President Jarrell at convocation

The second annual UMB Faculty Convocation kicked off the 2023-2024 academic year with common themes of change and improving the human condition through community engagement and kindness.

Photo: President Bruce Jarrell speaks during the second annual UMB Faculty Convocation on Sept. 14.

When Laundette Jones was just 11, she spent seven months living in a tent. And it wasn’t the only time in her childhood she was unhoused.

“You know how you feel when you're driving down [Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard] and you go over the overpass, and you see people living in a tent? Well, I know the perspectives of being in a tent and looking at others when they look down on it, too,” said Jones, PhD, MPH, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

For Jones, those months spent living in a tent, her mother cooking dinner — often Rice-a-Roni — over a campfire seem like a lifetime ago. In the years since, she’s earned her bachelor's in chemistry, her PhD in environmental health, and two postdocs, and in 2005, landed a faculty position at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). More recently, she also received her Master of Public Health.

(Watch highlights of the event below and a video of the full program at this link.)

But the challenging moments throughout her childhood are what help Jones to understand others’ lived experiences in a way a formal education couldn’t provide.

“On the academic side, I feel multilingual — I have a background in basic sciences. I also have the community and population and public health,” Jones said. “But I also have unique knowledge and a lived experience, where I don't have to read about what it means [to be in] poverty, or to go through simulated experiences. I've lived through it.”

Jones was just one voice in a group of health and social services experts who spoke at the second annual UMB Faculty Convocation, held on Sept. 14. In addition to Jones, Glenn Canares, DDS, MSD, clinical assistant professor, University of Maryland School of Dentistry, and Amal Mattu, MD, professor, University of Maryland School of Medicine, gave TED-like talks to a gathering of faculty and staff under a tent at Koester’s Lot.

And while each of the speeches, from Jones, Canares, and Mattu to those given by Roger J. Ward, EdD, JD, MSL, MPA, provost and executive vice president, and UMB President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, covered different topics, they shared the same common thread of values: bringing change and improving the human condition through community engagement and kindness, one step at a time.

“The choice is ours. The choice before us is we could wait for somebody — the city, the state, I don't know who — to come by and fix the problems, clean up the risks around our campus,” Jarrell said. But, he added, we might be waiting a long time, and in that time, the campus could falter. “We don't want that. Well, we have another choice. The other choice is to actively engage — to step up as a university. …. I know that's what I'm going to do. And I know I can count on all you to help me to support us in this effort to make this environment a greater environment.”

The program welcomed faculty to a new academic year and recognized UMB’s Distinguished University Professors.

The event kicked off the 2023-2024 academic calendar and worked to inspire faculty and staff for the year.

For Jodi J. Frey, PhD, LCSW-C, CEAP, professor, University of Maryland School of Social Work, the day was the perfect way to celebrate the start of the semester.

“I thought the speakers were incredible, the way that they gave us action steps to take as we leave here to make human connection,” Frey said.

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