October 4, 2010

Six-city tour: Here’s how JHU is Rising to the Challenge

The Rising to the Challenge tour will continue this fall in Boston on Nov. 6

In Philadelphia, Vice Provost Pam Cranston, left, leads a ‘Future Tense’ panel with school reform expert Jim McPartland, director of the Center for Social Organization of Schools; Carey Business School Professor Bill Agresti; Pam Jeffries, associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Nursing; and Jon Faust, a professor of economics in the Krieger School. Photo: Will Kirk/Homewoodphoto.jhu.edu

In his 2009 inaugural address, university President Ronald J. Daniels outlined how Johns Hopkins must “galvanize its intellectual and moral strengths” for the betterment of the community and the world. In addition to educating future generations, the nation’s elite universities, he said, have a responsibility to devote their energies to the greatest problems of the day.

Last spring, Daniels set forth to tell this story, in six cities across America, of how Johns Hopkins will meet these great challenges. The events—to date held in Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia—are targeted to alumni and friends of the university, in addition to parents of current and prospective students.

The Rising to the Challenge tour will continue this fall.

On Nov. 6, a cadre of experts and leaders from Johns Hopkins convene in Boston to discuss the future of the “missing” middle class, personalized medicine and water. The tour will conclude early next year with stops in San Francisco and Chicago.

Daniels said that the Rising to the Challenge events offer a window into some of the most important work being conducted on the Johns Hopkins campuses. He said they also present an opportunity to convey his “one university” message.

“This nationwide tour allows us to reach out to prospective students, and to reconnect with our alumni, friends and all those who believe in and have a stake in Johns Hopkins’ mission,” Daniels said. “We want to tell people our stories; in particular, the multidisciplinary, groundbreaking work we are doing to address the greatest problems of our day. It’s a story we are happy to share.”

The one-day events, organized by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, feature an opening address by Daniels or Provost Lloyd B. Minor, keynote speakers, panel discussions and, at some, performances by Peabody faculty and students. Each concludes with a reception where attendees can meet with JHU administration and the panelists, and connect with fellow alumni, parents and friends.

In May, a dozen experts representing various university divisions traveled to Philadelphia to discuss “The New Biological Revolution” and how advances in the understanding of basic life processes will profoundly affect how humans promote health, combat disease and interact with the planet’s ecosystem. Specifically, the panelists encapsulated how Johns Hopkins researchers and clinicians are redefining the boundaries of the life sciences.

The event was moderated by David Hellmann, vice dean and director of the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Cellist Michael Kannen, director of Chamber Music at the Peabody Conservatory, delivered a presentation on the creative process with pianist Eunkyung Yoon, who is studying for a graduate performance diploma.

The event in Boston will feature discussions with William G. Nelson, director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, on the promise of personalized medicine, and Katherine S. Newman, the James B. Knapp Dean of the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, on mapping America’s missing class, and a panel led by Nicholas P. Jones, the Benjamin T. Rome Dean of the Whiting School of Engineering on global issues related to water.

The panelists will be Edward J. Bouwer, the Abel Wolman Professor of Environmental Engineering and chair of the Whiting School’s Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering; Kellogg J. Schwab, director of the Center for Water and Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and of the university’s Global Water Program; Winston H. Yu, adjunct professor of international relations at SAIS; and Benjamin F. Zaitchik, assistant professor in the Krieger School’s Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Schwab said that the upcoming event allows him and his colleagues to tell the story of water use from a variety of perspectives, not only public health and engineering but political as well.

“I would say that a lot of people are not fully aware of the issues related to water and sanitation, and how it’s become a major problem, not just worldwide but right here in America,” Schwab said. “Many just assume that clean water will always be there when they want, and that is not the case. There are many issues with our water infrastructure and emerging contaminants.”

Specifically, Schwab cited the fragility of the Ogallala aquifer, the vast underground water table located beneath the Great Plains that services eight states. “We are depleting this groundwater, and it’s not being replenished,” he said. “This is the water for corn and other produce that helps feed the population.”

Johns Hopkins is addressing the water issue from a multitude of angles, Schwab said, such as the work being conducted at the Applied Physics Laboratory to use the tools originally created for defense purposes to monitor water use, and public health programs that use cell phones with Android operating systems to collect accurate data in the field.

The cancer center’s Nelson said that the value of events such as Rising to the Challenge is in reaching this targeted audience.

“These are alumni and parents, very smart people with an interest in learning about these complex issues and what Johns Hopkins is doing with them,” Nelson said. “Afterwards they might be compelled to know how they can help, whether it’s through philanthropy or expertise, or just to learn more.”

Susan Baisley, associate vice president for constituent engagement in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations and project leader for the Rising to the Challenge tour, agrees that a main objective is “to inspire the audiences with the great work that is done here at the university.”

“It’s a way of demonstrating the kinds of resources we bring to bear and highlighting the many people who are doing research and discovery in various fields related to the same issue,” said Baisley, who joined the university in May to fill the new position.

The response to the events, Baisley said, has been incredible, and the hope is that the three upcoming events will continue to draw a broad base of the Johns Hopkins family.

For more information about Rising to the Challenge events, e-mail rising@jhu.edu or call 877-388-1876.