Eight Years Rising
Rising to the Challenge, which ended in October, has been an eight-year fundraising campaign to support students, faculty members, research, and scholarship across the university. Here, we highlight eight of the campaign’s key priorities.
This was a campaign about empowering the people of Johns Hopkins—our students, faculty members, researchers, scientists, and scholars—who strive every day to improve the lives of others and make a difference in the world.
All told, the university raised more than $6 billion, with the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences bringing in close to $750 million. With that kind of support, the Krieger School has aimed to inspire student learning, enhance faculty excellence, and shape interdisciplinary research and projects. The campaign was bold and ambitious, and we invite you to learn about some of the successes achieved by the Krieger School through the immense generosity of donors.
Monies raised for undergraduate scholarship support during the Rising campaign—funding everything from financial aid and special programs to endowed scholarships—enable Johns Hopkins to attract students from a rich diversity of backgrounds, sustain them through their schooling, and help them to graduate with lower debt.
Making a Lasting Impact
As a public health major with his sights on medical school, Connor Steele-McCutchen ’18, recipient of the Katchis Family Scholarship, volunteered with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Response Organization, a student-operated unit that responds to emergency calls on the Homewood campus. “These are students responding to students,” he says. “Because of that and also our high level of professionalism, it adds a very strong dynamic to what it means to be pre-med on the Hopkins campus.”
Altruism runs strong in Steele-McCutchen’s family. His parents are former academics who started a maple syrup research farm in Massachusetts to study sustainable harvesting. Then they decided to launch a nonprofit organization called Island Reach. To this end, they mortgaged the farm and bought a research vessel to sail the family to remote areas and help farmers and fishermen during the off-season.
Receiving an endowed scholarship to attend Hopkins was a “game changer,” says Steele-McCutchen. “I’m eternally grateful for that opportunity.”
As a student at the Krieger School, Steele-McCutchen also served as a community liaison and research assistant for Baltimore CONNECT, a research partnership between Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health and nearly a dozen community organizations.
“The most important thing to me is that I have a lasting impact on the largest number of people, and hopefully a positive one,” he says.
Giving Back to the Community
Brooke-Logann Williams ’15 went to high school just 10 minutes from the Homewood campus and attended Johns Hopkins with support from the Baltimore Scholars Program—which offers full-tuition scholarships to qualified students of Baltimore City public high schools. During the campaign, more than 90 Baltimore Scholars were admitted to the Krieger School. During her years at Hopkins, Williams took part in the Community Impact Internship Program. She worked at the Maryland Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore and tutored juvenile offenders charged as adults at the Baltimore City Detention Center. She also spent part of her junior year in Brazil, working for an organization dedicated to empowering underprivileged women.
“I would never have gotten the opportunity to go to Brazil or even attend Johns Hopkins University if it wasn’t for the Baltimore Scholars Program,” says Williams, the first in her family to attend college.
After graduating, Williams has stayed close to her roots in Baltimore. Today she manages a private family foundation at an investment firm. “I gained a lot of nonprofit experience at Hopkins, but I wanted to know more about the business side,” she says. “Now, I’m in a position to be a voice of reason for resources, projects, and programs I’m so proud of. I feel tremendously grateful to give back to my community.”
Fueling the Scholars of Tomorrow
Johns Hopkins opened primarily as a graduate school back in 1876, and today graduate students remain a vital part of the Homewood campus, as they are the scholars and scientists of tomorrow.
Across the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, funded fellowships for graduate students help them realize their outstanding intellectual promise.
What does it take for a graduate student to succeed at Hopkins? According to Jeffrey Liu, a PhD candidate in chemistry, “a diversity of minds, expertise, and backgrounds.” Liu is the recipient of one of the more than 50 graduate student fellowships funded during the campaign.
As he moves forward in his career, Liu aims to pursue challenging issues such as renewable and sustainable energy and says his studies at Hopkins are preparing him well to contribute in those fields.
Emily Friedman, a doctoral candidate in history of art, was able to view—in real time—the art at the basis of her research.
“As an art historian who specializes in the art of the Early Modern, travel to Europe is an important part of my degree,” says Friedman. “My fellowship allowed me to visit Germany and Austria, which was invaluable. I was able to spend time with objects and become familiar with cities that will play large roles in both my dissertation and my future research.”
It was a financial shot heard round the world. When legendary investor William H. “Bill” Miller III committed $75 million to the Department of Philosophy early in 2018, he got the attention of academicians and businesspeople alike, sending the ringing message, in the words of university President Ronald Daniels, that “philosophy matters.”
I attribute much of my business success to the analytical training and habits of mind that were developed when I was a [philosophy] graduate student at Johns Hopkins.”
Bill Miller III
Believed to be the largest gift ever given to a department of philosophy—and the largest to Johns Hopkins for any department in the humanities—the funding will help grow the department within 10 years to 22 full-time faculty members, from its current 13. The gift creates an endowed professorship for the department chair, eight other endowed professorships, and endowed support for junior faculty members, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. Undergraduates are expected to be newly drawn to the field, thanks to the addition of new introductory courses and interdisciplinary tracks.
In explaining the motivation for his gift, Miller—best known for beating the Standard & Poor’s 500 with his Legg Mason fund for a record 15 consecutive years, from 1991 to 2005—said, “I attribute much of my business success to the analytical training and habits of mind that were developed when I was a [philosophy] graduate student at Johns Hopkins.”
Restoring Open Discourse
Few would argue that we are living in an age of uncommon discord and incivility. Intent on finding new ways to address the decline of civil discourse and the increase of polarization worldwide, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation committed a whopping $150 million in June 2017 to establish an institute at Johns Hopkins aimed at restoring the open and inclusive discourse that is the cornerstone of healthy democracies.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins (inspired by the agora of ancient Athens, which became a hub of conversation and debate) will recruit a director and core faculty of 10, who will be joined each year by an additional 10 distinguished visiting scholars.
The institute aims to engage undergraduate and graduate students in its work and sponsor annual public events in Baltimore and Athens. Among its programs will be an annual series examining a contested policy issue, such as climate change or trade-related job displacement. The work of these scholars will unfold in a new building on the Homewood campus.
From a fresh take on student career counseling to state-of-the-art athletic facilities for our Blue Jays (and their fans), enhancements to student life are making a dramatic impact.
Bridging College and Careers
In today’s ever-evolving job market, effective career counseling requires thinking outside the box. A gift to the Hopkins Parents Fund has enabled Homewood’s Career Center to do just that by establishing six “career academies” that focus on arts, media, and marketing; consulting; finance; health sciences; nonprofits and government; and STEM and innovation.
Each creates a community in which students—beginning their very first semester—can align their academic experiences with professional interests, access industry-specific resources and guidance, and connect with alumni and employers to find internship and postgraduate positions. Each community’s “Academy Week” includes sessions on securing internships, events attended by employers, and resume workshops and informational interviews with alumni who work in each field.
A Refresh for our Blue Jays
A new lacrosse center, upgraded facilities for the baseball and tennis programs, and a revitalized gym are all part of the restructured northern doorstep of the Homewood campus.
The Cordish Lacrosse Center, which opened in 2012, is now home to both the men’s and women’s programs. The 14,750-square-foot facility houses locker rooms, offices, training rooms, study space, a 50-seat theater, a film room, and a reception area. Trophies and other reminders of the Blue Jays’ tradition of winning are everywhere.
Hopkins’ dramatically upgraded baseball facility, Babb Field at Stromberg Stadium, is named for longtime baseball head coach Bob Babb and lead donor and university trustee Bill Stromberg. It features an artificial turf surface and base paths, as well as the professional-grade Murren Family Scoreboard.
With two new scoreboards, a video board, a new gym floor, and large windows to bring natural light into the space, the Goldfarb Gym was also modernized after 80 years of service.
The updates to the tennis facilities came in the form of resurfaced courts, among other renovations.
With its sweeping glass walls bordering the Bufano Sculpture Garden to the north, the Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories, which opened in 2013, reflected a new era in the teaching of life sciences at Johns Hopkins. The UTL provides state-of-the-art lab space designed with modular layouts to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and the flexibility to be redesigned as scientific discovery evolves.
The renovation and reopening of the 102-year-old Parkway Theatre, known now as the Stravros Niarchos Foundation Parkway, and JHU/MICA Film Center, located in the century-old Centre Theatre building, are part of the university’s growing presence in Baltimore’s Station North Arts and Entertainment District. Both play an important role in supporting community development and partnerships in that area.
Weighing Costs and Benefits
During this era of uncertain government funding, endowed professorships are a powerful way to attract and retain top faculty members—and are particularly valued by junior faculty members, who today must compete against proven senior researchers for dwindling grant support.
Just ask Nicholas Papageorge, Broadus Mitchell Assistant Professor of Economics, whose research is pushing the boundaries of microeconomics, an evolving field that examines the factors that influence how people make decisions. Using mathematical models of behavior, he’s found, for example, that forward-looking HIV-positive men sometimes cycle off effective drug treatments in order to avoid the debilitating side effects that can interfere with their ability to work.
Papageorge says his research suggests that, in many cases, people are quite rational in their decision-making. “People understand the costs and benefits of their actions,” he says. “And sometimes they decide that the benefits today are worth the costs tomorrow. The way to change that, maybe, is to make people’s lives better in the future.”
Bloomberg Distinguished Professorships
Thanks to a groundbreaking gift from alumnus and former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ’64 (Eng), Johns Hopkins is steadily assembling a cadre of 50 world-class faculty members whose excellence in research, teaching, and service is centered on interdisciplinary scholarship.
The Bloomberg Distinguished Professors work in multiple areas traditionally regarded as separate, carrying their research-focused approach into their teaching to ensure that students are equipped to solve real problems.
Planetary physicist Sabine Stanley, one of 19 Bloomberg Distinguished Professors connected with the Krieger School, is grappling with one of the most elusive questions of our universe: how planets work. Her research, which focuses on magnetic fields as a means of studying the interiors of planets, spans the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the Space Exploration Sector of the Applied Physics Laboratory. It’s heady research that might get scientists closer to understanding whether planets beyond Earth could sustain, or have sustained, forms of life.
Stanley is eager to see what new findings might come from the largest planets of our own solar system through two major NASA explorations: the Juno mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn. “We’re on the cusp of an extreme wealth of new data,” Stanley says. Investigating magnetic fields of these planets, she says, could improve our understanding of the origins of all planets.
Other Bloomberg Distinguished Professors in the Krieger School include Patricia Janak, who studies the biological basis of behavior and associative learning with a particular focus on addiction; Alexander Szalay, an international leader in astronomy, cosmology, and the science of big data; and Lawrence Jackson, writer and American historian researching African-American political and cultural figures.
Every day at the Krieger School, faculty and students tackle big issues and conduct world-changing research. The campaign helped raise funds for student research awards and faculty initiatives, all in the interest of exploring new avenues of discovery. Here are a few of those stories.
Gained in the Translation
The best part of senior Anna-Astrid Oberbrunner’s research was being holed up in a windowless room with “a beautiful and fascinating object.” That’s how she describes a copy of Virgil’s works printed in Venice in 1507 that was recently added to the university’s rare book collection.
“It’s always cool to work with an artifact,” says Oberbrunner ’19, recipient of a Dean’s Undergraduate Research Award. “This is kind of the perfect project for me because it’s translation but it’s also, in a sense, archaeology.”
Of particular interest to Oberbrunner, a classics major, are some 20 pages of tightly scrawled Latin sewed into the front of the book and attributed to a 16th-century Florentine scholar. “As far as we know, they’ve never been translated,” she says. That is what she is working on now.
An End to Urban Blight
Which blighted blocks in Baltimore are more likely to need demolition—and which are not? When are strategic interventions from city agencies likely to push rehabilitation of an entire neighborhood? Tamás Budavári and Michael Braverman ’81 don’t know for sure. But thanks to support from a seed grant from the 21st Centuries Cities initiative, which is committed to closing opportunity gaps in urban communities by working side-by-side with city partners, they’re getting closer to finding out.
Budavári, an associate professor in the Whiting School of Engineering, with a joint appointment in the Krieger School’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Braverman, the commissioner for Baltimore Housing, began talking a few years ago about building a unique database and accompanying statistical tools to better identify vacant and abandoned properties throughout Baltimore. The goal: to inform policies and interventions the city implements to revitalize or remove blighted buildings. Eventually, the team hopes to produce a model to share with other cities, enabling them to make both immediate and long-term changes to reinvigorate struggling urban areas.
“Using our data solution and analysis methods, we’ll be able to quickly and rigorously answer not only the questions we have now, but also those we want to ask later in light of new data sets,” says Budavári.
Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. What perhaps is needed is an unconventional approach to the problem. A new target, if you will.
Enter Michela Gallagher, a professor of psychological and brain sciences in the Krieger School. Her research is focused on neurocognitive aging and is supported in part by the Phyllis F. Albstein Fund. She and her team—which includes undergraduate students—have adapted an unlikely medication, originally used to treat epileptic seizures, that appears to improve memory impairment during the pre-Alzheimer’s state.
For every year you can slow the progression, you decrease the prevalence of the population with Alzheimer’s dementia by 10 percent.”
The medication won’t cure Alzheimer’s, but Gallagher sees it as a possible tool in helping to prevent its advance in patients already suffering from the early stages of memory impairment. It is currently in phase III clinical trials.
“For every year you can slow the progression, you decrease the prevalence of the population with Alzheimer’s dementia by 10 percent,” says Gallagher. “If you can slow it by five years, that means you can decrease the population with dementia by half. That’s amazing!”◾