Education - Page 2 - Innovation thrives on campus

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Innovation thrives on campus
Unique partnerships and curriculum pivots help colleges stay ahead

By Gregory J. Alexander, Contributing Writer

When many people think of academic research centers, the STEM fields immediately pop to mind. However, at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), the Imaging Research Center (IRC) brings together researchers in an interdisciplinary way to study and rethink media. Possibly most surprising it that the IRC has been doing this for 32 years. “People don’t know what media research really is … most people only think of technology in media through industry, not academia,” says Lee Boot, IRC director and affiliate professor, Departments of Visual Arts & Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. “However, now issues such as privacy, artificial intelligence and the dangers of kids staring at devices all day have grown in awareness, and interest in media research is now growing, too.”

“The interdisciplinary approach is unique – we have painters, scientists, humanists, historians and more collaborating together,” adds Anne Sarah Rubin, professor of history and associate director of IRC. “From a researcher perspective, there is a sense of freedom to explore outside your chosen field.” Rubin says that she first got involved with the IRC through a project, “Mapping Memory,” which studied the facts, myths and perceptions of Sherman’s March during and after the Civil War. The IRC designed an innovative online site to disseminate the research. “Mapping Memory was a great companion to my book, Through the Heart of Dixie: Sherman’s March and American Memory, and, in fact, made the book better,” Rubin adds. Another IRC project, “Visualizing Early Baltimore,” developed an accurate map and 3D depiction of the Baltimore cityscape circa 1815, shortly after the famous bombing of Fort McHenry that inspired the words of the U.S. National Anthem.

The IRC is currently working on a project where participants make food choices on a real life buffet and a virtual reality style buffet, and the choices they make vary from one model to the next. “It’s important for us to study food choices and obesity in this country,” says Boot. “We are also researching the behaviors of people in a virtual reality space versus real life, and how those experiences differ.” The project involves faculty and researchers from psychology, engineering,
information systems and digital arts.

A Perfect Partnership

Unless you are deaf or have a family member or close friend who is deaf, it’s difficult to fully understand the challenges a deaf person faces every day that those who are not deaf do not experience. Take, for example, something as routine as going to the dentist for a teeth cleaning and exam, something that most of us do twice a year like clockwork. If you are deaf, however, it will be difficult to communicate with the dentist, front desk and dental hygienist unless you have an interpreter with you.

“From what we have found, there is only one deaf dentist in the state of Maryland, and only a few deaf dental students at local dental schools,” says Tonya Jeffries-Beatty, R.D.H., M.S., program director of the dental hygiene program at The Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). Confounding the challenge is the fact that Maryland has one of the highest percentages nationwide of deaf individuals residing here, according to Rebecca F. Minor, Ph.D., coordinator of the interpreter preparation program at CCBC. Minor attributes the close proximity to Gallaudet University, the nation’s leader in deaf education, and the Maryland School for the Deaf, with locations in Columbia and Frederick, as reasons why Maryland has so many deaf residents.

To help increase access to dental care to the deaf community, Minor and Jeffries-Beatty formed a partnership and held an event last fall that allowed members from the deaf community to have a free dental cleaning. Students in the interpreter preparation program were on hand to interpret, and both sets of students – interpreter preparation and dental hygiene – worked collaboratively in a useful, hands-on way.

“Many of the patients in the deaf community we served that day had not been to the dentist before, and it also allowed our students to work on a deaf individual for the first time,” says Jeffries-Beatty. The fall event was so successful that another one was held in April. “We are on a mission to always find more hands-on training for our students,” adds Minor. “Our students practice in class and via video instruction, but it’s not the same experience as working face to face. This is a real experience in a safe and controlled environment that is so helpful before they go out into the workforce.” Minor adds that many of the deaf patients served at the two events are on disability or social security, so, in addition to the communication hurdles, many have had financial obstacles to receiving regular dental care. In addition to the partnership with the dental hygiene program, the interpreter preparation program has also partnered with the nursing program at CCBC, and Minor is aiming to form additional partnerships.

“Many of our students did not realize the need for dental care was so neglected in the deaf community, but now they understand and are actively looking at other underserved communities where they can make an impact,” says Jeffries-Beatty. Both Minor and Jeffries-Beatty say that this type of community work aligns with the mission of CCBC as a community college to make a positive impact in the local community.

Meeting the Needs of the 21st Century

Beginning last summer, at the request of McDaniel College’s Board of Trustees, a faculty committee was formed at McDaniel College to undergo a thorough review of McDaniel’s academic offerings to identify academic programs for possible reinvestment, as well as potential restructuring. The goal of the review was to strengthen the academic program of the college by aligning Innovation thrives on campus Unique partnerships and curriculum pivots help colleges stay ahead...

Innovation, continued on page 8