A sociologist by training, Dean Newman talked about several new initiatives in social policy issues, including gun violence, education and economic growth. These new initiatives will not only provide new scholarly work and practical applications, but will also provide new research opportunities for undergraduates interested in these issues.
JHU is in the process of developing the Institute for the American City, which will be an umbrella think tank coordinating research on these issues. The University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, named for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Hopkins alumnus and benefactor, established the Center for Gun Policy and Research in 1995. The Center hosted a Gun Policy Summit in January, releasing a book and recommendations designed to reduce gun violence in the U.S.
The question of economic growth is important to Johns Hopkins, which is the largest private employer in the state of Maryland. Traditionally a manufacturing town, Baltimore has been significantly impacted by the economic downturn, and Hopkins is working with local, state and federal officials to develop regional strategies for economic growth. [Note: one of the members of the City Council was in my class at Hopkins!]
Finally, both Dean Newman and Dean Andrews spoke about education, and Hopkins’ work in studying the science of how students learn from the youngest ages. Just last month, Hopkins launched the Science of Learning Institute, which will help reform how teachers and schools teach to maximize effectiveness.
By including experts in these areas from other universities as well as from the public sector, Hopkins is “building a brain trust on these issues,” said Dean Newman, and giving undergraduates the opportunity to engage on solutions within the real world. Hopkins will provide paid internships with the Department of Public Health in Baltimore as well as with public safety agencies.
I was fortunate to have been invited to a small dinner with Dean Newman following the presentation. She noted that while she has worked at a number of top-tier universities, including Harvard and Princeton, the adventurous nature of Hopkins students her – they venture outside of their comfort zones and approach problems with a truly interdisciplinary approach. As I work with students to help them find the right college, this characterization is an important and useful description. I always find myself asking “what kind of student will be successful here?” when I tour colleges.
As a Johns Hopkins alumna who was a political science major, I am intrigued by these new initiatives. While Hopkins is well-known for our leadership in the biological sciences and engineering disciplines, we are not as well-known for our work in the humanities and social sciences. I advise most students and families to look beyond the reputation and what you know about most universities – and it’s true for my alma mater as well!!