Archive for October, 2017

National Ethics and Compliance Week to Focus on Responsibility

Nov. 6-10 is National Ethics and Compliance Week.

We are called upon to make ethical decisions every day in our interactions, in our academic and professional pursuits, and in fulfilling our ongoing responsibilities. Our ethical decisions are reflected to our community through our actions. Compliance measures our ethical commitment to civility, integrity, and lawfulness. It demonstrates — individually and collectively — our desire to live our core values and shows our commitment to our culture.

The Office of Accountability and Compliance (OAC) is committed to UMB and its community. During National Ethics and Compliance Week, the OAC is committed to raising awareness and promoting thoughtfulness in our daily decision-making and interactions.

OAC is Open, Accessible, and Collaborative

This year, our National Ethics and Compliance Week activities will revolve around the importance of responsibility. In fulfilling our responsibilities, UMB and each of us become the leaders our core values call upon us to be.

All members of the UMB community are responsible for pursuing excellence in our work and our studies. We are responsible for obtaining and disseminating knowledge, all while acting professionally, respectfully, and courteously to one another. We have a responsibility to ourselves and others to demonstrate our leadership by working collaboratively to achieve great things.

Join OAC during National Ethics and Compliance Week as we demonstrate our commitment through a series of events, including:

• OAC meet and greet on Nov. 6 from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the SMC Campus Center.
• HRPO panel discussion on responsibility in human subjects research on Nov. 8.
• EthicsCaching contest (no GPS needed!) on Nov. 10.

Additional information on the panel discussion and ethics event will be available at the meet and greet on Nov. 6.

You also can find OAC on UMBConnect to participate in our discussions on accountability, compliance, ethics, and promoting our culture of commitment.

We look forwarding to seeing you there!

Stephanie Suerth Bulletin Board, Contests, Education, UMB News, University LifeOctober 30, 20170 comments
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Libraries Partner to Provide Access to ‘POLITICO Pro’

In collaboration with the Thurgood Marshall Law Library, the Health Sciences and Human Services Library (HS/HSL) has extended access to POLITICO Pro to the entire campus.

This two-year pilot offers granular reporting and analysis across 16 policy coverage areas along with tools, trackers, and data to provide users with key policy intelligence. Areas covered include education, e-health, employment and immigration, and health care.

The resource can be accessed on- and off-campus through the database list located on the HS/HSL home page or here.

Steven Douglas Clinical Care, Education, People, Research, TechnologyOctober 30, 20170 comments
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Multi-Factor Authentication for Office 365 Demos Coming Soon

How you log into Office 365 will be changing soon. This fall, Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) will be rolled out for Office 365. In the coming weeks, the Center for Information Technology Services (CITS) will hold a series of demos on how to register your MFA device as well as how to sign on to and interact with Office 365.

Check the CITS web page for MFA for a regularly updated schedule for these demos as well as other information regarding MFA.

Your IT support person will be providing you with more details.

Joe Dincau Bulletin Board, Technology, University LifeOctober 30, 20170 comments
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Internet Security Tips: Take a Closer Look Before You Click!

To protect yourself as you read email and surf the web, you need to know where links are going to take you, compared to where you expect to go, because links and their associated addresses can be misleading. Email sent by phishers and hackers may contain links that look like they go to familiar, expected locations — but not quite. Do you know how to tell an authentic link from a fake?

You may see “Click Here” in an email message. You can examine where that link goes by putting your cursor over the link without clicking. Try it — your browser will show you the link address. Does it go where you are expecting it to go? It also is possible for the destination web page to send you off to another page, so you should check at the top of your browser for the actual web address of the page you are viewing.

Instead of a “Click Here” link, you may see an actual link like this in an email message — — but just like the “Click Here” link, that address link actually might go someplace else. Put your cursor over the link without clicking, and your browser will show you where it will really send you. Does it go where you want to go?

Web page addresses have this general format:


Notice the punctuation around the website name:

  • :// — immediately before the website name
  • / — immediately after the website name

Any valid website at UMB will end with “” and be located immediately after the double slashes and before the first single slash. 

These links look the same, but are they?

If you put your cursor over a link without clicking on it, your browser will generally display the address that the link really goes to, regardless of what the text under your cursor actually says.

You need to be on guard against attempts to fool you into believing it is at a safe, familiar site instead of a criminal or hacked site. The essential rule is: The real host name always appears immediately after the double slashes and before the FIRST single slash.  Hackers may build a web page address with a familiar host name before the SECOND single slash in an attempt to get you to believe their malicious site is familiar.  If you see “” anywhere else in the whole address, it may be a distractor to make you think you are going to a UMB web page when you are not.

http(s)://website name/file/path/filename.ext?parameters

Hovering before clicking and checking for a familiar host name in the correct position will save you from a great many scams and tricks offered in your email and on the web.

If you see “” anywhere else in the whole address, it may be a distractor to make you think you are going to a UMB webpage when you are not.

This same rule holds true if you are expecting a web page on any other website that you may be familiar with. If you are expecting to go to PayPal, Amazon, Gmail, etc., always look for that familiar website name immediately before the first single slash.

Here is an actual phishing email example:

From: Email Adminstrator <Email>

Subject: Warning !!!

Date: February 10, 2015 4:04:13 PM EST

To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Bcc: <>

Reply-To: <>

Dear User,

We have received many negative complaints against your email address that it is being used by spammers to promote spam remotely. We wish to notify you that we will temporarily lock down all emails sent from your address and reject them until we successfully verify that this email is under ownership of the authentic user and not by some bot.

So, if you are reading this then an important action is required by you to save your email from being flagged and to avoid further discontinuation of your outgoing email service. Please click here to authenticate the ownership of your account and “Click here

Copyright © 2015 Email Security Team. All Rights Reserved

  • Hover over the From: address — It’s not from anyone at UMB.
  • Look at and hover over the Reply-To: — It doesn’t belong to anyone at UMB.
  • Hover over the “Click here” — It’s taking you to a site outside of UMB, it doesn’t have anywhere in the link.
  • If you receive an email that has that has any of these characteristics, DELETE it.

Here is a legitimate email example:

The Password for your UMID account will expire on 1/13/2015 10:06:12 AM.

This is the password used to access all UMID authenticated applications, such as the myUMB Portal, eUMB Systems, COEUS, Effort Reporting, SURFS, Blackboard, Google Apps @UMaryland, myUMB Mail, Campus Wireless (eduROAM), Library Resources, and Mediasite.

If you do not change your password, your password will expire and you will lose access to all UMID Authenticated Systems/Applications.

To reset your password, go to the Account Management Site ( and log in with your UMID and current Password. Click on the “Password” link on the left side of the screen to enter a new password.

If you do not remember your UMID or password, click on the “I cannot log into UM Account” link.

If you have any questions or the system does not accept the answer you are entering for your verification, please contact the IT Help Desk at 410-706-4357 (x6-HELP) or


IT Help Desk
Center for Information Technology Services (CITS)
University of Maryland, Baltimore
601 W. Lombard Street, Room 540
Baltimore, MD 21201
410 706-4357 (x6-HELP)


  • This email passes all of our checks to verify links and addresses.
  • Don’t trust that just because it has the campus branding that it is legitimate — that is easily copied and can be added to more sophisticated email phishing attempts. Just remember to take a closer look, hover, and check all links before clicking through.
Fred Smith Technology, University LifeOctober 30, 20170 comments
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Quantum Financials Project Team Hits First Milestone

Last week, the Quantum Financials Project Team hit the first big milestone in the development of UMB’s new financials system: on-time completion of the first of three planned conference room pilots.

Over the last three months, the Quantum Financials Project Team and designated Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) have made hundreds of early decisions that form the prototype foundation of the new system. The pilots — also called playbacks — provide an opportunity for the team to see the results of decisions it’s made. This sets the stage for further research, design, and testing. At this stage, none of the decisions is final.

The goals of this first playback session were to:

  • Test the prototype Chart of Accounts to determine whether it works as anticipated and where refinements still need to be made.
  • View, understand, and test data flows within the system.
  • Identify how well the configured application addresses UMB’s needs and identify areas for further review.

This first playback sessions focused on flows within the procurement, grants, and finance modules, including the prototype Chart of Accounts. Future sessions will cover additional transactions, tests, and refinements, including a look at reporting capabilities.

Over the next few months, the Change Team will be formalizing several groups that will hear about Quantum updates and share some of that information with others on campus. If you are interested in participating with the Change Team, please send us an email at We’ll get in touch as we formalize these groups.

Robin Reid Technology, UMB NewsOctober 27, 20170 comments
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Researcher of the Year Ernst Recounts Quest To Thwart Sepsis

Davidge Hall has been witness to some enlightening presentations over its 205 years, but chances are few foes discussed there have been more formidable than sepsis, which Robert K. “Bob” Ernst, PhD, addressed in his Founders Week Researcher of the Year presentation on Oct. 17.

A death from sepsis occurs every two minutes in the United States. Hospitals spend $23 billion on it annually, making it the most expensive condition treated in U.S. hospitals.

Ernst, professor and vice chair of the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD), and his colleagues are engineering rationally designed mimetics based on bacterial surface molecules that will inhibit the ability of the body to mount the damaging immune response present in sepsis.

In particular, he is at the forefront of innovative research studying the molecular basis by which bacteria modify the lipid component of their membrane, specifically lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and how these alterations affect normal host innate immune system responses, potentially resulting in septic shock.

Before his presentation Ernst was saluted by University of Maryland, Baltimore President Jay A. Perman, MD, and School of Dentistry Dean Mark A. Reynolds, DDS, PhD, MA. “We recognized Dr. Ernst at the Gala Saturday night, but now he needs to work for it,” said Perman, eliciting laughter from the 100-plus Ernst colleagues, students, faculty, and staff on hand. Perman praised Ernst not only for his “groundbreaking body of work” but also as “a generous collaborator, entrepreneur, and very dedicated mentor.”

When Perman spoke of the scientist inspiring the “next generation of Bob Ernsts” an “oh, no” from the crowd brought another round of laughter, with the jovial Ernst leading the way.

Indeed, Reynolds said Ernst’s “enthusiasm for science and mentoring is contagious,” which he showed in his 45-minute presentation “Structure Matters — Making Bacterial Molecules Work for Us.”

Without notes, the award winner chronicled the journey his research has taken. He thanked a long list of collaborators and funders, saying “you can’t just rely on NIH,” which has supported Ernst and his team with $3 million in the last decade. UMB’s seed grant program and MedImmune also have provided strong support.

He discussed E coli, pattern recognition receptors, and the “bar code” in bacterial molecules. “Pathogens are detected by pattern recognition receptors on host cells that recognize structures that are broadly shared by pathogens,” Ernst said. “These bacterial patterns represent a signature or ‘bar code’ that informs the host on the level of danger of the invading organism and how to respond.”

Ernst came to UMB in the fall of 2008, moving his laboratory from the University of Washington in Seattle. David R. Goodlett, PhD, who worked closely with Ernst in Seattle studying the structure function relationships of lipid A, also came to UMB and is now a professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.

In 2016, Ernst and Goodlett co-founded a startup diagnostic company called Pataigin. Last fall, the company received a $25,000 Maryland Department of Commerce Life Award for its patented test called “BACLIB” that inexpensively identifies bacteria- and fungi-causing infections in less than an hour, allowing clinicians to make decisions in the hospital at the “point-of-care.”

“Thank you to Jim Hughes and the UMB tech transfer office for all their help,” Ernst said.

When he turned to sepsis, Ernst’s tone turned more serious. “Each hour delay in antibiotic treatment the mortality rate goes up 7 percent,” he said.

Ernst admits he’s willing to talk to anyone in his quest for research advances. That approach has taken him to Maastricht in the Netherlands to utilize multimodal imaging, tracking where the blood flow is in sepsis. “They’re among the best in the world, with an image every 20 minutes instead of every three to six hours.”

Ernst was the picture of a passionate scientist, enthused and lifted when he discussed advances with E coli and the LPS, bemoaning the setbacks, praising “unheard of” assistance from the Food and Drug Administration, and recognizing his colleagues in the professional schools at UMB.

“Absolutely, this is the most collegial university that I’ve been associated with. The Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and our department work together hand in glove. We are now branching out to do work with cancer researchers at UMB, MedImmune, and the National Cancer Institute, as they are also looking for novel mechanisms to attack cancer cells in the body.”

Ernst concluded his presentation with thanks to his many colleagues and a final PowerPoint slide:
Yes, structure does matter

Modulation of the host innate and adaptive immune systems
– Adjuvant development

Just the tip of the iceberg
– We are expanding our library rapidly
– We’ve neglected the carbohydrate portion – core and O-antigen

The potential for a novel antisepsis therapeutic is promising
– Inhibiting at the earliest intervention point

Asked earlier if a cure for sepsis in his lifetime is a realistic possibility, Ernst responded, “Cure, no, there will always be infections. But being able to modify the host response to give physicians a better chance to treat the symptoms associated with sepsis, potentially.”

— Chris Zang

Chris Zang Clinical Care, Education, People, Research, UMB NewsOctober 26, 20170 comments
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Entrepreneur of the Year Griffith Revisits ‘Road To A Deep Breath’

Bartley P. Griffith, MD, took a riveted audience on the “Road to a Deep Breath” at the Entrepreneur of the Year presentation Oct. 18, one of the highlights of UMB’s Founders Week celebration.

Griffith, the Thomas E. and Alice Marie Hales Distinguished Professor in Transplant Surgery at the School of Medicine, has spent 20 years developing the world’s first wearable, artificial lung system and founded Breethe, Inc., in 2014 to perfect and commercialize it.

“There is no worse death than one from loss of lung function,” Griffith says.

To demonstrate his point, Griffith showed a PowerPoint slide of a huge rock sitting on a stick person’s chest to the audience at the BioPark Life Sciences Conference Center. It included the words “Empathy Drives Everything.”

Empathy is what has inspired Griffith in his Breethe quest. Hundreds of thousands of people die annually from lung failure. Griffith, as a surgeon who has done more than 1,250 heart transplants and 685 lung transplants, has seen firsthand the demoralizing life of those who are tied to a breathing machine in a hospital bed.

“If we build a better mousetrap, people can get up and live a more normal life, and we can get them out of the hospital,” Griffith told the audience of his original thoughts. The road wasn’t easy. There were setbacks as well as successes. “I love firsts,” says Griffith, who also was the first surgeon in America to implant a Jarvik heart in a patient and developed a pediatric heart pump.

It took decades but Griffith and his team have developed the first wearable artificial lung system. Fully portable, the pump lung unit, which is a little larger than a Coke can and sits on the patient’s belt, draws blood out down through the cannula. It oxygenates and removes carbon dioxide from the blood, which then goes back into the body. The unit also is attached to a portable pack on wheels, which contains batteries, the oxygen source, and the pump motor to control it.

“Our artificial lung device is different because of its inherently biocompatible and efficient design,” says Griffith, who also has built a resistance to clotting into it, saying “moving blood is good blood; stagnant blood is bad blood.”

With business partners Carl Cohen and Steve Orwig, who attended the presentation, and medical device executive Marshal Linder, who was out of the country, Griffith and the Breethe team are proceeding toward filing a 501(k) request for approval with the Food and Drug Administration in 2019.

Griffith, UMB’s 2010 Researcher of the Year, also credited funders like NIH and Robert Embry of the Abell Foundation, who was on hand, bioengineers like Jon Wu and Jiafeng Zhang, the UMB tech transfer office, and University leadership.

“I would be the poster boy for learning that multidisciplinary involvement is the key and the crutch that most surgical scientists have to fall upon,” said Griffith. He said the pump lung unit, which crams a surface area of 72 square meters, the size of a tennis court, into a Coke can-sized device, really is the work of the bioengineering community.

“We have passion, we have direction,” Griffth said, “but it’s that partnership between the empathetic physician that draws in the people who have the math skills to do the engineering that makes it click.”

He urged others to “innovate fearlessly” and humbly said he was just a surgeon. E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, vice president for medical affairs at UMB and dean of the School of Medicine, disagreed in his introduction.

Said Reece: “If I had the skills to develop the perfect School of Medicine physician/scientist, that person would look highly likely like Bart Griffith. That person would be a gifted and dedicated clinician, a collaborative and determined researcher, and an innovative and visionary entrepreneur. That’s the full package, and Dr. Griffith, I believe you are the embodiment of that.”

After Griffith’s presentation, Phil Robilotto, assistant vice president in UMB’s Research and Development Tech Transfer Office, honored UMB faculty who received patents in the previous year. (See the list here).

— Chris Zang

Chris Zang Clinical Care, Education, People, UMB NewsOctober 26, 20170 comments
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Dynamic Speaker Kayongo to Talk About ‘Creating Change’ on Oct. 31

UMB welcomes Derreck Kayongo, business visionary, Global Soap Project founder and CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, who will speak on the topic of “Creating Change” as part of the President’s Panel on Politics and Policy series Oct. 31 at the SMC Campus Center, Elm Room 208.‌

The event starts at 8 a.m. with free breakfast, followed by Kayongo’s presentation from 8:30 to 10. To register to attend, click here.

From Ugandan refugee to entrepreneur and human rights activist, Kayongo possesses an inspiring life story. He is chief executive officer of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta and founder of the Global Soap Project, a nonprofit that recycles used hotel soap and redistributes it to impoverished populations to help fight disease around the world.

A dynamic speaker, Kayongo shares his spirit and experience in the areas of entrepreneurship, environmental sustainability, global health, social justice, and professional engagement with audiences in the corporate, nonprofit, and academic worlds.

Kayongo brings his personal guiding principles, coined S.E.L.F. (Service, Education, Leadership, and Faith), to life in emotional and impactful presentations. His awards include designation as a Top 10 CNN Hero; a citizenship award from the Georgia State Legislature; the MAXX Entrepreneurship Award; and accolades from Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Before becoming CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in 2015, Kayongo gained experience working for nongovernmental organizations in positions with CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere), Amnesty International, the American Friends Service Committee, and the Congressional Hunger Center.

He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., a master’s degree in law and diplomacy from The Fletcher School at Tufts University in Boston, and an honorary degree from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta.

If you attend, please consider bringing a donation of the following items for UMB’s partner school, James McHenry Elementary/Middle School:

  • School store goods: Age-appropriate (4-15) entertainment items, which can range from athletic goods to electronics to toys for the PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) program.
  • Uniform pants: Beige khakis for 4- to 15-year-olds.
Chris Zang Bulletin Board, Community Service, For B'more, PeopleOctober 25, 20170 comments
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Meet the Staff Senate at UMB Craft Fair on Dec. 1

The UMB community is invited to meet members of the Staff Senate and find out how to get involved in its efforts at the UMB Holiday Craft Fair on Dec. 1, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the SMC Campus Center.

The Staff Senate serves as an advisory group and a channel of communication to the UMB president and the president’s cabinet in the areas of policy and procedures that affect the quality of staff members’ work life and their level of contribution to the strategic goals of the University.

You can learn more about the Staff Senate on its web page.


Monica Martinez People, UMB News, University LifeOctober 24, 20170 comments
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Study Finds Link Between Antidepressants and Type 2 Diabetes in Youths

A team of researchers from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that current (prolonged) use of serotonin reuptake inhibitors — a major class of antidepressant medications — in children and adolescents was associated with a nearly twofold increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes when compared to youths who formerly used (but eventually discontinued) those medications. Published in JAMA Pediatrics, this is the first population-based study that comprehensively examines pediatric patients’ risk of developing Type 2 diabetes after beginning treatment with an antidepressant.

“Antidepressants are one of the most commonly used psychotropic medication classes among youth in the United States, with serotonin reuptake inhibitors representing a majority of total antidepressant use in this population,” says Mehmet Burcu, PhD, a May 2017 graduate of the doctoral program housed within the Department of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research (PHSR) at the School of Pharmacy, who led the study for his dissertation. “These findings provide new information on the risk of a rare but serious adverse outcome that is often difficult to assess in clinical trials due to limited sample size and inadequate follow-up.”

According to Burcu and his team, there has been a marked increase in the percentage of children and adolescents in the United States who use antidepressants over the past two decades — from 1.5 percent in 1996-1998 to 2.6 percent in 2010-2012. This increase has been largely driven by a rise in the number of antidepressants prescribed by pediatricians and other primary care providers. Although a number of studies have demonstrated a link between antidepressant use and risk for Type 2 diabetes in adults, evidence of a similar risk among children and adolescents remains limited.

For their study, Burcu and his team analyzed Medicaid administrative claim files for nearly 120,000 children and adolescents between the ages 5 of and 20 from California, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey, who initiated treatment with an antidepressant between Jan. 1, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2009, for conditions such as depressive disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and anxiety disorders. Medications that patients were prescribed included serotonin reuptake inhibitors, tricyclic or other cyclic antidepressants, and other antidepressants.

The team applied rigorous design and statistical approaches to compare incident cases of diabetes in current antidepressant users to former users, rather than non-users (children and adolescents who were never prescribed an antidepressant). “This approach represented a methodological strength of our study, as the comparison of current users to non-users could potentially lead to biased estimates due to several factors, such as confounding by indication and medical care utilization intensity bias,” Burcu says.

In its analysis, the team uncovered 233 incident cases of Type 2 diabetes, of which 156 occurred during current use and 77 occurred during former use of antidepressants, demonstrating that current use of antidepressants in children and adolescents was associated with a twofold increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

In addition, within current users, the team assessed the risk of incident diabetes according to duration of use, cumulative dose, and average daily dose. This secondary analysis showed that the risk for children and adolescents who were prescribed serotonin reuptake inhibitors further intensified with an increasing duration of use (long-term use), cumulative dose, and average daily dose.

“The increased risk of Type 2 diabetes following prolonged use of serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants in youth is clearly supported by these findings, with the data showing a greater effect on those youths who were prescribed the medications over longer durations and at higher doses,” says Daniel J. Safer, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and adjunct professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who has practiced for more than 40 years in the field of child psychiatry and is a co-author of the study. “We know that long-term use of these antidepressants is not without risk, and further research on outcomes, especially for current, long-term users, is warranted to assure a favorable benefit-risk balance for patients.”

“I am proud of Dr. Burcu’s ability to use the most sophisticated methods available to address the question of whether antidepressant use in children elevates their risk for developing Type 2 diabetes,” adds Julie Zito, BSPharm, PhD, professor in PHSR, who served as Burcu’s advisor and is a co-author on the study. “The nested cohort approach that he employed offers a fair comparison of those children who are currently using an antidepressant versus those children who previously used an antidepressant. It helps reduces bias in the research, which is often a challenge with safety studies such as this.”

Burcu and his colleagues hope their study paves the way for further research on the biological mechanisms underlying the relationship between antidepressant use and increased risk for Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents, noting that their results can be used to spur policy development to improve patient monitoring and ensure these medications are used safely and effectively.

Malissa Carroll Research, UMB NewsOctober 23, 20170 comments
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Celebrate Your Culture at the Pan-African Festival on Nov. 14

The United Students of African Descent (USAD) at UMB is hosting its annual Pan-African Festival on Tuesday, Nov. 14, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the SMC Campus Center, Elm Rooms A and B.

The evening features a mix of cultures and ethnic dishes as well as African dancers, spoken-word performances, a fashion show, a step team, and much more.

Attendees are encouraged to wear traditional/ethnic attire and participate in a fashion show to showcase your culture.

This event is free to all students at UMB schools and only $3 for non-UMB students.

Temitope Foleyson Education, People, University LifeOctober 23, 20170 comments
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Westminster Hall Catacombs Tour Sparks the Intellect and Imagination

The land of the living and the dead came together during UMB’s guided tour of the Westminster Burying Ground and Catacombs on Oct. 17.

While it may have been a sunny day in the land of the living, only tendrils of sunlight peeked through barred windows beneath the wooden floorboards of this former 19th-century Presbyterian church that shares a city block with the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. Though the crossroads of Fayette and Greene were only a few steps away, faint sounds of traffic barely made their way through the catacombs’ dust-covered brick walls. The modern world seemed distant in this final resting place, making it the ideal backdrop for conjuring the Halloween spirit.

The event, organized by the UMB Council for the Arts & Culture in cooperation with the law school, attracted approximately 40 members of the University community. They gathered in church pews during their lunch hour as Lu Ann Marshall, the historic hall’s tour director for 37 years, regaled the audience with tales of macabre history, tragic deaths, body snatchers, and paranormal sightings.

Westminster’s dark history

Aside from serving as the final resting place of famed gothic author Edgar Allan Poe, Westminster Graveyard boasts a frightening history of its own. The catacombs, which Marshall pointed out is technically a covered graveyard, were originally created to ease a grisly problem that plagued 18th-century Baltimore.

“The cemetery was originally established in 1786 because the other Presbyterian graveyard was sliding toward Jones Falls,” said Marshall, who is an academic coordinator for the law school. “This would cause to the bodies to wash into the Inner Harbor. This was obviously disturbing to some people, especially when they knew the person.“

Westminster Presbyterian Church itself was constructed in 1852, more than 60 years after the graveyard was established. The reasoning? “People were commonly buried with their valuables, so they built the church to protect the graves. Kids would sometimes vandalize or kick in the headstones. You know, just kids being kids,“ Marshall quipped, bringing smiles to the audience.

Poe’s tortured soul

It would be difficult to discuss graves at Westminster Hall without mentioning Poe, but even the most seasoned literary fans were likely to learn something during this tour.

For example, Poe’s grave went unmarked between 1849 and 1875 after a train derailed in a railway accident and obliterated his headstone. “Poe’s was the only headstone destroyed in that accident,” said Marshall, punctuating a long list of misfortunes that the writer endured in life and death. Stories about Poe’s time in Baltimore were a special point of interest for many in the audience, who were eager to ask Marshall questions about his life.

UMSOM’s body-snatching past

Though the Carey School of Law leads the trust that preserves the church, the University’s connection to Westminster Hall and its catacombs goes far deeper.

“John Davidge believed that the best way for medical students to learn about anatomy was to dissect real human corpses,” Marshall said. Because of prevalent superstitious beliefs, the public was resistant to the idea of dissection, believing that a body must be interred undisturbed to allow the soul to pass into the next world.

In turn, the medical school needed to find more creative means of obtaining fresh corpses. The school’s resident janitor, Frank, would regularly moonlight as a body snatcher. “The original medical school was in walking distance to four graveyards, so I’m sure that was a factor in deciding its location,” Marshall said with a chuckle.

Some bodies were a little too fresh. Much to the horror of the tour’s audience, Marshall revealed that mispronouncing someone dead and burying them alive was not a rare occurrence.

“There are stories of people walking through graveyards and hearing screams coming from the ground,” Marshall said, inducing gasps from her rapt audience.

Paranormal activity

Listening to such stories, it is easy to understand why graveyards have captured the human imagination as sites of paranormal activity.

Some members of the audience peeked over their shoulders nervously as Marshall told them about the catacombs’ supposed hauntings: a hostile soldier, a ponytailed man, and giggling children (just to name a few).

Multiple ghost hunters and psychics have visited the catacombs, some seeing the same ghostly figures repeatedly. Some touring guests also have seen a spirit or two. As for Marshall? “I’ve never seen a spirit myself. If I did, I certainly wouldn’t be working here anymore. But there are rooms I won’t go into alone,” she said.

Marshall closed the tour by allowing attendees to explore the catacombs and give the graves a closer look. Some graves were covered in giant stone slabs, which Marshall said were used to “keep the bodies from floating out of the ground during heavy rain,” while others were buried under monumental piles of old soil with rusted doors on their sides. Many of the graves also were marked with informative plaques.

The crypt was a special brand of eerie, with a claustrophobia-inducing low ceiling, multiple headstones huddled together, and a deep well that was meant to provide drainage to the catacombs. “The well doesn’t work very well. Once I was giving a tour after a big storm and there was a small coffin floating in the crypt,” Marshall said.

Overall, the guided tour of Westminster Hall’s Burying Ground and Catacombs offers something for everyone. It is part history lesson, part architectural study, part campfire tale, and more.

Miss the opportunity to explore this unique place right on campus? The Annual Halloween Tour is scheduled for Oct. 31 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. You also can view the silent classic The Phantom of the Opera (1925) as part of the law school’s “Lunch Under the Pipes” series Oct. 26 at noon.
— Jacquelyn White

Learn more about the upcoming events at Westminster Hall here.

Jacquelyn White University LifeOctober 20, 20171 comment
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Plan For Emergency Garage Closures

Know what to do in the event of an emergency garage closure before you come to campus.

During an emergency — such as winter weather, a hurricane, civil unrest, or a power outage — all 24-hour campus garages will remain open. However, non-24-hour garages will close, so parkers will need to park in garages as defined below.

24-hour garages

Open all days and times, even during emergencies, unless otherwise noted.

  • Baltimore Grand
  • Lexington
  • Plaza
  • Pratt

Non-24-hour garages

Not open during emergencies.

  • Pearl
  • Penn
  • Saratoga

Emergency garage relocation plan

  • Pearl parkers go to Baltimore Grand
  • Penn parkers go to Pratt
  • Saratoga parkers go to Baltimore Grand

Important details

  • UMB Alerts will notify registered users that Emergency Garage Plans are in effect. Sign up for alerts on the  UMB Alerts web page (FPI, please use code FPI; UMMC, please use code UMMC).
  • If possible, signage will be located at garage entryways detailing where you should park when your garage is closed.
  • Use your regular access card when entering and exiting a 24-hour garage in an emergency situation ONLY.
  • Always consult the UMB Alerts web page regarding any campus emergency situation to get current updates.
  • Learn more by visiting the Parking and Transportation Services web page.
Dana Rampolla Bulletin Board, Community Service, People, University LifeOctober 20, 20170 comments
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