealed that almost 70 percent of women of childbearing age there had a cellphone in their household they used regularly. "It was mind-blowing that overnight, this technology could have reached these rural areas."</p> <p>One of HAI's in-country staff was friends with the two founders of a Timorese-based technology startup called Catalpa International, who pitched in to help. Mobile Moms was born. "It was very vague in the beginning," Mercer says. "All we knew was that we wanted the midwife and the pregnant woman to have a connection. Then we wanted some information to be going out at the same time."</p> <p>Back in Seattle, Mercer began writing SMS messages that could be sent to pregnant women, dispensing advice and reminders about how best to stay healthy. These were translated into Tetum, the most commonly spoken language in the country. HAI purchased smartphones to distribute to midwives, and Mercer flew out in January 2012 to oversee the first midwife training. The program was simple. When a woman came in for her first prenatal care visit, the midwife asked if she had a phone, and if she did, the midwife took her picture and some basic information: her name, her estimated due date, her phone number, the village in which she lived, and other pieces of identifying information. Then, twice a week, the woman began receiving messages appropriate for her stage of pregnancy. The first message read: "Congratulations on your pregnancy! You should be checked by the midwife at least 4 times at a health center to ensure a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby." A first trimester message read, "During the [antenatal] visit the midwife will measure your blood pressure and feel your belly to see how your baby is growing and moving." A message as the woman's due date approached was, "The baby is getting bigger and may cause your back to hurt. You should stay active but try not to lift heavy things like water or other children." The messages were meant in part to get women to think about having a midwife, now trained by HAI, present for the delivery. After birth, the messages continued for six weeks, with advice on postpartum and newborn care.</p> <p>The program's early results were so impressive that HAI and Catalpa International were asked to scale up the program into three new districts, with a tentative plan to expand to all of the country's 13 districts in the next five years. In Manufahi, the number of deliveries in clinics rose by 70 percent, and total births assisted by a skilled attendant, whether at home or in a facility, increased by 32 percent. But Mercer is the first to take those numbers with a grain of salt. "There are a lot of complicated factors involved in evaluating whether the program works," she says. The ultimate outcome they hope for, of course, is decreased maternal mortality. But those numbers are hard for HAI or the Timorese Ministry of Health to measure, given how expensive and difficult it is to gather them. So the key outcome measure remains whether the women use a midwife or doctor. In the most densely populated area with the largest number of midwifery staff—the places "close to the road," as Mercer would have said in Nepal—the results were swift and impressive: more women came in for prenatal care visits, more women had their births attended by a skilled attendant, and more births occurred in a health facility. But in submunicipalities that are more remote, less densely populated, and have fewer health care staff, the increases were not as quick or as dramatic.</p> <p><div class="pullquote"> In Manufahi, the number of deliveries in clinics rose by 70 percent, and total births assisted by a skilled attendant, whether at home or in a facility, increased by 32 percent.  </div> </p> <p>The Ministry of Health is currently conducting the biggest evaluation of Mobile Moms to date, surveying hundreds of women who had a child in the last two years and all the participating midwives. The results will be available in early 2016. Among other things, the survey will compare intervention districts alongside control districts, where Mobile Moms has not yet been implemented, to see whether maternal health is improving on its own, or because of the Mobile Moms program. If the survey shows that the program has been useful, Timor-Leste's Ministry of Health is interested in taking on responsibility for it over the next couple of years.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>Mercer and Bezruchka sit on their back porch to eat toast and drink coffee. There are a few trees surrounding the house, and they creak in response to the light breeze. A few white clouds drift across Montana's big blue sky. Mercer is 71 years old now. She's able to visit the ranch a few times each year, to work on her memoir about her time in Nepal or to "just listen to the silence." She doesn't have a smartphone, but she keeps her flip phone close by in case Maia—now 26 and working for a nonprofit in San Diego—needs to get hold of her.</p> <p>Mercer isn't sure what her involvement in Timor-Leste will be after their current USAID grant runs out in the summer of 2016. In 2011, she and Thompson switched positions at HAI, with Thompson becoming the director and Mercer becoming a technical adviser—the beginning of edging into retirement. Nonetheless, Mercer still makes the trip to Timor-Leste each year to train their staff of 43 people, or to help out with the various programs, even though it takes 44 hours to get there and exhausts her. She's mentioned a few times now that she's at retirement age, that she should be retiring now, almost as if she needs to convince herself. So why does she keep going? Her answer is that she is moved by friends in Seattle who are committed activists. "If there weren't people like that in my environment, I think I would find it much easier to step back and say, 'Oh, I've done my thing, I've done it, I'm tired.'" She interrupts herself to point out a bird behind us. "Oh, look at the clothesline. Isn't it pretty?" The bird is small with bright yellow coloring on its chest and back. A goldfinch.</p> <p>Mercer picks up her point again. Her friends are part of it, yes, but the other part is what the women of Timor-Leste experience. That stays on her mind. "You can't forget it," she says. "You just can't forget what women go through when they're in labor for days and die."</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 What wildland firefighters can teach us about coping with uncertainty <p>For many organizations, whatever their purpose, there is no certainty like continued uncertainty. Businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, schools, hospitals, armed forces, and emergency responders all must operate effectively in environments subject to rapid change and crises that can arise with little warning.</p> <p>Kathleen Sutcliffe, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in the Carey Business School and the School of Medicine, studies how organizations cope with this uncertainty and maintain their resilience. Her most recent book, co-authored with Karl E. Weick, is <em>Managing the Unexpected: Sustained Performance in a Complex World</em>. For that book, the authors studied organizations that must be highly reliable such as commercial airlines, hospital emergency departments, aircraft carrier flight operations, and firefighting units. Her recent paper published in the Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management draws lessons from an increasingly busy group of people—wildland firefighters.</p> <h3>Context</h3> <p>Sutcliffe and her co-researchers wanted to test a couple of ideas. First, organizations that perform well in uncertain environments have front-line personnel who practice what is called "anomalizing": paying attention to and reporting anomalies, the small, sometimes subtle discrepancies from the expected that can foreshadow a crisis. And second, these organizations have leadership that is attentive to reported anomalies and adept at making sense of them to guide an appropriate response. For their test, Sutcliffe collected data from surveys of wildland firefighters—men and women whose effectiveness at managing the wildfires that have become prevalent in the western United States is constantly tested by their ability to respond to uncertainty.</p> <h3>Data</h3> <p>The researchers collected data through a telephone survey of 700 randomly selected firefighting personnel who were employed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service. The study used data from 518 respondents. More than half the respondents worked on the fire lines, about a third were in midlevel management, and the rest had upper-level positions, though everyone was involved with on-the-ground fire management, which could include starting fires in prescribed burns to reduce fire hazard. Seventy-nine percent were men, the average age was 41, and average experience in fire management was 16 years. The researchers found positive correlations for anomalizing, and for proactive leadership that helped others make sense of the observed anomalies.</p> <h3>Upshot</h3> <p>Analysis of the data showed that teams that performed well had frontline personnel who were attentive to anomalies—say, an unexpected whiff of smoke—and reported them to leadership that could put those observations in meaningful context and form an appropriate response. So the findings endorsed both of Sutcliffe's hypotheses. Other factors that improved performance in the field were the familiarity of team members with one another (that is, how long they had been teammates) and their clarity about the team's goals. The best teams were alert to even small unexpected changes in the field, conscientious about reporting what they'd noticed, and led by people who could consider the bigger picture and respond to the changing situation.</p> <h3>Conclusion</h3> <p>Sutcliffe notes the value of not just recognizing anomalies but also avoiding a very human response—rationalizing those discrepancies until they fit the expected picture and no longer seem suspicious or worrisome, a response known as "normalizing deviance." Acknowledging that something doesn't seem right can disrupt smooth progress toward a goal, and there's a natural tendency to be reluctant to interrupt momentum. "When we are engrossed in an action, we often miss small problems that can grow into large ones," Sutcliffe says. "Interruptions provide an opportunity to question the ongoing story."</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 The Open Connectome Project takes a close look at the brain <p>The website of the Open Connectome Project, founded by Joshua Vogelstein and Randal Burns of the Whiting School (along with Vogelstein's brother Jacob and PhD student Eric Perlman), states its purpose as "reverse-engineering the brain one synapse at a time." To do so, scientists must see the brain's architecture in extraordinary detail. One way to accomplish this is with array tomography, a method that uses a computer to stack microscopic images of the thinnest possible slices of brain tissue to construct a detailed three-dimensional image. The photomicrograph here is of a small slice of human cortex; the colored dots are believed to be synapses.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Note <p><strong>Most of what I read for my job makes me happy.</strong></p> <p>Over the years, for <em>Johns Hopkins Magazine</em> I have read about Pluto, baseball, lacrosse, opera, guitar, black holes, ocean waves, pig farms, the brain, the blues, how we learn, and how we swim fast. It was all reading for work, but there was much pleasure in it.</p> <p>But reading Kathryn J. Edin's <em>$2.00 a Day: Living On Almost Nothing in America</em> made me sad. And angry. Edin, a Johns Hopkins sociologist and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, and co-author H. Luke Shaefer chronicle the lives of American citizens so disconnected from the economy that they have to subsist, for months at a time, on less than $2 a day in cash income. That is hard enough to imagine. Even harder to imagine is that in any given month more than 4 million people live like this, in a society so rich that $200 sneakers and $800 cellphones are mass market items. And as Edin documents—please read <a href="">"The End of the End of the Line"</a>—these are working poor, people who seize every opportunity to work but find themselves shut out at every turn in the road.</p> <p>American consumers spend around $120 billion a year on fast food. H&R Block says taxpayers annually fail to collect $1 billion in tax refunds. The amount of wealth in the American economy on any given day would stagger Croesus, but it is somehow politically acceptable, even popular, to insist there's no money to help millions of our own impoverished citizens.</p> <p>It is easy to be mean-spirited toward someone you've never met or know nothing about. I do it every day. Perhaps this points out the greatest value of Kathy Edin's work: After reading <em>$2.00 a Day</em>, I no longer have that excuse when it comes to the poorest of the poor.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Message <p><strong>On a Friday this fall, Johns Hopkins students demonstrated at Homewood and in East Baltimore.</strong></p> <p>They stood in solidarity with their peers protesting racial discrimination at the University of Missouri and other universities throughout the nation. They also sent an important message to me and to our community about the need to intensify our efforts to strengthen the climate and culture of diversity at Johns Hopkins.</p> <p>As recent events have shown, the legacy of racial inequality and injustice is part of a national narrative—one that plays out in the daily lives of students, faculty, and staff on campuses across the country. But, as I said to our students, I understand that the protest here is also fundamentally about Johns Hopkins, about who we are and what we value. And we are steadfast in our belief that diversity—of people and of human experiences, as well as of thought—is central to our education, research, and service missions.</p> <p>Recognizing that we have work to do in advancing diversity, our university has been engaging with students, faculty, and staff across our campuses over the past year to open dialogue and to identify what we can do to address their concerns. We have made strides, including implementing mandatory orientation programming that focuses on issues of social justice; launching the universitywide JHU Forums on Race in America, which have highlighted some of the nation's leading thinkers on racial justice; and implementing unconscious bias training for our leadership and search committees. And our efforts to recruit a diverse student body have resulted in an entering class at Homewood—the undergraduate class of 2019—that is both our most academically talented and most diverse class ever, with 23 percent identifying as an underrepresented minority (Black or African-American, Hispanic or Latino, Native American, or Pacific Islander), up from 12 percent in 2009.</p> <p>We also have worked closely with the deans of each of our schools to develop a comprehensive Faculty Diversity Initiative to which the university and our schools are committing more than $20 million in new funding. This effort broadens the scope of the Mosaic Initiative begun in 2008 and includes strategies to help us identify, hire, and support the most talented faculty from around the world. And we will hold ourselves accountable by producing timely and public reports on the composition of our faculty.</p> <p>Our students' call to action and the critical input of our faculty, staff, and alumni will serve as a guide as we take up these challenges together and strive to meet them with the courage and vision that is the signature of Johns Hopkins University.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Contributors <p><strong>Michael Anft</strong> <a href="">("Outreach on the Street,")</a>, formerly the magazine's senior science writer, writes for several publications, including <em>AARP: The Magazine</em> and <em>The Chronicle of Higher Education</em>. He is developing a television series based on sex trafficking.</p> <p><strong>Rick Dahms</strong> <a href="">("Sending a Message," photograph)</a> is a freelance photographer based in Seattle. He lives in a century-old farmhouse on an island in Puget Sound with his wife, two dogs, two cats, goats, chickens, and horses.</p> <p><strong>Tang Yau Hoong</strong> <a href="">("Keeping an Eye on North Korea," illustration)</a> is a self-taught artist who makes conceptual illustrations ranging from editorial to advertising and apparel to posters.</p> <p><strong>Katharine Reece</strong> <a href="">("Sending a Message,")</a> is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer. She divides her time between Brooklyn, New York, and Kalispell, Montana.</p> <p><strong>Mark Smith</strong> <a href="">("The End of the End of the Line," illustrations)</a> has been living his second life as an illustrator for the last six years. His work has been recognized by the New York Society of Illustrators, the LA Society of Illustrators, and the 3X3 ProShow.</p> <p><strong>Lisa Watts</strong> <a href="">("Numbers Games,")</a> is a writer and editor in Durham, North Carolina. She serves as communications director for the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.</p> <h3>On the cover</h3> <p><strong>Kathryn Edin</strong> has for years found herself at the intersection of qualitative and quantitative data, wading through statistics and census figures to tell the stories of the poorest of the poor. Her latest book, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, looks into the subset of Americans who manage to survive with almost no cash income. (<a href="">Read the cover story.</a>) Baltimore-based photographer <strong>Matt Roth</strong> captured this issue's cover image of Edin. His other clients include <em>The New York Times</em> and <em>The Chronicle of Higher Education</em>.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Dialogue <h3>Obvious Omission</h3> <p>As I flipped through the fall issue of the magazine, I was struck by the paucity of photos of women—so struck that I ended up counting the number of men and women in the photos throughout. My count: 20 photos of men, three photos of women, two photos showing both men and women, and one photo of a dead female. Johns Hopkins University has had female students since its inception, and all of its schools were coed by the 1970s. Although female faculty were rare until recently, they have racked up a lot of accomplishments. What's with the magazine? Do you think that prospective students and faculty won't notice this imbalance and that the women and girls among them won't be turned off?</p> <p><strong>Elizabeth Corwin, SAIS '82 (Cert), A&S '83</strong> Tampa, Florida</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <h3>No Reconciliation</h3> <p>The fall 2015 issue gave room to a tendentious and bigoted anti-Israel letter <a href="">["Past Time," Dialogue, Fall]</a>. The letter writer, Ray Gordon, has a history of using tangential news items as an excuse to write letters against Israel. The <em>Johns Hopkins Magazine</em> letter is typical. It refers to a story on German reconciliation <a href="">["From Ashes to Amity," Summer 2015]</a> in a way that identifies Israel with Nazis, then goes on in an inflammatory manner—using words like "massacre" and "atrocity"—to characterize the tragedy, for all parties, of the 2014 war in Gaza. There was no reconciliation in this letter. I would have thought that "the best university magazine in the country" would take more editorial care in its choice of letters to publish.</p> <p><strong>Michael Edidin</strong> Baltimore</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <h3>A Reminder</h3> <p>I was appalled and outraged that you printed Ray Gordon's anti-Semitic screed "Past Time" in the fall issue. Mr. Gordon needs to be reminded that in 1948 the tiny new state of Israel was voted into existence by the member nations of the United Nations and was then immediately attacked by five Arab armies. The territories it won defending itself against these hugely superior forces were held according to international law regarding wars of defense against invaders. Regardless of how Mr. Gordon would like to rewrite history, Israel is the Jewish people's ancestral homeland, and it gives citizenship to its Arab inhabitants. The "oppression" he cites is directly related to how they pay back the only democratic state in the Middle East: with deadly rock throwing, bombs, knifings, car ramming, suicide attacks, kidnappings, and the like. The Palestinians who prefer to impoverish themselves building tunnels from which to attack Israel rather than accepting the territories Israel has already given back to them in the hopes of peace have only them­selves and their terrorist, war-fixated leaders to blame for the fact that things get worse and worse. Peace was offered; they refuse to accept because of their "honor" and impossible demands. Should Israel accede to giving back even more territory than it has, the United States might as well be prepared to give back our entire country to the Native Americans who were here when we came—a situation never before required of any country. Should the Palestinians ever decide to negotiate in good faith, perhaps there will be peace. Israel must be treated as any other country and not be expected to suffer constant attacks without retaliating.</p> <p><strong>Judy Chernak</strong> Pikesville, Maryland</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <h3>A Chance to Respond</h3> <p>I was shocked that you published the letter of Ray Gordon, a virulent and frequent Israel-basher, in your fall issue. Citing a previous article about reconciliation, he used your magazine to launch ad hominem attacks on the Jewish state. There was no mention of the Palestinian charter, written before the 1967 war, calling for the complete destruction of Israel. Nor of Israel's continuous efforts to make peace or of the land they gave to the Palestinian people in the hopes of achieving it. No mention of the thousands of Israelis killed and maimed in terrorist attacks. No mention of Israel's good faith withdrawal from Gaza, whose citizens then proceeded to elect a government run by Hamas, a terrorist group. No mention of Israel tolerating years of attacks and missiles before defending herself, while going above and beyond to minimize civilian casualties. No mention of Hamas storing and firing munitions from schools and hospitals. When will Israel get a chance to respond? I'm disgusted that you allowed your magazine to be used in this way.</p> <p><strong>Phil Schatz</strong> New York</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <h3>Where His Trust Lies</h3> <p>Regarding the fall Forefront story <a href="">["Pro Guns and Pro Checks"]</a>: I can assure your readers that the 1995 Connecticut law requiring would-be pistol owners to pass an eight-hour, police-administered course had no effect on the murder rate in Connecticut any more than Baltimore's stringent gun laws have had on the astronomical murder rate in your fair city, or D.C.'s stringent laws have on the high murder rate in D.C. These guns are not purchased at gun stores or by taking advantage of the "gun show loophole." They are available on the black market. Does Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, ever show up at a gun show? I have never been able to buy a gun at a gun show without filling out the required forms used to determine whether one is prohibited by law from receiving a firearm. Once in a while, a guy wanders through with a hunting rifle on his back and wants to sell it. That's about it. Also in <em>Johns Hopkins Magazine</em> was an article about a retired Army lieutenant colonel <a href="">["Basic Training," Alumni, Summer]</a> expressing his thanks for the opportunity Johns Hopkins had given him and promising to set up an estate gift to Hopkins in gratitude. I am also a retired lieutenant colonel, but I will be setting up a trust to preserve my Second Amendment rights. The money will go to the NRA Institute for Legislative Action. Hopkins has brought this on itself by getting involved in a political issue. It need not have done so.</p> <p><strong>Clarence D. Long III, A&S '65</strong> Warrenton, Virginia</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Measuring an enzyme's effect on chromosomes <h3>PUBLISHED IN: <em>Cell Reports</em>, November 24, 2015</h3> <h3>TITLE: ATM Kinase Is Required for Telomere Elongation in Mouse and Human Cells</h3> <p><strong>ATM</strong> stands for ataxia telangiectasia mutated, a gene that contains information for synthesizing a protein that controls the rate of cell growth. When the strands of DNA in a cell become damaged, the ATM protein coordinates repair.</p> <p><strong>Kinase</strong> is a type of enzyme that regulates the function of proteins to modify complex cell processes. Scientists knew ATM kinase played a role in DNA repair but were not sure if it also affected telomere lengthening.</p> <p><strong>Telomeres</strong> are repetitive sequences of organic molecules that form protective caps on the ends of chromosomes. Over repeated divisions of a cell, the telomeres shorten, and this shortening imposes a limit on how many times a cell can divide. Because cells with short telomeres die, shortening limits cancer-cell growth but also the growth of normal stem cells, giving rise to age-related degenerative disease.</p> <h3>SUMMARY:</h3> <p>Telomeres have been compared to caps on the ends of shoelaces. The caps stop the laces from fraying; telomeres protect the ends of chromosomes from loss of the DNA at the end of chromosomes. As a cell divides over and over and over, the telomeres shorten until they become too short to function and the cell dies. </p> <p>An enzyme called telomerase lengthens telomeres, counteracting the shortening effects of cell division and thus prolonging the life of a cell. It's fair to say no one knows more about telomerase than molecular biologist Carol Greider, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor who was a co-recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering it in 1984. That discovery was just the beginning of understanding the biochemistry and function of telomeres, though. Researchers now knew what telomerase did, but how did it do it? What other proteins, enzymes, and processes were involved?</p> <p>For this newly published research, Johns Hopkins graduate student Stella Lee, lead author on the paper, spent five years developing a special assay to measure the lengthening of telomeres in lab-grown mouse cells. Then Lee, Greider, and three other Johns Hopkins researchers used the assay to measure the effect of the enzyme ATM kinase on telomeres. The scientists focused on ATM kinase because they knew it was involved in DNA repair. In the lab, they grew mouse cells, blocked ATM, and then ran Lee's new assay. The test showed that without ATM kinase, telomerase could no longer lengthen the cells' telomeres. When they took a batch of normal mouse cells and applied a drug that activated ATM kinase, they saw the opposite effect: the telomeres lengthened.</p> <p>Shortened telomeres have been implicated in age-related degenerative diseases now called telomere syndromes, and overactive telomere elongation has been linked to cancer. This makes understanding the chemistry that controls their length of prime importance. Greider believes Lee's new assay will prove to be a valuable tool in future telomere research.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Some time <p>One afternoon in fall 1996, I was standing in the middle of the Upper Quad, leaning on a short, rectangular piece of wood. Swami, a fellow engineering graduate student with big, broad shoulders, was running toward me, about to hurl a tennis ball.</p> <p>The substitute for a cricket ball flew in my direction. I made contact—that sweet contact of bat to ball that every ballplayer knows—and began to run. At the other end of our makeshift cricket pitch, my fellow batter, Kumar, hesitated. Unlike myself—22, ink still drying on my bachelor's degree—Kumar was old, perhaps even as old as 28. He had submitted his dissertation to the library that stood to my left as I ran, and this was his last day in Baltimore and the last of the several hundred games of tennis-ball cricket he had played on the Upper Quad. Kumar's hesitation was well-founded. I should never have called for a run. I had hit the ball straight to a fielder and Kumar didn't stand a chance—out without getting a hit in his last game. And it was my fault. Kumar looked at me, but being my senior by several years, a married man with a PhD and a job waiting for him in Minneapolis, he could not express the disappointment written across his face.</p> <p>Suddenly the game's usually relaxed pace, an object of amusement for those who stopped to look as they passed through the quad, grew frantic. When the game finished, Swami made a show of looking up at the sky and said: "I think we have time for one more game." Everyone agreed. In that contrived last game, Kumar got what he needed: the feeling of bat on ball one last time before he left the safe environs of the Homewood campus for the wild Midwest.</p> <p>Two years later, Swami played his last game of cricket the day before Thanksgiving. "Going to Durham, to meet Srinadh. Want to come?" he asked, referring to a former Upper Quad cricketer who had graduated and moved away. Swami never returned. That large but nimble body, so often seen steadying itself under a fly ball while its owner yelled, "Got it! Got it!" in an accent that was no longer Indian but not yet American, had been crushed when the car he was riding in hurtled headlong into the pillar of an overpass.</p> <p>At the Glass Pavilion two days later, many of my fellow Indian graduate students shed the self-effacement that often comes with being a student in a foreign land and stepped up to the mic to share their stories of Swami. What I remember all these years later was what Swami's former roommate said. "I wish we had some time," he said. "Some time for one more game of cricket on the Upper Quad."</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 In memoriam <p><strong>Howard W. Jones Jr.</strong>, Med '35, HS '47, July 31, Englewood, Colorado.</p> <p><strong>Robert M. Goldman</strong>, A&S '38, May 22, Towson, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Bertha P. Ross</strong>, Nurs '40 (Dipl), June 3, Scottsdale, Arizona.</p> <p><strong>John W. Bateman</strong>, Engr '41, April 24, Mathews, Virginia.</p> <p><strong>Walter E. Judson</strong>, Med '42, July 14, Indianapolis.</p> <p><strong>Horace G. Moore</strong>, A&S '42, Med '45, July 10, Wilmington, North Carolina.</p> <p><strong>Morton J. Macks</strong>, Engr '44, April 30, Delray Beach, Florida.</p> <p><strong>Adamantia Pollis</strong>, A&S '46 (MA), '58 (PhD), August 5, New York.</p> <p><strong>Graham A. Vance</strong>, HS '46, May 28, West Plains, Missouri.</p> <p><strong>Clifford A. Bachrach</strong>, SPH '48, June 1, Gaithersburg, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Samuel W. Deisher</strong>, A&S '48, April 5, York, Pennsylvania.</p> <p><strong>Harold D. Paxton</strong>, Med '48, May 5, Portland, Oregon.</p> <p><strong>Gloria A. Remy</strong>, SAIS '48, May 14, Seattle.</p> <p><strong>Arthur E. Rikli</strong>, SPH '48, May 20, Columbia, Missouri.</p> <p><strong>Kenneth N. Andersen</strong>, Med '49, May 22, Center Point, Iowa.</p> <p><strong>Dorothy J. Button</strong>, Nurs '49, May 3, Reno, Nevada.</p> <p><strong>Anna Clair Junkin</strong>, Nurs '50, April 17, Timonium, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>A. Gibson Packard Jr.</strong>, A&S '50, June 16, Sanibel, Florida.</p> <p><strong>Richard E. Patterson</strong>, A&S '50 (MA), '52 (PhD), July 18, Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.</p> <p><strong>John H. Hebb</strong>, HS '51, June 22, Baltimore.</p> <p><strong>Matilda Snelling Smith</strong>, Nurs '51, May 2, Dallas.</p> <p><strong>Albert R. Stallknecht</strong>, Engr '52, '60 (MSE), May 29, Mechanicsville, Pennsylvania.</p> <p><strong>Robert G. Sullivan</strong>, A&S '52, June 4, La Jolla, California.</p> <p><strong>Lawrence W. Fagg</strong>, A&S '53 (PhD), May 3, Winchester, Virginia.</p> <p><strong>Walter C. Kanwisher</strong>, A&S '53, June 1, Venice, Florida.</p> <p><strong>John C. Rodowski</strong>, Engr '53, February 24, Centreville, Delaware.</p> <p><strong>Arthur Sarnoff</strong>, A&S '53, May 20, New York.</p> <p><strong>Ezekiel H. Wilson Jr.</strong>, Med '53, HS '55, July 13, Baltimore.</p> <p><strong>Frederick Steinmann</strong>, A&S '54, March 27, Mays Chapel, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>James R. Jude</strong>, HS '55, Med '56 (PGF), July 28, Coral Gables, Florida.</p> <p><strong>James E. Dunn II</strong>, A&S '56, May 18, Ashland, Oregon.</p> <p><strong>John S. Laurie</strong>, SPH '56 (ScD), May 13, Apex, North Carolina.</p> <p><strong>David R. W. Raynolds</strong>, SAIS '56, June 19, Lander, Wyoming.</p> <p><strong>William F. Saffell</strong>, Engr '56, July 2, Jarrettsville, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Abe J. Moses</strong>, SAIS '57, June 30, Amherst, Massachusetts.</p> <p><strong>David J. Olney</strong>, A&S '58 (MA), July 29, Mattapoisett, Massachusetts.</p> <p><strong>Mary Jean S. Silk</strong>, A&S '58 (PhD), June 30, Johannesburg, South Africa.</p> <p><strong>JoAnne Block Wise</strong>, Nurs '59 (Dipl), May 5, Charleston, South Carolina.</p> <p><strong>Anibal A. Acosta Sr.</strong>, HS '61, June 8, Norfolk, Virginia.</p> <p><strong>Richard I. Breuer</strong>, HS '61, May 24, Andersonville, Illinois.</p> <p><strong>Anne M. Cowan</strong>, Nurs '61, February 28, Green Valley, Arizona.</p> <p><strong>Clifford J. Fralen</strong>, Engr '61 (MSE), July 10, Chelmsford, Massachusetts.</p> <p><strong>Richard J. Turner</strong>, Engr '61, April 17, Clearwater, Florida.</p> <p><strong>Earl W. Baker</strong>, A&S '62 (MA), '64 (PhD), June 22, Boynton Beach, Florida.</p> <p><strong>Thomas H. Benton</strong>, A&S '63, March 26, East Orleans, Massachusetts.</p> <p><strong>Theodore Lichtenstein Jr.</strong>, A&S '63, July 6, Jacksonville, Florida.</p> <p><strong>George F. Kettell</strong>, Bus '64, April 19, Easton, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Barbara B. Roque</strong>, Nurs '64 (Dipl), May 27, Cumberland, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Richard L. Schott</strong>, A&S '64 (MA), June 13, Austin, Texas.</p> <p><strong>Robert K. Rathbun</strong>, A&S '65, May 17, San Jose, California.</p> <p><strong>Joseph T. Skerrett Jr.</strong>, A&S '65 (MA), July 25, Belchertown, Massachusetts.</p> <p><strong>Nicholas K. Moore</strong>, Med '67 (PGF), April 7, Columbia, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Sambamurthy Subramanian</strong>, Med '67 (PGF), July 17, Miami.</p> <p><strong>Risa B. Mann</strong>, A&S '68, Med '71, HS '75, June 26, Chevy Chase, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Timothy L. O'Hare</strong>, A&S '68, April 13, Bel Air, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Francisco D. Sabado Jr.</strong>, HS '69, Med '71 (PGF), May 1, Martinsburg, West Virginia.</p> <p><strong>James L. Bradley</strong>, Ed '74 (MEd), May 2, Gamber, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Dorothy V. Fique</strong>, Ed '74 (MS), July 28, Harrington, Delaware.</p> <p><strong>Gary M. Shayne</strong>, A&S '74, July 4, Lutherville, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>James O. Mathis</strong>, Engr '75, July 21, Sykesville, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Gerald M. Stancil</strong>, A&S '76 (PhD), May 28, Baltimore.</p> <p><strong>William Neal Zulch</strong>, A&S '78 (MA), '85 (PhD), May 9, Philadelphia.</p> <p><strong>Michael R. Jacuch</strong>, A&S '80, May 4, Newington, New Hampshire.</p> <p><strong>Peter LePoer</strong>, A&S '81 (MA), August 2, Columbia, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Georgia Gordon Sabatini</strong>, Nurs '81, May 29, Ellicott City, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>George Shulgach</strong>, Engr '82 (MS), May 4, Bel Air, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Joseph L. Romolo</strong>, HS '85, April 15, Ventura, California.</p> <p><strong>Jan H. Stafl</strong>, HS '85, Med '86 (PGF), April 26, Eugene, Oregon.</p> <p><strong>Michael W. Lewis</strong>, A&S '86, June 21, Findlay, Ohio.</p> <p><strong>Carolyn M. Kaelin</strong>, Med '87, July 28, Boston.</p> <p><strong>Edward A. Wolff III</strong>, Med '87, June 8, Belleville, Illinois.</p> <p><strong>Ruthanne Haefka</strong>, Peab '88 (MM), March 9, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.</p> <p><strong>Carol R. Muschette-Kirk</strong>, Bus '95 (Cert), March 25, Takoma Park, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Sandra T. Nguyen</strong>, Engr '99 (MS), June 23, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.</p> <p><strong>Barbara A. Vanderlaan</strong>, Engr '99 (MS), April 8, Pasadena, Maryland.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Class notes <h4>1961</h4> <p><strong>Gordon Bockner, A&S '61, SAIS Bol '65 (Dipl), SAIS '66</strong>, has served as president of Business Development Associates since 1981, focusing on international technology licensing in the food and beverage packaging industries. He is married with two children and four grandchildren.</p> <h4>1963</h4> <p><strong>Fred A. Kahn, SAIS '63</strong>, was recognized in 2014 by U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen for his "outstanding contributions to our government, our country, and our community." Kahn, who for 30 years was a political economist for the U.S. government, helped formulate the modern American presidential debate and worked to promote tolerance and understanding through Holocaust education.</p> <h4>1965</h4> <p><strong>Linda Anderson, Nurs '65 (Dipl)</strong>, regrets she was unable to attend her reunion at Johns Hopkins. Her husband, Jack, was undergoing cancer treatments. She invites reunion news and photographs at</p> <h4>1967</h4> <p><strong>Richard W. Garner, Med '67</strong>, continues to practice orthopedic surgery at Anchorage Fracture Orthopedics in Alaska. He became a half-time employee in March.</p> <h4>1970</h4> <p><strong>Dwight Alpern, A&S '70</strong>, an attorney with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is studying archaeology at the University of Maryland and participating in local excavations.</p> <p><strong>William I. Brustein, SAIS Bol '70 (Dipl), SAIS '71</strong>, is vice provost for global strategies and inter­national affairs and professor of sociology, political science, and history at the Ohio State University. He also serves as president of OSU Global Gateways, which supports the university's internationalization efforts.</p> <p><strong>Rob Buchanan, A&S '70, SAIS '70</strong>, serves as president of Charities Aid Foundation America, a global grant-making organization assisting corporations, foundations, and individuals to support causes through global giving.</p> <p><strong>Brian Mohler, A&S '70, SAIS '72</strong>, retired from the U.S. State Department in 2009 but continues to inspect State Department offices in Washington, D.C., and in embassies overseas three months a year.</p> <h4>1975</h4> <p><strong>Randy Datsko, A&S '75</strong>, serves as mayor of his hometown of Ebensburg, Pennsylvania.</p> <p><strong>Udo Wahn, A&S '75</strong>, a retired physician, is the writer and publisher of the Cabo and Coral series of children's books, which teaches kids about environmental issues.</p> <h4>1977</h4> <p><strong>Michael Hoffheimer, A&S '77</strong>, professor of law at the University of Mississippi School of Law, has been appointed the Jamie L. Whitten Chair of Law and Government. He has taught at the school since 1987.</p> <h4>1978</h4> <p><strong>Leslie S. Leighton, Med '78</strong>, received his doctorate from Emory University in May. He is transforming his medical history dissertation on the decline of coronary heart disease mortality in the U.S. into a book and accepted an adjunct appointment at Emory University in the Center for the Study of Human Health.</p> <p><strong>William A. Owings, Ed '78 (MS)</strong>, worked as a teacher and school administrator before beginning his career in higher education in 1999. He is a professor of educational leadership at Old Dominion University in Virginia and received a Distinguished Research & Practice Fellow Award at the 2014 National Education Finance Conference.</p> <p><strong>Ellen Sussman, A&S '78 (MA)</strong>, best-selling author and teacher, moved to Sonoma County, California, where she plans to offer private writing classes and weekend writing workshops.</p> <h4>1982</h4> <p><strong>Yucel Yalim, Engr '82</strong>, reports that he is happily divorced and working as a headshot, event, and fine art boudoir photographer in Arizona.</p> <h4>1983</h4> <p><strong>Duong Nguyen, SPH '83</strong>, a native of South Vietnam, served for 11 years as a division surgeon in his country's army before his commis­sion as a medical officer in the U.S. Army. He retired in 1999 and served as a Department of Defense civilian physician at Andrew Rader U.S. Army Health Clinic at Fort Myer until 2008. He currently volunteers as a physician for the Arlington Free Clinic in Virginia.</p> <h4>1985</h4> <p><strong>Asma Afsaruddin, A&S '85 (MA), '93 (PhD)</strong>, professor and author, stepped down as chairwoman of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University Bloomington. She is on sabbatical leave this year and continues to reside in Bloomington with her husband, <strong>Steve Vinson, A&S '96 (PhD)</strong>, an associate professor at the same university.</p> <p><strong>David S. Biderman, A&S '85</strong>, executive director and chief executive officer of the Solid Waste Association of North America, represented the U.S. and Canada at the International Solid Waste Association World Congress in Antwerp, Belgium, in September. His employer will host the 2017 ISWA conference in Baltimore.</p> <p><strong>Susan J. Fetterman, A&S '85</strong>, married Lenard Ginn on July 6, 2014. She joined the Philadelphia law firm of White and Williams as counsel in December 2014.</p> <p><strong>Alan Malabanan, A&S '85</strong>, is celebrating seven years with Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he specializes in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism, and teaches.</p> <p><strong>Robin Prothro, SPH '85</strong>, resigned in September after 15 years as the CEO of Komen Maryland and will pursue consulting opportunities in the nonprofit sector. She was recognized earlier this year by The Daily Record as one of their Top 100 Women in Maryland.</p> <h4>1986</h4> <p><strong>Gloria Bryan, Bus '86, '88 (MS)</strong>, served for more than 31 years as a Johns Hopkins University employee before retiring this year. She is honored to be a true blue Blue Jay.</p> <p><strong>Barrett "Barry" Tuck, Bus '86 (MAS)</strong>, is managing director of the Business Process and Risk Mitigation Unit for SEA Group, a boutique consulting firm that reduces risk and expense while expanding profit opportunities for clients.</p> <h4>1987</h4> <p><strong>Lucinda Bateman, Med '87</strong>, is a chronic fatigue syndrome expert and the chief medical officer of Bateman Horne Center. She has partnered with researcher Suzanne D. Vernon, PhD, to develop diagnostic tests to verify symptoms and improve medical care for those who suffer from the disease.</p> <p><strong>Lloyd Melnick, A&S '87</strong>, joined PokerStars in April to serve as director of social gaming. He will develop products for both the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands. As part of the opportunity, he and his family relocated to the Isle of Man.</p> <p><strong>Richard J. Pan, A&S '87</strong>, a pediatrician and California state senator, was recognized by Time magazine as a hero in the history of vaccines for authoring Senate Bill 277, designed to abolish nonmedical exemptions to California school immunization requirements.</p> <h4>1989</h4> <p><strong>Karen Seiger, SAIS Bol '89 (Dipl), SAIS '90</strong>, publishes <em>Markets of New York City</em>, an online guide to the city's artisan, farmer, food, and flea markets, and is a contributor to <em>Edible Manhattan</em> and <em>Edible Brooklyn</em> magazines. She is also the director of business development at Colibri Solutions, a technology consulting company.</p> <h4>1990</h4> <p><strong>Andrea Crane, A&S '90</strong>, is an independent art dealer focusing on the master artists of the modern and postwar periods. Previously, she directed Gagosian Gallery, one of the world's foremost modern and contemporary art galleries.</p> <p><strong>Efrem L. Epstein, A&S '90</strong>, founded Elijah's Journey: A Jewish Response to Suicide in 2009. The nonprofit raises awareness in the Jewish community about suicide and its connection to mental illness.</p> <p><strong>Gemaine Owen, Engr '90</strong>, has returned to her home of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, where she practices medicine as a roving family physician doing home visits.</p> <p><strong>Matt Shelley, A&S '90</strong>, recently became the chief program officer for Jawonio, a health and human services organization focused on helping children and adults with disabilities.</p> <p><strong>Harvey Silikovitz, A&S '90</strong>, is an attorney and worldwide karaoke singer based in New York. His website,, chronicles his karaoke wanderlust, which has taken him to 38 countries so far.</p> <h4>1991</h4> <p><strong>James J. Wesolowski, A&S '91</strong>, is the founding principal of Colibri Solutions, a technology consulting company that offers expert design of custom database, Web, and mobile software solutions. He lives in New York with his wife, <strong>Karen Seiger, SAIS Bol '89 (Dipl), SAIS '90</strong>.</p> <h4>1994</h4> <p><strong>Yeshim Ergin O'Donnell, A&S '94</strong>, joined the Uniondale, New York, law office of Farrell Fritz. She serves as a trusts and estates counsel.</p> <h4>1995</h4> <p><strong>Patricia A. Burt, A&S '95</strong>, is an assistant professor of music at Valparaiso University in Indiana, where she teaches music theory and musicianship. Susanna DeBusk Dalais, A&S '95, SAIS '96, worked as an investment banker in various African countries before moving to the island nation of Mauritius, where she and her husband started the Lighthouse Trust, a registered charity in Mauritius, and Lighthouse Primary and Secondary School.</p> <h4>1996</h4> <p><strong>Sara Clemence, A&S '96, '98 (MA)</strong>, was named new director of Travel + Leisure in July. She previously served as travel editor for <em>The Wall Street Journal</em>. She and her husband, Drew Sanocki, welcomed their second child in January.</p> <p><strong>Susan Flora, A&S '96</strong>, is administrator for the Dunbar-Hopkins Health Initiative, a collaboration between Johns Hopkins University and the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School for the Health Professions. Previously, she helped establish the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy in Washington, D.C.</p> <p><strong>Daniel P. Graham, A&S '96</strong>, has joined Vinson & Elkins as a partner in the law firm's Washington, D.C., office, where he will help lead the Government Contracts team.</p> <h4>1997</h4> <p><strong>Michael Makfinsky, Bus '97 (MS), '02 (MBA)</strong>, has worked for Computer Sciences Corporation, based in Falls Church, Virginia, for five years.</p> <p><strong>Scott R. McIntyre, Bus '97 (MS)</strong>, managing partner and leader of PricewaterhouseCoopers' Public Sector practice, was honored among <em>Consulting</em> magazine's Top 25 Consultants for 2015.</p> <h4>1998</h4> <p><strong>Anthony Mazzatesta, Engr '98 (MSE)</strong>, became a shareholder of the engineering firm RETTEW. He works as a senior program manager on the firm's client account management team in Canton, Ohio.</p> <h4>1999</h4> <p><strong>Jorge A. Ferrer, Bus '99, (Cert), '02 (MBA)</strong>, a biomedical informatician, was recently elected chair of the Innovation Committee of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.</p> <p><strong>Robert M. Palumbos, A&S '99 (BA/MA)</strong>, an appellate lawyer and partner in the Philadelphia office of Duane Morris, was appointed in July to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Appellate Court Procedural Rules Committee.</p> <h4>2000</h4> <p><strong>Katherine Rouse David, A&S '00</strong>, is a partner of Strasburger & Price in San Antonio, Texas, where she specializes in tax law. She and her husband, Ryan David, Bus '09 (MBA), have two children.</p> <p><strong>Marie L. Grant, A&S '00</strong>, is director of strategic communications at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield in Baltimore. She and her husband, Allen Leung, have two children.</p> <p><strong>Hamilton J.P. Johns, A&S '00, SPH '02</strong>, joined the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as a research analyst in May. In this role, he analyzes payment models for the Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program.</p> <p><strong>Shoshana Shamberg, Ed '00 (MS)</strong>, president of Abilities Occupational Therapy Services and Seminars and Irlen Visual Learning Center in Baltimore, was accepted into the American Disabilities Act Leadership Network. She is available to provide free ADA training.</p> <h4>2001</h4> <p><strong>Joe Johnson, A&S '01</strong>, was promoted in July to technical communications supervisor at Medtronic's Surgical Technologies division, a medical devices company in Louisville, Colorado.</p> <h4>2002</h4> <p><strong>Mark Lackey, Peab '02 (MM), '09 (DMA)</strong>, music composer and educator, has two of his original compositions featured on the <em>Agents of Espionage</em> album released by clarinetist Brian Viliunas in March.</p> <h4>2003</h4> <p><strong>Ami Bhatt, A&S '03</strong>, is co-author of an intellectual property law blog, <em>More Than Your Mark</em>, launched in August by Norris McLaughlin & Marcus in New York. Bhatt focuses her practice on trademark and copyright litigation and enforcement.</p> <p><strong>Michael S. Blaine, A&S '03</strong>, was named head coach of the men's basketball team at Medaille College in Buffalo, New York, in 2014. In his first season, he led the team to the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference championship and secured a spot in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III tournament. He and his wife, Kara, were married in August 2014.</p> <p><strong>Norene C. Kemp, Bus '03, '04 (MS)</strong>, is celebrating 10 years as a programming professor at Horry Georgetown Technical College in South Carolina.</p> <p><strong>Dawinder "Dave" S. Sidhu, A&S '03 (MAG)</strong>, associate professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law, was elected to the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent, nonpartisan think tank on world affairs.</p> <h4>2005</h4> <p><strong>Nitish Dogra, SPH '05</strong>, served as a co-rapporteur and a temporary adviser to the World Health Organization Regional Office for South-East Asia for the Regional Workshop on Protecting Human Health from Climate Change, held in July in New Delhi, India.</p> <h4>2006</h4> <p><strong>Abby Schreiber, A&S '06</strong>, and her husband, <strong>Weston Schreiber, Engr '05</strong>, welcomed a daughter, Olive Anne, on May 28. She was born at Johns Hopkins Hospital.</p> <p><strong>Michael Williams, A&S '06 (MS)</strong>, married Crystal Rogers in Raleigh, North Carolina, on October 10.</p> <h4>2007</h4> <p><strong>Patricia Browne, Bus '07 (Cert), '10 (MBA)</strong>, became the chief operating officer of the National Children's Center in Washington, D.C., in April.</p> <p><strong>Brian M. Wodka, Engr '07 (MME)</strong>, has been promoted to partner of RMF Engineering. He is the leader of the firm's infrastructure group in York, Pennsylvania.</p> <h4>2008</h4> <p><strong>Esther Bochner Schwalb, A&S '08</strong>, reports that she and two other Johns Hopkins graduates, <strong>Robert M. Gottesman, A&S '74</strong>, and <strong>Matthew Ackerman, A&S '00</strong>, live in adjacent houses in Englewood, New Jersey.</p> <h4>2009</h4> <p><strong>David Taylor, Bus '09 (MS)</strong>, was promoted to associate vice president in the Dewberry land development firm's Baltimore office in August. He is also a member of Leadership Baltimore County, the Maryland Building Industry Association, and Marcellus Shale Coalition.</p> <p><strong>Sarah Valverde, A&S '09</strong>, married in August 2014 and started working as an assistant school leader of KIPP Un Mundo Dual Language Academy, a college preparatory public school in San Antonio, Texas.</p> <h4>2010</h4> <p><strong>Jacqueline Jones, Ed '10 (MAT)</strong>, completed her doctoral studies in educational leadership and management at Drexel University in December 2014.</p> <p><strong>Brittany C. McKinnon, A&S '10</strong>, relocated to her hometown of Detroit where she works for the Henry Ford Health System as a research project coordinator. Her current projects include a study designed to help teens better manage their asthma and a study for women with breast cancer.</p> <p><strong>Gerrad Alex Taylor, A&S '10</strong>, is a resident actor with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in Baltimore. He played the role of Claudio and performed as a vocalist this fall in the season's opening production of Much Ado About Nothing.</p> <h4>2011</h4> <p><strong>Dave Robbins, A&S '11 (MS)</strong>, was named U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager of the Year for managing the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study, a two-year, $20 million project to assess coastal flood risks and identify solutions after Hurricane Sandy. Robbins is a Baltimore District geographer and study manager.</p> <p><strong>Michael Szeto, A&S '11</strong>, received his <em>Juris Doctor</em> degree from New York University School of Law in May.</p> <p><strong>Diana M. Wohler, A&S '11</strong>, a student at Harvard Medical School, was selected as a 2015 Pisacano Scholar by the Pisacano Leadership Foundation, the philanthropic foundation of the American Board of Family Medicine.</p> <h4>2012</h4> <p><strong>Benjamin Whorf McGuiggan, A&S '12</strong>, lives in New York where he is pursuing a career as a singer-songwriter under the name Ben Whorf. He recently released a music video titled <em>Fight</em>.</p> <h4>2013</h4> <p><strong>Javier P. Fernandez, A&S '13 (MS)</strong>, has become certified by the National Registry of Certified Microbiologists in biological safety microbiology.</p> <h4>2014</h4> <p><strong>Jennifer Nicole Campbell, Peab '14, '15 (MM)</strong>, pianist and composer, released her solo piano debut album titled <em>Perceptions of Shadows</em> on June 25.</p> <p><strong>Mahmoud Jardaneh, Engr '14 (MEE</strong>), recently began the Mike Mansfield Fellowship in Japan, a one-year program that includes a homestay and language training followed by practical experience in a Japanese government or ministry office in Tokyo. Upon returning to the U.S., Jardaneh will work as a project engineer for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.</p> <p><strong>Molly Martell, A&S '14</strong>, has moved with her fiancé, <strong>William Selba, Engr '12</strong>, to Gainesville, Florida, where she is a doctoral candidate at the University of Florida.</p> <h4>2015</h4> <p><strong>Alvin D'Angelo, Engr '15 (MSE)</strong>, has joined the Duke University Medical Center as a senior management engineer.</p> <h4>Keep in touch</h4> <p><strong>Send your news and updates to:</strong></p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Jocelyn Kelly helps women in war-torn regions <p>During a stint as a medical volunteer in Mexico, Jocelyn Kelly, A&S '02, saw how public health interventions can change vulnerable communities. Now, as director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's Women in War program, Kelly, a former reporter, interviews women in war-torn regions of Africa, and the international community uses her research to develop more effective programs. Most recently, Kelly's work revealed that African women with limited economic opportunities seek employment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's eastern mining towns despite the likelihood they will be abused and exploited by their bosses. Her research informed the World Bank's decision to sponsor the country's first national women's mining cooperative. In September, more than 150 women in mining attended the group's inaugural conference to share their personal experiences with violence—as well as their successes in the sector—and develop a plan for improving their well-being. "It's one of those defining moments that shows how research that truly draws on local voices can be delivered into this really concrete and exciting program," Kelly says.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 For cellist Zuill Bailey, there's never a dull moment <p>Celebrated cellist Zuill Bailey, Peab '94, first encountered the instrument at age 4. And it was a disaster. "I accidentally ran into a cello backstage, and it didn't end well for the cello," Bailey says, laughing. But as a member of a musical family (his mother and sister are also Peabody grads), he says "a life in music was almost predestined." The same year he broke a cello, he fell in love with the instrument. Now he travels the world performing roughly 80 concerts a year. Mindful that for classical music to survive it must reach ears beyond the symphony hall, he also performs in schools, hospitals, and senior centers. "In Alaska, I actually played in a prison," he says.</p> <p>Bailey is also artistic director of El Paso Pro Musica and a professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. He doesn't have much downtime. But never mind. "I've never worked a day in my life," he says. "This is a gift."</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Alumni Council seeks to engage students before graduation <p>When Bryan McMillan, Bus '00, '02 (MBA), became chair of the Alumni Council's Student Engagement Committee in 2014, he had a question for students: How could alumni help them while they were still in school? One student said he'd simply like to meet an alum over coffee and ask questions about what the college experience was like for him.</p> <p>McMillan, a managing partner of M&L Global Consultancy, a business development firm in Columbia, Maryland, ran with the idea. "I know I would have benefited greatly from having the ability to speak with an alum to help provide some insight into the school and what I could expect in my academic career," McMillan says. "I thought it would also be a terrific means to get alumni to reconnect with the university while helping new students at the same time."</p> <p>So this past September, all 5,500 incoming students across the university's nine academic divisions received a travel mug as a welcome gift from the Alumni Association. Inside was a card containing information about the association as well as JHU Connect, the university's online alumni directory and networking site.</p> <p>The program marked a significant strategy shift for the alumni group. "Focusing on students when they enter the university is a new direction for us," says Susan deMuth, executive director of Alumni Relations. "The premise is that if we reach out to students when they first come to Hopkins, it is easier and more natural for them to engage with us when they graduate. They know who the Alumni Association is and the opportunities and resources that it has to offer."</p> <p>Encouraging more meaningful alumni-student connections is the overarching aim of the Student Engagement Committee, which comprises student representatives from each of the university's divisions. "A lot of what students want is for alums just to be available, to take the call," says committee member and senior engineering student Monica Rex, who has already landed a post-graduation job after an alum helped her secure an internship last summer.</p> <p>This fall, McMillan hopes to expand the coffee talk program by including an alum's business card (matched to the recipient's field of study) in each mug. The committee is also working with university Career Services to establish a network of professionals who can help students with career counseling, informational interviews, internships, or employment. A new networking website is in the works.</p> <p>For now, McMillan says he hopes other alums will be willing to help out by mentoring a student—or simply talking over coffee. "There's nothing more exciting for an alum than to be surrounded by students with energy," he says. "It brings us all back to what we were excited about when we were students."</p> <p><em>To participate, mail your business card to: Johns Hopkins University Office of Alumni Relations, Attn. Susan deMuth San Martin Center, Second Floor 3400 N. Charles Street Baltimore, MD 21218-2696</em></p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Angel investors offer their tips to getting startup funding <p>When approached by a startup seeking funding, angel investor Catherine Chiu, Engr '78, asks herself, Do I want to be in a relationship with this company for the next nine years?—the average time it takes a startup to exit to market.</p> <p>In June, six entrepreneurs faced Chiu and other panelists at Startup Demo Day, hosted by the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association's Entrepreneurship affinity group. The event gathered 75 members of the Johns Hopkins community in the Bay Area to see the startups pitch their ventures to investors, advisers, and seasoned entrepreneurs.</p> <p>All six startups got funding. How?</p> <p>If the answers read more like a checklist for landing a soul mate than an angel investor, that's the point. Building a startup is all about developing relationships, say event panelists Chiu and David Gutelius, A&S '98 (MA), '01 (PhD).</p> <p><strong>1.</strong> Remember that your pitch is just your first impression in a relationship that will be a lot like a marriage, Chiu says. You'll have to work to prove your worth. "Entrepreneurs should always keep in mind their value proposition to the investor," says the finance specialist.</p> <p><strong>2.</strong> Rather than polishing your pitch, build your business. If you build it, investors will come. When they do, understand whom you're talking to, Chiu says, because investors have types, too. And be choosy, says Gutelius, a serial entrepreneur, because the wrong investor can signal to other investors that you're not careful about your relationships—or your business.</p> <p><strong>3.</strong> "Being a business founder is mostly about being wrong and learning fast," Gutelius says. Learning from your mistakes improves relationships. Even the brightest startup teams, adds Chiu, have weaknesses. She can live with that.</p> <p><strong>4.</strong> What no investor can live without: the trust between investor and entrepreneur that holds the whole deal together. Trustworthiness is projected by how you act in the world, Gutelius says, whom you are linked to, and what values you project.</p> <p><strong>5.</strong> Entrepreneurs stress over timing. Will they be too early to market or too late? Control the elements you can control, Gutelius says. Continually test by getting your product into people's hands. Eventually, though, you just have to make the leap.</p> <p><em>For more info: <a href=""></a></em></p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 The way they're wired <p>In 1998, Neil Bardhan was one of the popular kids at Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth program in Clinton, New York. In his final summer with the center, the 16-year-old emceed the talent show, played Ultimate Frisbee, and ate lunch with the other "Nevermores," CTY's nickname for students who were about to age out of the program. "Out of respect, everyone knows who the Nevermores are," says Masha Chepovetsky, who was 13 at the time. "Neil was like a minor celebrity to me."</p> <p>Bardhan, A&S '04, and Chepovetsky don't remember meeting each other that summer. But 17 years later, they credit CTY for their lasting friendship—it's just that most of it has been virtual.</p> <p>In the early 2000s, Bardhan and Chepovetsky followed each other on LiveJournal, an online diary platform popular with CTY alumni. In 2004, Bardhan started a graduate program in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, where Chepovetsky was an undergraduate. Although they lived down the street from each other, they connected only through AOL Instant Messenger, talking daily about local events, mutual CTY friends, music, and their tendency to overanalyze situations—a predisposition they can't help but laugh about. Bardhan remembers a time, for example, when he decided to leave a concert early because he was tired and bored. When he got home, he became anxious, wondering whether his exit was disrespectful to the performers. He called Chepovetsky. "She talked me through it," says Bardhan, now a science communication consultant living in Philadelphia. "It turns out it's fine to leave a concert early if you're not having a good time." From San Francisco, Chepovetsky laughs. She knows that this seemingly simple decision could eventually lead them both to ask existential questions like, Am I even having fun the right way? "Sharing that tendency is a major component of what has made us such a great support system for one another," she says.</p> <p>Bardhan and Chepovetsky finally connected in person in 2009 at her 24th birthday party, where they caught up like old friends. "We just knew that we got each other, and it wasn't like meeting a total stranger for the first time," Bardhan says.</p> <p>A year later, they were getting together weekly to watch <em>Mad Men</em>. By then, their relationship had deepened. Bardhan was about to move to the Netherlands to complete postdoctoral work in psycholinguistics. Chepovetsky would soon move to California to run a biotech startup; the experience burned her out, leading her to seek a career in holistic health. Their conversations about these life events were emotional and honest. Bardhan, who recently met up with Chepovetsky for the first time in five years, says he appreciates having a close friend who isn't part of his day-to-day life. "We don't have to worry too much about saying the wrong thing," he says. "With Masha, there's a strong component of authenticity. That's not always the case with friendships."</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Alum Kevin Callahan sold MapMyFitness for $150 million--then went into the chocolate business <p>Ten years ago, Kevin Callahan, Engr '99, was a newbie marathoner struggling to create training runs of specific mileage. Most runners just drove around the neighborhood using the odometer to map out runs, but Callahan didn't own a car. Instead, he coded a rudimentary website employing the then new Google Maps to calculate run distances. What began as a hobby became a calling. In 2005, he co-founded what would become the MapMyFitness suite of apps and websites to help people track and quantify their workouts using GPS. He sold it in 2014 to sports apparel giant Under Armour for $150 million. Now Callahan is chief operating officer of Maggie Louise Confections, a luxury chocolate brand based in Austin, Texas, named after its founder, his chocolatier wife. The sweet wares, sold primarily in high-end gift boxes, were recently named one of Oprah Winfrey's "Favorite Things," and the couple just inked a deal to make an exclusive chocolate collection for Saks Fifth Avenue.</p> <h4>You lived in nearly a dozen countries growing up. How has this had an impact on your business career?</h4> <p>My father was in the State Department, and I spent most of my early childhood in the Middle East, and then Asia, and finally in Africa. I gained a valuable global perspective on the spectrum of human experiences and was able to see how others live and what they value. But I've always had an entrepreneurial bent. In boarding school in Swaziland I would take advantage of the fact that I could get American candy sent through the State Department mail system, which I would sell in the dorm. I didn't make a lot of money—you can mark up a candy bar only so much—but it was my first real business experience and I made a lot of friends.</p> <h4>Did you bring your entrepreneurial bent to Hopkins, too?</h4> <p>When I came to campus in 1996 the dot-com boom was in full swing, and my friends and I thought up the idea for an online food delivery service. We would approach local restaurants and get their menus online. So if you were a Hopkins student who really wanted Chinese food at 1 in the morning, you'd be able to find a Chinese restaurant and order directly from them online. The only issue was that it was 1997. Most restaurants didn't know what online meant or even have email.</p> <h4>MapMyFitness was formed out of your trying to fulfill a need, not as a business venture. Is that your M.O.?</h4> <p>The whole time that I was creating it, in the back of my head, I'm trying to work on all these different business ideas, trying to find the next big thing. I ended up just creating a running tool because I had a problem I needed to solve for myself, not because I did a market research report and discovered the world needs this brand-new tool. I started using it weekly with a team I was training with, and they started using it and sharing it with their friends. All of a sudden I was like, "Wow, I think I have something here."</p> <h4>How did you grow it from there?</h4> <p>I was lucky. A user of the site reached out to me. He had written a piece of software that could download data from a Garmin GPS device to the Web. He and I partnered to incorporate this into what was then called MapMyRun. Then we met another entrepreneur working on a similar concept around cycling. The three of us joined together, and we raised about $250,000 from investors to develop it further.</p> <h4>What do you see as a key to your success?</h4> <p>We knew that mobile phones and then social media would be the next two big things, and we wanted to be the first fitness tracking system to utilize them. It really helped that we had been doing our Web-based tools for so many years and we could leverage all that learning when going into the mobile space.</p> <h4>What was it like to sell off this booming business you built from scratch?</h4> <p>There was nothing bittersweet about it. The way we structured the deal, everyone in the company got a check. I couldn't be more proud of the fact that, yeah, the acquisition was life-changing for myself, but it was also life-changing for a lot of people.</p> <h4>From fitness software to chocolate. How did that happen?</h4> <p>My Harvard Law–educated wife supported me and MapMyFitness as the breadwinner when we were scraping through the startup phase. Once it began to really take off, she retired from law, went to culinary school, and fell in love with chocolate. She realized there was an unfilled niche for this amazing chocolate product—colorful and delicate chocolates that are not just another box of brown balls. I was ready to work with her to build this company.</p> <h4>Do you have to run more now to work off all that chocolate?</h4> <p>My joke is that I started working in the chocolate business about 20 pounds ago. At MapMyFitness, I worked like a beast, but we always had lunchtime running groups or morning cycling groups. Now I'm working like a beast again, but I was turning into a roly-poly chocolatier. I've started waking up at 5 a.m. to run or walk and listen to podcasts to start my day. I've lost about 10 pounds already.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Gift to libraries establishes the Nancy H. Hall Curatorship of Rare Books and Manuscripts <p>"She was a natural teacher," says Robert Hall, Engr '55, of Nancy Hall, his wife of 59 years. "Many teachers are only lecturers," he says, drawing the distinction. "But the really good ones are engagers."</p> <p>When his wife passed away in May, Bob Hall, who works as a managing director at Brown Capital Management, knew just what to do. With a pledge of $2 million, he established the Nancy H. Hall Curatorship of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Sheridan Libraries, "an in-perpetuity extension of what Nancy was all about." The Sheridan Libraries' Earle Havens will be formally appointed to the position at a ceremony on March 15, 2016.</p> <p>Nancy was, first and foremost, an educator. In her 20s, when she and Bob first married, she spent several years teaching second and third grade in New Jersey and Massachusetts before the couple returned with their three children to Maryland. She later worked as a speech pathologist and audiologist in Baltimore City Public Schools. Her love of teaching wasn't reserved for children: Nancy was a docent for more than 25 years at the Walters Art Museum, where she especially enjoyed introducing visitors to the Asian art collection. She was also a docent at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Museum. Her teaching continued even while on vacation. "We would troop through museums in Italy," Bob Hall says of their infrequent but treasured travels, where all the educational materials were written in Italian and Latin. "Nancy would read them to me."</p> <p>Throughout their marriage, Nancy and Bob focused their giving on endowments meant to ensure that the humanities thrive for future generations. (While Bob studied engineering at Johns Hopkins, he suspected that courses in philosophy, economics, and history might prove useful in later life.) "The humanities are all about the human condition, and the human condition needs all the help it can get," he says. In 2004, the couple established the Nancy H. and Robert E. Hall Professorship in the Humanities at the Krieger School, a position currently held by Felipe Pereda in the Department of the History of Art. Bob also served as a Peabody Conservatory trustee in the '80s and a Krieger School Advisory Council member in the 2000s. Nancy served from 2003 to 2007 on the advisory committee for the Sheridan Libraries.</p> <p>Although Nancy never met Havens, Bob met the curator on many occasions before his wife's death and was impressed by Havens' ability to engage with just about anyone. "I could see that Earle was a fantastic teacher. He is always asking, not just telling. He is the perfect guy for the perfect gift for the perfect lady."</p> <p>Havens says the endowed curatorship guarantees that there will always be someone at the libraries who can connect students and faculty with historical artifacts. Even more, the curator-scholar position expands what the libraries can do by increasing opportunities for partnerships and projects to enhance the university's reputation as a leader in the digital humanities.</p> <p>Havens' responsibilities converge around the Renaissance ideal of <em>ad fontes</em>, in English "to the sources." Havens builds and cares for world-class collections, publishes scholarly work on early print and manuscript culture, teaches courses, and creates paths into the digital humanities, all in an effort to understand the ways historical texts were represented to their original audiences. "To be an undergraduate and read Dante for the first time in your life with a Dante scholar, and then to flip through the first illustrated editions of the <em>Divine Comedy</em>—that is a priceless encounter. It's been the greatest privilege of my career to expand the horizons of students in similar ways," he says.</p> <p>Some of Havens' most recent work supports a digital humanities initiative called "The Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe." The research project brings together an international team of humanists and technologists to explore the history of reading practices in 16th- and early 17th-century Europe by focusing on unique manuscript marginalia. Beyond the digitizing of texts, the project will allow scholars today to understand how scholars read 450 years ago.</p> <p>Bob Hall says such work, which helps usher Hopkins "into the digital age of education," underscores his alma mater's legacy as America's first research university. Today, the alumnus is often seen in Baltimore's museums and the Sheridan Libraries' Special Collections & Archives, attending lectures on Roman obelisks, the King Memorial Windows of Johns Hopkins, and more. "I have been in Earle's inner sanctum," he says of the collections cared for by Havens. "A curator like Earle brings the artifacts to life."</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Book review: The Illegal <p>Keita Ali is a young 20-something aspiring marathoner when he's forced to flee his home country in <em>The Illegal</em> (W.W. Norton & Co.), the page-turning new novel from Canadian writer Lawrence Hill. Keita is a native of Zantoroland, a fictional island off Africa's coast, where the ruling ethnic group is systematically oppressing and killing an ethnic minority. They came for Keita's local preacher. They came for his mother. When they come for his father, an esteemed journalist, while his sister is away at college, his father tells Keita to run.</p> <p>First Keita heads to a spurious sports agent, who brings him to the fictional African country of Freedom State to compete and holds onto the young runner's passport as collateral. Once there, Keita disappears into the throng of undocumented illegals living among shipping containers in the makeshift community called AfricTown. He soon finds himself at the center of a political imbroglio involving Freedom State's immigration minister, a black investigative reporter, some Zantoroland political strongmen holding his sister for ransom, and Lula DiStefano, the brothel madam who makes backroom deals with police, politicians, and other dodgy sorts to maintain her rule over AfricTown.</p> <p>Immigrant stories course through the novels of Hill, A&S '92 (MA), who is the son of American emigrants to Toronto. His 2007 novel <em>Book of Negroes</em>, adapted into a TV miniseries in 2015, follows a West African woman sold into slavery in pre-revolutionary America who wants to get her name in the Book of Negroes, the 1783 document that lists 3,000 slaves who escaped to British armies to become freedmen in Canada.</p> <p>Hill applies his acute observations to a more contemporary thriller in <em>The Illegal</em>, particularly in how running becomes the prism through which Keita understands the world. In one scene, Keita recalls advice given to him while training in his native land: "Want to shatter your opponent's confidence? Just when he starts to hurt, you sing." That's a gorgeously brutal piece of defiant psychology, and, sadly, many times throughout <em>The Illegal</em>, Keita finds himself needing the emotional reserves that songs supply.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Book review: The Traumatized Brain <p>Rao, the director of the Brain Injury Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Vaishnavi, a Duke University Medical Center neuropsychiatrist, perform a minor miracle here by making the causes, etiology, symptoms, and treatment options of traumatic brain injury understandable to a layperson. Awareness of TBI, especially from sports or combat injuries, is on the rise, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that its incidence is rising as well. <em>The Traumatized Brain</em> succinctly covers brain function, how TBI affects it, and the variety of the emotional, behavioral, and cognitive problems that could present following injury. It's an approachably human and effectively informative book on a complicated and painful injury.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Book review: The Reel World <p>Anthropology professor Pandian delivers an adventurous and boldly written pursuit of how ideas become the sights, sounds, stories, emotions, and realities that flicker onscreen in a movie. Informed by behind-the-scenes fieldwork in the Tamil film industry, Pandian seeks to observe those fugitive moments when human intention, technical expertise, and everyday accident coil into the spark of creative agency that ends up as performances, music, cinematography, etc. That he never exactly captures the how, what, and why of human creativity isn't the point; what <em>The Reel World</em> (Duke University Press) provides is a thoughtful exploration of the political and epistemological possibilities and implications of creative labor.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Abbreviated <p>Economist <strong>Paul Ferraro</strong> was named a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, with appointments in the <strong>Carey Business School</strong> and the <strong>Whiting School of Engineering</strong>'s Department of Geography and Engineering. He has brought to Hopkins the USDA Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research, which he co-directs. Among his research goals is working across divisions to clarify how societies can best address the increasing scarcity of clean water.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>President <strong>Ronald J. Daniels</strong> is one of four university presidents chosen by the Carnegie Corporation of New York to receive its 2015 Academic Leadership Award. The honor, given biennially, includes a $500,000 grant to each of the winners' institutions to be spent at the honorees' discretion to promote their academic priorities.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Sara Bleich</strong>, an associate professor in the <strong>Bloomberg School of Public Health</strong> specializing in obesity, and <strong>Shereef Elnahal</strong>, A&S '07, a radiation oncology resident at <strong>Johns Hopkins Hospital</strong>, were appointed White House Fellows, a prestigious award that brings them for one year to Washington to be involved in the process of government. Bleich is placed at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Elnahal at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Fannie Gaston-Johansson</strong>, a professor emerita in the <strong>School of Nursing</strong>, received the honor of Living Legend, the highest distinction of the American Academy of Nursing. Her work includes research on the aftereffects of breast cancer treatment for African-American women and end-of-life and pain-management issues.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Amy Tsui</strong>, a senior scholar at the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the <strong>Bloomberg School</strong>, has been elected president of the Population Association of America.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>Cosmologist <strong>Alexander Szalay</strong>, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in the <strong>Krieger School</strong>'s Department of Physics and Astronomy and the <strong>Whiting School</strong>'s Department of Computer Science, received the IEEE Computer Society's 2015 Sidney Fernbach Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions in the application of high-performance computers.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>Johns Hopkins University's student-run newspaper, <em>The News-Letter</em>, received a 2015 Pacemaker award from the Associated Collegiate Press. The award is the highest honor in college journalism.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Ellen MacKenzie</strong>, chair of Health Policy and Management in the <strong>Bloomberg School</strong>, received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award in Trauma Resuscitation Science from the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Eric Rice</strong>, an assistant professor in the <strong>School of Education</strong>, received a Beacon of Light Award from the Baltimore Teacher Network. He was recognized for his advocacy of teacher voice, equality in education and increased funding of schools, positive media reporting of student issues, and education support through community partnerships.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Kenneth W. Kinzler</strong>, a professor in the <strong>School of Medicine</strong> and co-director of the Ludwig Center at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, is one of 80 new members elected to the National Academy of Medicine.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Xiomara Calderón-Colón</strong>, <strong>Gina Marshall-Johnson</strong>, and <strong>Deanna Green</strong>, all of the <strong>Applied Physics Laboratory</strong>, received 2015 Women of Color Technology Awards during the 20th Annual Women of Color STEM Conference, held in October in Detroit.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Russell Taylor</strong>, a professor in the <strong>Whiting School</strong>'s Department of Computer Science, with a joint appointment in Mechanical Engineering and in the <strong>School of Medicine</strong>, was awarded the 2015 Honda Prize, Japan's first international science and technology award, established in 1980. Taylor was honored for his role in the early development of medical robotics technology, his mentoring of students and other researchers in the field, and his continuing contributions.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Nassir Navab</strong>, a professor in the <strong>Whiting School</strong>'s Department of Computer Science, won the 10 Years Lasting Impact Award at the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality. He was honored for contributions to augmented reality, with a particular focus on medical augmented reality.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>The Office of Marketing and Communications for <strong>Johns Hopkins Medicine</strong> received a Public Relations Society of America National Capital Chapter's Thoth Award for excellence in crisis communications. The award recognizes the office's response to the 2014–15 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>A work by <strong>Judah Adashi</strong>, a faculty member in Peabody's Composition and Music Theory departments, premiered as part of the American Composers Orchestra's SONiC Festival, held in October at Carnegie Hall in New York City.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>A combination of private donations and state funding through the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative has established two new professorships. <strong>Hal Dietz</strong>, a professor of pediatric cardiology in the <strong>School of Medicine</strong>, will hold the Reta Honey-Hiers Professorship for Tarlov Cyst Disease. <strong>Kellogg Schwab</strong>, a professor of environmental health sciences in the <strong>Bloomberg School</strong> and director of the JHU Water Institute, will hold a new professorship in water and public health.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Claude Migeon</strong>, a professor of pediatrics, received the International Award from the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology. He is a leading researcher in the study and care of patients with abnormalities of sex differentiation and congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and he continues to study the long-term outcomes of individuals with these disorders.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Kay Redfield Jamison</strong>, a professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the <strong>School of Medicine</strong>, is the co-recipient of the 2015 Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health from the National Academy of Medicine. She was honored for her major insights into mood disorders and suicide.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p>Two <strong>Nursing</strong> faculty members—Associate Professor <strong>Jennifer Wenzel</strong> and Assistant Professor <strong>Sharon Kozachik</strong>—were named fellows of the American Academy of Nursing. <strong>Laura Gitlin</strong>, an applied research sociologist and professor in Community-Public Health, was named an honorary fellow. Gitlin was also invited to serve as a member of the HHS Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Research, Care, and Services.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Martin Makary</strong>, a professor of surgery in the <strong>School of Medicine</strong>, received the National Pancreas Foundation's 2015 Nobility in Science award, which recognizes achievements in pancreatic research and treatment.</p> <p><div class="magazine-section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Daniel Webster</strong>, a professor in Health Policy and Management in the <strong>Bloomberg School</strong> and director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research, received the American Public Health Association's David P. Rall Award for Advocacy in Public Health for his work on injury and gun violence prevention.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Committed to the city <p>Johns Hopkins serves as a major economic engine for Baltimore, with construction and renovation projects across the city, hundreds of new employees each year, and the purchase of millions of dollars of goods and services. Now the university and health system are ramping up a new program to do even more to promote economic growth and employment opportunities in the city.</p> <p>HopkinsLocal is a new university commitment to increase design and construction contracts with local minority- and women-owned businesses, expand the number of new hires that come from city neighborhoods where employment opportunities are most needed, and build relationships with more Baltimore-based vendors. The initiative will also enhance Johns Hopkins' ongoing efforts to support diversity in its workforce and among its business partners. The initiative offers new approaches to build on Johns Hopkins' existing programs to invest in communities that include its campuses, partner with city schools, provide summer jobs for high school and college students, and hire and train ex-offenders at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The university and health system have been planning the initiative for some time, but leadership says it has become even more urgent in light of recent events in the city.</p> <p>"Last spring, the unrest in Baltimore shed light on the racial and economic disparities that challenge our city and our nation," wrote Ronald J. Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University, and Ronald R. Peterson, president of Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, in a message to faculty, students, and staff. "Since then, Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Health System have joined with community, political, and faith leaders to renew and reaffirm our commitment to supporting our city and our fellow citizens. We are redoubling our long-standing efforts, knowing that the health and well-being of Johns Hopkins are inextricably tied to the physical, social, and economic well-being of Baltimore."</p> <p>The goals of the initiative include:</p> <ul> <li><p>Filling, by 2018, 40 percent of targeted positions by hiring from within the city's most distressed communities;</p></li> <li><p>Increasing, by at least $6 million over three years, the amount of goods and services the university and health system purchase from Baltimore-based businesses, including those owned by minorities and women;</p></li> <li><p>Enlisting at least 24 suppliers from outside the area that Johns Hopkins will hold accountable to hire, procure, and invest locally;</p></li> <li><p>Spending at least $20 million in design, consulting, and construction work with minority, women, and disadvantaged businesses by applying new targets across all Johns Hopkins construction projects.</p></li> </ul> <p>In their message, Daniels and Peterson encouraged faculty, staff, and students to be a part of HopkinsLocal by looking to city businesses when they purchase goods and services. Employees also can support the initiative by hiring city residents. "Your support will help sustain healthier, safer, and more vibrant communities where we are all proud to live, work, and study," they wrote.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 New Music Gathering comes to Peabody in January <p>A bevy of young composers, performers, writers, and music fans will descend on Peabody Institute's Mount Vernon campus next year when the conservatory welcomes the third annual New Music Gathering, scheduled for January 7–9. The conference will be dedicated to supporting and promoting new performances and works, and over its three days artists and academics from around the country will present a series of panels, workshops, and concerts. The conference's keynote address will be given by Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and, as of this academic year, Peabody's director of graduate conducting.</p> <p>The Gathering and the addition of Alsop to the faculty are two of the many ways that Peabody, the country's oldest conservatory, is positioning itself to be a leading institution in classical music's future. Under Dean Fred Bronstein, Peabody has implemented a number of new initiatives, ensembles, grants, and lecture series in an effort to focus on new music created by Peabody students and the classical music community at large. Last spring Bronstein announced the Dean's Incentive Grants, which fund faculty and student projects that focus on innovation, interdisciplinary initiatives, or community partnerships. Over the summer he announced the Dean's Symposium, a series of guest speakers who will come to the campus to talk about classical music now, including New York's alternative music venue co-founders David Handler and Justin Kanton and Kennedy Center president Deborah Rutter. Additionally, this semester witnessed the debut of the Now Hear This, a chamber ensemble dedicated to performing the works of living composers.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Medicine celebrates women <p>It all goes back to Mary Elizabeth Garrett. In the early 1890s, the suffragist and heir to the B&O Railroad fortune contributed an ample portion of the funds needed to create the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. But her gift came with conditions: The new school would have to admit women on equal terms as men and reward them equally to men on their merits. "She started something I don't think she foresaw the impact of," said Janice Clements, vice dean for faculty at today's School of Medicine. Clements spoke in October to a room filled with women who had gathered to celebrate the school's benchmark achievement this year of hiring more than 200 tenured female professors since its 1893 opening.</p> <p>The professors who spoke at the celebration, hosted by the Office of Women in Science and Medicine, shared stories of setbacks that arose because of their gender. But the women also spoke of the progress made in recent decades. Susan Michaelis, a professor of cell biology, joined the staff in 1988. At the time, "there were 19 tenured female faculty members in the history of [the School of Medicine]," she said. Today, that number has risen to 214 tenured female professors, with a notable increase beginning around the year 2000.</p> <p>Paul B. Rothman, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine and dean of the medical faculty, spoke of recent marks of progress. The School of Medicine sees gender parity in admissions, is nearing gender parity at the assistant professor level, and 41 percent of faculty in the basic science departments are women.</p> <p>But, Michaelis said, "we still have a long way to go," noting that of the 590 tenured faculty at the School of Medicine currently, just 22 percent are women.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Cracking the top 10 <p>Johns Hopkins University climbed to 10th in the latest <em>U.S. News & World Report</em> "Best Colleges Rankings," released in September. That's up from 12th last year and 16th as recently as 2006.</p> <p>Over the past decade, the university has worked to enhance and strengthen the undergraduate experience. It has expanded research opportunities, built and renovated academic buildings, and introduced new co-curricular offerings to help develop every student not only as a scholar but also as a contributing member of society. Those initiatives are tied together by improved financial aid to ensure that a family's economic circumstances do not keep a deserving student from attending Johns Hopkins, says President Ronald J. Daniels.</p> <p>"At Johns Hopkins, we are committed to nurturing the best young minds in an environment that prizes intellectual creativity, discovery, and service to our world," says Daniels.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 A John Barth funhouse <p>John Barth's fiction and career have famously defied convention. Following suit, the Sheridan Libraries' new exhibition on Barth offers visitors a kind of funhouse experience devoted to exploring the author's life and legacy. <em>Lost and Found in the Funhouse</em> features highlights from the John Barth Collection, which documents the creative output and career of Barth, the American fiction writer, essayist, and teacher. A National Book Award winner, he was a leading figure in the university's Writing Seminars, and his work is central to postwar American literature.</p> <p>The exhibition features highlights from the collection, which contains the notes and manuscripts for most of Barth's published writings and lectures, correspondence between him and other major literary figures, and editions of his works. In addition, the collection includes the author's 1,200-volume library: books belonging to Barth from his student days, with his annotations; books inscribed by students, colleagues, and important writers of the past several decades; and books that were instrumental to Barth in his own writing. The collection also includes photographs, recordings, juvenilia, and homemade posters and slides that Barth used to illustrate talks and readings.</p> <p>"The aim of this exhibition is a gallery experience that reflects the imaginative spirit of Barth's fiction," says exhibition curator Gabrielle Dean, curator of literary rare books and manuscripts in the Department of Special Collections at the Sheridan Libraries. "His writing is full of funny word play and puzzles for the reader to work out. It's often very gamelike. We have tried to transfer some of those qualities to the physical space."</p> <p><em>Lost and Found in the Funhouse</em> runs through February 28, 2016, at the George Peabody Library in Baltimore. More information at <a href="">the exhibit's website</a>.</p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:10:00 -0500 Engineering partners <p>Johns Hopkins University and Baltimore City Public Schools have partnered to create the city's first pre-K–8th grade school dedicated to giving students a foundation in engineering and computer skills.</p> <p>Every class at the Barclay Elementary/Middle School—not just science and math but also reading, social studies, and even art—will feature elements of engineering and computer science, using a curriculum supported by educators at the Whiting School of Engineering. And every student has access to a new laboratory that is outfitted with cutting-edge technology including 3-D printers, custom-programmed computers, smartboards, and a makerspace where students can design and build. All together, the partnership represents a 10-year, multimillion dollar commitment—with Johns Hopkins investing nearly $5 million—intended to spark higher achievement at Barclay, prepare the students for 21st-century careers, and strengthen the neighborhood surrounding the university's Homewood campus.</p>