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UMD and the Morrill Act: Improving Lives

A Journey to Serve Others | Robot Garners Military Attention | Language as Interface

As culture changes, UMD adapts coursework and projects to fulfill the land-grant mission.

A Journey to Serve Others


UMD's Master of Social Work (MSW) program challenges students to advance human rights and socioeconomic justice. One focus of the program, to serve American Indian populations in Minnesota, particularly in rural areas, helps to galvanize the coursework. Students may enter the program primarily to advance their careers, but invariably leave intensely committed to serving others.

Danette Kimball graduated from the MSW program in 2012. She found the emphasis on cultural competence invaluable. "It is about becoming more aware of different world views, how different people see things differently," Kimball said. "It's important to recognize that people have their own answers and solutions. I can be a facilitator, asking 'How can I help you get where you want to go?' I have worked to enhance my cultural competence so I can be an ally and an advocate for people who are directly impacted by systemic inequities. This is what I am passionate about."

Carol DeVerney graduated from the program in 2007. The MSW program led her into a deeper appreciation of her own Anishinaabe heritage. She is now one of the lead social workers with the Fond du Lac Band's Department of Social Services working in their Duluth office and is currently pursuing her clinician license. "I want to do family therapy with Native families," she said. DeVerney believes in the future of the MSW program. "What UMD is doing is working," DeVerney stated. "I see the caliber of the students coming out of the program. They are very observant, very intelligent. They ask great questions."

Photo: Danette Kimball ('12) and below: Carol DeVerney ('07)

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Robot Garners Military Attention

Jean-Baptiste Quillien

Built by UMD mechanical engineering undergraduate students, the robot climbed a 90-foot, curved silo, and then pulled up a 180-pound man attached to a harness. With his feet firmly planted at a 90-degree angle, the man literally walked up the side of the building with the robot spinning the rope through a wench pulley system from the top of the silo.

"It was incredible to see it work," said Bill Pedersen, UMD mechanical and industrial engineering assistant professor, as well as senior design project advisor. "There were 18 competitors out of 20 who showcased their robots before UMD; we were the first group to successfully reach the top."

Among the competitors were students from MIT and Utah State, the latter group placing first because their robot was able to climb the silo, and then navigate a ledge that ran the circumference of the building. The UMD robot prototype was so uniquely designed, however, that even after the first place winner was announced, a representative from the United States Air Force contacted Pedersen with an interest in the concept of the project. "The ingenuity of the robot was unbelievable," said Pedersen. "I simply scoped the project, and then the students took on the rest. This is their work, their success."

"This project," said UMD senior Clayton Hunt, "was an amazing opportunity to conceptualize, design, and build a robot for a real-world application. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of this team at UMD."

Photo: Silo-climbing robot prototype designed and built by UMD undergraduates from the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Language as Interface

"Why don't all students in the humanities graduate with a broad set of highly marketable and practical skills that would augment their analytical abilities and creative talents?" asks Professor Daniel Nolan. His new course, The Digital Humanities, attempts to provide the balance by reaching across the traditional divide between craft and knowledge. Students acquire skills that help them better understand the development of digital culture. They also learn how to apply these skills in humanities-based research. By learning things such as HTML, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, and Javascript, students learn to better understand the highly digitized media landscape that has emerged over the past 30 years.

There is also special emphasis in the class on the status of language in a digital culture. By doing so, students learn how this can be seen as part of a larger historical shift in the way different forms of communication shape the world.

Through a series of project-oriented modules, students acquire the skills essential for the refitting of digital technology for the humanities. Students also engage in discussions and readings on digital culture and the traditional separation of technical know-how and
theoretical knowledge.

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Last modified on 09/07/12 12:44 PM
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