Dean's Newsletter

A quarterly newsletter from Interim Dean Beverly Wendland

Newsletter from Interim Dean Beverly Wendland – School of Arts & Sciences

Welcome to a brand new academic year on the Homewood campus. While it’s true that scholarship and research take place here during the summer months, it’s still a relatively quiet time. I’m always re-energized when the majority of our students begin returning in August, excited to share news of summer jobs and internships and happy to reunite with friends and professors. The whole campus seems to vibrate with the promise of new discovery.

I am very eager to start this semester, because it is my first as interim dean of the Krieger School. As you know, Katherine Newman, the former James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School, was appointed provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The reception to wish her well and thank her for her hard work was absolutely wonderful.

President Ronald J. Daniels has convened a search committee for the Krieger School’s next dean. Chaired by Provost Robert Lieberman, the committee comprises trustees, deans, faculty, staff, and students from across the university. I will keep you informed as the search progresses.

Welcome Class of 2018

I want to extend a particularly warm welcome to our freshmen—the Class of 2018! For the 11th year in a row, a record-breaking number of people—23,877—applied for a spot in the incoming freshman class at Hopkins. We accepted 3,587 freshmen. Including the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering, our total freshman enrollment is 1,415 students. Our Class of 2018 is 51 percent male and 49 percent female, and we have close to 300 students from underrepresented groups.

The top five states that members of our incoming class come from are New York, California, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Besides the United States, the top five countries from which they hail are China, Canada, the Republic of Korea, India, and the United Kingdom.

In case that’s not enough to pique your interest, let me give you some examples of who belongs to our freshman class:

  • A three-time winner of the Delaware Young Playwrights Festival
  • The founder of a non-profit charity for underprivileged children in Zimbabwe
  • A trained flying trapeze artist
  • The founder of a project that provides teddy bears to children whose Navy SEAL parents were killed
  • The creator of a mobile app that helps cancer patients track their medical appointments and connects them to other cancer patients
  • A competitor on the television show The Biggest Loser, who wants to conduct research on obesity and public health outreach.

And that is just a small sampling! I welcome all members of our amazing freshman class to Johns Hopkins; each of them brings something unique to our campus, and I wish I had the space here to highlight every individual.

Creating a Diverse Community

Many factors contribute to a vibrant and healthy university environment, and for me, diversity is near the top of that list. Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to the incoming freshman class at Convocation. It was an inspiring evening, but I was particularly gratified to see the broad range of diversity in the audience.

At Johns Hopkins, we strive to promote practices, policies, and initiatives that encourage diversity among our faculty, staff, and student body. For example, we have a university-wide Diversity Leadership Council that, among other efforts, sponsors the Diversity Innovation Grants. These grants provide funding support to new and interesting programming ideas that foster inclusion and diversity. The Diversity Leadership Council also sponsors an annual symposium that features dynamic speakers and thought-provoking topics. In addition, the Homewood campus is home to the Office of Multicultural Affairs, which aims to enhance the Hopkins experience of students from underrepresented groups. The office creates an atmosphere that reflects the multicultural nature of all Hopkins students.

Do we still have work to do in growing a diverse population of students and faculty members? Absolutely. We must seek innovative new ways to increase diversity and make sure that everyone in the Johns Hopkins family feels completely at home here. We all play an important role in ensuring that our university is inclusive, diverse, and most of all, welcoming.

Remembering Fellow Scholars

The time between academic years is always one of transitions and change. As it turns out, this past summer was particularly difficult with some sad news for our school: three of our stellar faculty members passed away in June, and yet another accomplished faculty member also passed away just recently. I want to take a moment to acknowledge them and pay tribute to their contributions to their respective fields and to our community, and to extend my condolences to their families, colleagues, and students.

Award-winning poet Allen Grossman, retired from the Department of English, was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities. In his obituary, The New York Times called him “a poet’s poet.” He authored 11 books of poetry, and in 1989 was awarded the MacArthur Foundation fellowship—the so-called “genius grant.”

Neuroscience professor Steven Hsiao, scientific director of the Krieger Mind/Brain Institute, led an internationally renowned research program that could lead to the development of artificial limbs that can feel. His colleague, Richard Huganir, director of the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at the JHU School of Medicine, where Steven had been a faculty member since 1992, said many of Steven’s papers are considered “classics in the field.”

Steven Yantis, a brain scientist known for his pioneering studies on visual attention, was a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. He is perhaps best known for his work on the neural mechanisms involved in switching attention from one task or one type of stimulus to another. Steven published more than 100 scientific papers, and his textbook Sensation and Perception, was published earlier this year.

Our most recent loss was Michael Beer, retired from the Department of Biophysics. He is widely credited for his pioneering work on single-molecule electron microscopy, most notably for his proposal to determine the nucleotide sequence of DNA by direct visualization in the electron microscope. He was also extraordinarily involved in his community, working tirelessly to rejuvenate the Stoney Run Creek Park and the Jones Falls.

All four of these professors were powerhouses in their respective fields, and we are so proud of their scholarship. You can read more about their work and their lives on our website Professors Grossman, Hsiao, Yantis, and Beer inspired their students and played a key role in preparing tomorrow’s great scientists and poets. We all feel their absence, but we take heart in the enduring impact of their work.

The Wide, Wide World of Research

As the Fall 2014 semester gets underway, I know the majority of our students and faculty members will be engaging in a rich and wide array of research opportunities. From the humanities to the social sciences to the natural sciences, research is really the backbone of the Krieger School. It is central to everything we do, and we embrace the seamless learning that occurs in classrooms, laboratories, libraries, the “field” and other research venues. Excitingly, more and more at Johns Hopkins, research is happening across disciplines, rather than in individual silos. Such interdisciplinary research opens the door to new knowledge and gives birth to new fields, and the benefits and power of this approach are evident throughout the university.

Take our new Undergraduate Teaching Laboratory building, as one example. Opened just last year, the labs bring together some of the critical natural sciences in one place and facilitate teaching and learning in integrated ways. The building is set up to encourage both students and instructors to cross disciplines and connect with one another.

Another example of interdisciplinary research is evident in the appointment of the university’s first six Bloomberg Distinguished Professors (BDPs). The work of these professors is centered on interdisciplinary scholarship, and I’m pleased to tell you that four of them are connected to the Krieger School. The vision is for the BDPs to bridge the university’s schools and divisions, conduct innovative research that crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries, and to advance the university’s commitment to new directions in scholarship. You can read more about all of the BDPs on the provost’s website:

At the Krieger School, research happens in all of our academic departments. One glance at the projects of our Dean’s Undergraduate Research Award recipients shows the diversity of research. For example, one sociology student is researching refugees in the United States and their exposure to American concepts of race. A history of art student is discovering what sort of cultural narrative might be revealed by examining the coastal architecture and archaeology of the Inca civilization. Whether students are in the humanities or the natural or social sciences, the research possibilities abound. And keep in mind that there are tons of opportunities for research projects that students can do and are doing, whether for credit, for pay as work-study students, or as recipients of fellowships or scholarships that support these projects. The only limits on these opportunities are our imaginations, creative design of questions, and thirst for answers.

At Johns Hopkins, innovative research is not only encouraged, it is embraced. Our quest for new knowledge drives practically everything we do. I am confident that this academic year will yield discovery and new opportunities for collaboration. I wish all members of the Krieger School community a rewarding and fulfilling semester.


Beverly Wendland
Interim Dean