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Grit-X Talks

Session 1: 10 – 10:30 a.m.

Performing Arts and Humanities Building: Dance Cube

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Welcome – Karl V. Steiner, Vice President for Research

Moderator – William LaCourse, Dean, College of Natural & Mathematical Sciences

Richard Chisolm ‘82, interdisciplinary studies  Documentary Filmmaker and Cinematographer

Catalytic Filmmaking – Embracing the Power of the Documentary
With the accelerating evolution of video in our lives and our decreasing ability to ascertain what is real and what is not within its contents, we face a crisis of veracity.  For entertainment and gaming venues the stakes may not be significant. But in the realms of news, information and education, they are dire. Amidst a crowded media landscape of distorted images and vested messages, there is a greater than ever need for good documentaries; real-life stories that can activate and inspire us to make the world more livable.

Manil Suri Distinguished University Professor, Mathematics & Statistics

STEAMy Videos and X’y Tales – Approaching Math through Narrative
Teaching mathematics seems to have little to do with telling stories, but what if the two were combined? Could introducing narrative into mathematics instruction improve educational outcomes?  Mathematician and bestselling novelist Manil Suri explores this question in a pilot math class aimed at non-STEM students. The research is being conducted by using excerpts and videos based on “The Godfather of Numbers,” a novel-in-progress which aims to show how the entire universe can be built up from math.  This approach is an example of STEAM, an educational movement in which the Arts are used to motivate STEM subjects.

Nicole King – Associate Professor and Chair, American Studies

Do Listen to Strangers
To live in and be a part of a city, you must talk to strangers. Not only must we talk to strangers, we must learn to listen to them. Humans must actively hone our connection to deep listening. Listening to learn and learning to listen is a central component of the interview in qualitative research – from on the street interviews to in-depth ethnographies. UMBC’s public humanities project “Baltimore Traces” focuses on how neighborhoods change and explores how we can better listen to and learn from a city.


Session 2: 10:45 – 11:15 a.m.

Performing Arts and Humanities Building: Dance Cube


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Moderator – Scott Casper, Dean, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences 

Deborah Thompson Eisenberg ’91, political science – Maryland Carey Law, UMB

The Four Superpowers needed to create a Culture of Conflict Resolution
We live in times of intense social conflict and political polarization. Some fear that we can no longer talk to each other across various divides or resolve our conflicts peacefully. Does this high conflict culture portend dangerous times ahead for our communities, courts and democracy itself?  We need four “superpowers” to transform a culture of conflict into a culture of conflict resolution: 1) the power of the rule of law; 2) the power of dispute resolution alternatives; 3) the power of community conflict resolution and 4) the power of education.

Kimberly Moffitt Associate Professor and Director, Language, Literacy & Culture and Affiliate Associate Professor, Africana Studies

The Princess and the Glass Cliff(er) – An Exploration of Gender and Race in Animation
The “Glass Cliff” suggests that women and people of color often secure high-level leadership opportunities when an organization is “in decline, is currently in crisis, or is at a high risk of failing.” Upon relative stability, corporations generally return to the status quo, filling those leadership positions with individuals who are expected to serve in that capacity.  But what might the “glass cliff” look like when considered in the world of animation?  Let’s explore the influence of race and gender in the creation of Disney’s first Black Princess in its 90+ year history.  Specifically, Princess Tiana in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog is positioned as the corporation’s “glass cliff(er)” who helps Disney re-envision the archaic princess trope of its Cinderella days and crafts a new image for a 21st century audience.  What are the end results?

Eric Dyer ’95, visual arts Professor, Visual Arts

Material Motion – Resurrecting Cinema’s Forgotten Ancestry
After years as an animator to produce images for the screen at a computer, Eric Dyer was longing to get his hands back on the actual work. He resurrected the zoetrope, a cylindrical 19th century animation device that brings a sequence of images to life when spun.  Using current technology, he explores the expressive potential of this mandala-like form of motion-art, whose initial development was abandoned when film was invented.  The tactile, interactive, and hypnotically beautiful animated sculptures serve as a counterpoint to  our increasingly disembodied existence as we work, play, and socialize in virtual environments.


Session 3: 11:30 a.m. – noon

Performing Arts and Humanities Building: Dance Cube


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Moderator –  Keith J. Bowman, Dean, College of Engineering and  Information Technology

Diane Bell McKoy ’73, sociology and social work – CEO, Associated Black Charities of Maryland

Suicide Led the Way – A New Set of Lenses creates the Change
Changing the economic conditions in cities like Baltimore will require a host of investments ranging from the growth of industry, rebuilding physical environments, deeper investments in public education, affordable housing and greater opportunities for human capital growth. If this economic resurgence is possible for Baltimore, it will bene t all of its citizens regardless of race. The solutions selected must ensure sustainability for the region and sustainable change requires a focus on the systems and the individuals impacted by those systems. Currently for people of color, those systems produce inequity. Therefore in our pursuit of sustainable economic growth for Baltimore, we must also address the racial inequities embedded as structural and institutional racism. One of the ways to address the economic gap is by seeking sustainable change in the workforce eco-system. It’s a strategy that requires a new set of lens for the system stakeholders and as a champion for this strategy, my journey began with my suicide attempt over forty years ago. So I begin the story with the suicide attempt and the system that supported me as “broken.”

Shawn BediakoAssociate Professor, Psychology

Inscribing the Race – Sickled Cells, Science and Society
Recent technological breakthroughs have transformed our scientific thinking about health and disease. Despite these advances, certain notions of health and disease remain firmly entrenched among medical researchers. Why do such ideas persist? How do they effect the practice of biomedical science? How do they influence the ways in which society views – and utilizes – science? By using sickle cell disease as an example, we highlight: (a) the sociocultural process by which “race” becomes a substitute for “biology;” and (b) what this conflation means for the process and practice of science.

Kavita Krishnaswamy ’07, computer science and mathematics, Ph.D. ’19, computer science – Graduate Student

Robotic Journeys – A Quest for Independence
The modern era has seen an increase in the use of robotics and assistive technologies, which open the doors of accessibility to people with disabilities and seniors. By developing abilities and problem-solving skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) elds, we can tackle challenges in healthcare through innovation and technological advancement to bene t society today and impact future generations. Presenting via the Beam telepresence robot, Kavita Krishnaswamy shares her personal and professional experiences – from her dissertation research to overcoming challenges with the power of assistive technologies, arti cial intelligence, and robotics to achieve independence.

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