Addressing Social Inequalities in Fall Courses

Scott Casper is the Dean of UMBC’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. What follows is a message he shared with faculty members on behalf of the Imagining America conference planning team to encourage syllabi integration of writing, teaching, emerging research, and gatherings to address underlying social inequalities that have become more visible as a result of Freddie Gray’s death.

Scott-CasperAs most of you probably know, UMBC is hosting the 2015 National Imagining America (IA) conference from September 30 through October 3. We are partnering with MICA, Morgan and Towson along with many cultural institutions, community leaders, and artists in Baltimore. The conference sessions will take place in the Mt. Vernon area, at UMBC, and at MICA.

This conference may be a great opportunity for you and your undergraduate and graduate students to meet and work with faculty, staff, students, and cultural workers from around the country and from Baltimore to address pressing social issues through the arts, humanities, and design fields.

Since the activities surrounding Freddie Gray’s death, there has been a surge of new writing, teaching, emerging research, and gatherings to address underlying social inequalities that have become more visible to many outside of West Baltimore and other communities that have experienced historic multi-dimensional disinvestment. It has simultaneously become more apparent to many that stories, creativity, art, place-making, and social designs can be powerful responses to “man’s inhumanity to man.” We believe that the timing of the IA conference in Baltimore affords us with tremendous opportunities to harness the creative energy responding to recent events, while continuing to discuss their historical, economic, social, and policy roots in order to engage students and one another in crucial learning, creating, storytelling and research.

We’d like to offer a few possibilities for integrating this work and discussions into your Fall courses:

  • Faculty, staff, and student reflections about Freddie Gray’s death and protests can be found on the BreakingGround blog.
  • The conference program (available in June or July), consisting of a variety of session formats and site-specific workshops, may provide ideas for syllabi topics.
  • The IA Journal Public and its most recent issue with articles about last year’s conference discussions could be useful background for faculty and students.

There will be many Baltimore-based organizations, initiatives and cultural leaders at the conference and sponsoring site-specific workshops, so it will be a rich environment for students who might want to do internships before, during or after the conference.

Please consider attending and encouraging your students to explore the various conference sessions and workshops. There will be a call for student volunteers for the conference in late August.

Thanks for thinking about how this work of public engagement might be useful to you and your students. If you want to talk through any ideas please feel free to contact any of these conference planning committee members:

Romy Hübler, IA Fellow (
Bev Bickel, Language, Literacy and Culture (
Lee Boot, Imaging Research Center (
David Hoffman, Student Life (
Kathy O’Dell, Visual Arts (
Kimberly Moffitt, American Studies (
Kate Drabinski, Gender and Women’s Studies (
Viviana MacManus, Gender and Women’s Studies (
Tim Nohe, Visual Arts and CIRCA (
Steve Bradley, Visual Arts (
Preminda Jacob, Visual Arts (
Joby Taylor, Shriver Center (
Tom Moore, OIA (
Charlotte Keniston, OSI Fellow (
Tahira Mahdi, Psychology (
William Klotz, Education (
Julianna Brightman, Interdisciplinary Studies (
Kelly Robier, Political Science and MCS (
Manisha Vepa, Economics (

Best wishes,



  1. […] President Freeman Hrabowski III will lead the opening plenary, “An Honest Conversation,” with Rebecca Hoffberger, Founder and Director of the American Visionary Arts Museum and Joseph Jones, Founder and President of the Center for Urban Families. More than 40 UMBC faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, and alumni are presenting their work October 1-3 throughout the city at conference sessions, seminars, and site-specific workshops. There are still opportunities to get involved as a presenter by applying to participate in the conference seminars. Additional conference highlights include a September 30 pre-conference workshop on assessment of community engagement, an opening reception October 1 at 7:00 PM at the Baltimore Museum of Art where Phi Beta Kappa will present Imagining America with its 2015 Key of Excellence award, a Friday evening event called ¡Express Yourself! A Spoken Word & Drumming JAMM, and UMBC Dresher Center faculty microtalks and other sessions throughout Saturday in the Performing Arts and Humanities Building. For more information, please see UMBC will host Imagining America’s 2015 National Conference, Themes in Baltimore’s Story, and Addressing Social Inequalities in Fall Courses. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: