In the Archives: Creating ‘Free Hour’

Lindsey Loeper ’04, American Studies, is an archivist at UMBC’s Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery.

Lindsey LoeperI believe understanding our shared history enables and empowers us to work together to build the UMBC of our hopes. “In the Archives” is my series highlighting the ways people have co-created this campus and its traditions.

In response to my very first “In the Archives” post, UMBC staff member Delana Gregg suggested that I write about the history of UMBC’s Free Hour, the hour without scheduled classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That struck me as a strange idea, because the free hour is, at face value, a gap in the schedule; the real story, it seemed to me, was what took place during free hour: the club meetings, rehearsals, brainstorming and creative work. But as it turns out, free hour has a fascinating story of its own.

TRW19700324_01.pdfIn 1970, a group of students formed a Student Union to address what it called the “power structure” of the university, and provide an alternative to SGA as a source of direct action and advocacy. “Participants in the ‘movement’, as many have called it, are free to work within or around the system, or to provoke the system’s leaders into a direct confrontation. Everyone is responsible to himself; no one claims responsibility to anyone else” (The Retriever, March 24, 1970: page 3).

The Student Union held widely-attended meetings, protested what they viewed as unfair restrictions on the student literary magazine, and submitted three requests to the Faculty Senate. The first: independent groups should have the right to solicit on campus (they did, and still do). The second and most controversial: abolish the student activity fee (the Faculty Senate initially approved the request, but the fee remains in place). The third: establish a free and unscheduled hour for student assembly, organization, and advising (request granted).

[Read more…]

UMBC Engineering Students Foster Development of Clean Water in Kenya

Lee Blaney is an assistant professor in UMBC’s Department of Chemical, Biochemical & Environmental Engineering

Lee BlaneyThis past January, a UMBC Engineers Without Borders team left the blustery winds of Baltimore and travelled for two days by plane, van and motorbike to Isongo, Kenya, a community of 500 people in need of a clean water source.

Our team consisted of two undergraduates, Dalton Hughes (chemical engineering) and Chris Mullen (mechanical engineering); our professional engineering mentor, Duane Wilding, from Maryland Environmental Services; and me. Our host and guide was Fr. Chris Shiko, director of our non-profit partner Simiyu House Kenya, which serves orphaned street children in nearby Kakamega.

Chris Mullen, Duane Wilding, and Dalton Hughes conduct water quality testing in Isongo.

Chris Mullen, Duane Wilding, and Dalton Hughes conduct water quality testing in Isongo.

Through this assessment trip we sought to (1) establish relationships with community leaders; (2) conduct water quality testing of the current water source; (3) map the community using a handheld GPS and meet residents; (4) establish a relationship with Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology; and (5) collect pricing information for building materials.

[Read more…]

Empowering Young Americans

Ebonie Riley is an undergraduate Political Science major and President of the Africana Studies Council of Majors at UMBC.

At UMBC I have learned how to focus my aspiration to make a difference in my community. I have interacted with great professors here on campus in several different departments who have fueled my interest in community activism.  I completed an internship at the National Action Network in Washington, DC, seeking justice and experiencing hands-on civic activism in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.  That experience, coupled with a research project at UMBC, clarified my career plan: I’ll pursue a Ph.D. in Political Science.

But first, I hope to make a difference on campus, getting students involved in academic and community life.  I was working as a student aide in the Department of Africana Studies when I saw an opportunity to build student support for the department and its programs. Using organizing techniques I learned at UMBC and from National Action Network D.C. Bureau Chief Janaye Ingram, with plenty of support from Africana Studies staff member Wanda Soares Nottingham, I recruited peers to reactivate the long-dormant Africana Studies Council of Majors. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. As my professors have helped me discover, the capacity to recognize and respond effectively to a need is the hallmark of an activist.

One of the lessons I took away from my internship was that people need to be equipped with the knowledge to be informed voters in local or state elections so they have a say in policies that will affect their daily lives.  But understanding the political process is not an easy feat. As a Political Science major, I thought it would be important to bring a Member of Congress to campus to interact with young adults who would be able to ask questions about issues like student loan, college affordability, the economy and the job market. I hope you’ll join me for Empowering Young Americans: A Conversation with Congressman Elijah Cummings, in the UC Ballroom at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 18th.

If I could leave something for other students to think about it would be this: Vote. And remember that civic engagement means more than just voting; it also means being active in their communities and holding elected officials accountable. No matter who you are, you can shape your community.

Contact the author, Ebonie Riley, at

Women in Politics!

UMBC’s Women Involved in Learning and Leadership (WILL) will host a panel discussion this Wednesday, October 10, called “Women in Politics!,” featuring campus, state and national leaders (7:00 p.m., Lecture Hall 4). Kelly Martin Broderick and Cassandra Morales, UMBC undergraduates who are among WILL’s co-leaders, tell the story of their inspiration to plan and host the event.

WILL (Women Involved in Learning and Leadership) students are committed to bringing issues of gender equality to light in addition to actively working to resolve these issues. Within our group, we have maintained an equal-power structure, in which no member, including the co-leaders, has a bigger voice than the others. Most of all, WILL remains a safe space to talk about every day confrontations with gender inequality. WILL is a student group, but we are also supported by the GWST program and have a Living/Learning Community in Harbor Hall. If you are interested in WILL, please contact Kate Drabinski in the GWST Program.

Cassandra reflects:  

This past June, WILL’s co-leaders participated in the United States National Committee-United Nations Women conference at George Washington University. The final panel focused on why it was important for more women to be in politics. The panelists discussed obstacles women face in politics, including the fact that when a woman is asked to run for office, she has to be asked three to five different times before she even seriously considers it. This is a significant statistic because a man barely has to be asked; all it takes is being approached once. This is why when asked what advice she would give to women, Erin Prangley, the Associate Director of Government Relations for the American Association of University Women (AAUW), simply stated “RUN. FOR. OFFICE.” This was repeated four more times—encouraging every woman at the conference to get out there and run for office. It doesn’t matter how big or little the election, just get out there and get on a ballot. [Read more…]

Involvement Fest: Community Starts Here

Involvement Fest is a student organizations fair where undergraduates can learn more about the 250+ student groups and involvement opportunities at UMBC. There will also be campus departments, off-campus vendors, student performances, free food and giveaways.

Get connected! Join us on the Quad on Wednesday, September 5th, noon-3:00 p.m. Note: Due to inclement weather, Involvement Fest has been postponed until Monday, September  10th, noon – 3:00 p.m.

Questions? Contact Sara Leidner, Coordinator of Student Life for Student Organizations and Involvement, at