At Hopkins, dreams have a way of becoming very real.
Last February, we announced our first cohort of Bloomberg Distinguished Professors. This marked the culmination of a year of challenging self-examination and in-the-trenches strategizing spurred by a landmark $250 million gift from Johns Hopkins alumnus Michael Bloomberg. The gift allowed us to set a very high bar: to identify and recruit a corpus of 50 extraordinary cross-disciplinary scholars; to empower them to serve as human bridges between our divisions; and to entrust them with training future scholars—particularly undergraduates—who would ignite discovery at the nexus of academic disciplines.
In the seven months since, the program has blossomed. Three more Bloomberg Scholars arrived this July, and 20 more searches are underway. Our first externally recruited Bloomberg Distinguished Professor was Kathryn Edin, a renowned sociologist whose landmark studies have challenged academics and policymakers alike to rethink their conceptions of poverty in America. We lured her to Baltimore from Harvard, offering an opportunity to be the connective tissue among not only our own schools but the many community partners who share her passion for building the body of evidence that will discipline the debates around our most commanding urban challenges.
I never doubted that the BDPs would knit our university ever closer together and make us ever more responsive to tackling pressing global issues, from water scarcity to effective and affordable health care. But what has truly amazed me is how the process of identifying and recruiting these scholars has been catalytic in ways that I had never imagined. Indeed, the BDPs have created a halo-effect across the university. Self-described skeptics have embraced the initiative as it has ignited spirited, intensive, and bracing conversations about how to weave interdisciplinary practice into the fabric of our institution. These same conversations have launched unanticipated collaborations, sparked plans for new graduate and undergraduate programs, and removed barriers between disparate fields, like genomics and big data, that now see a new path for uniting expertise in basic science and technology to better serve patients suffering from disease.
This summer, I had lunch with Kathy Edin. Over salads, she described a recent week that took her from fieldwork in the rural communities of the Mississippi Delta to Cleveland's inner city and back to her home in the heart of East Baltimore. As we talked, I realized the dream that we—and Mike Bloomberg—seeded so many months ago had taken root in the fertile soil of Johns Hopkins.
Ronald J. Daniels