OUTRACING STEREOTYPES

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Amanda Knapp, assistant vice provost for academic standards and policy administration, is revved up about higher education. But she’s also making tracks – and noise – as a motorcycle aficionado.

Yes, that’s Knapp on the cover of the September issue of American Motorcyclist magazine, posing with her KTM 300 XCW in a shot taken by UMBC Magazine photographer Marlayna Demond ’11. (Another shot inside the magazine showed Knapp in her full racing gear near the UMBC sign at the entrance to campus.)

The cover photo and the accompanying article tackle the public perceptions of motorcyclists, and Knapp is a proud and accomplished rider who has been an enthusiast for 30 years, since she rode her first motorcycle – a Honda 70.

Knapp developed her love for motorcycles at a young age, thanks in big part to her dad. “Some of my happiest childhood memories were spent on two wheels chasing my dad through the woods. My dad always challenged me to ride hard, go faster than the guys, and face fear head on – even if it meant taking a few risks along the way.”

The sport is such an important part of Knapp’s life at present that she even taught her husband to ride. She told American Motorcycle that “there’s nothing more rewarding or stress-relieving than hitting the trail and/or a track.”

She says that some lessons she’s learned as a motorcyclist have been useful in her professional life. As an assistant vice provost, Knapp works with a diverse UMBC student body that she says is brimming with potential.

“I serve as a student advocate,” Knapp says, “cheering loud when they are succeeding and cheering even louder when they may need some extra encouragement. Like racing a motorcycle, I am passionate about my position, and I am committed to keeping students ‘on track’ and ‘in the race.’”

Asked why she chose a career in higher education, Knapp quips that she loved college so much, she wanted to find a way to stay there forever. On a more serious note, however, she observes that her 15-year career in higher education has been motivated by the fact that college changed her own life. As a first-generation college student, Knapp chose the field as a way of giving back to a process that gave so much to her.

Knapp says working at UMBC has been the highlight of her higher education career: “Never have I been part of an academic community quite like UMBC. This is a place where people care deeply for one another, work collaboratively, think beyond the impossible, and center all efforts on a common goal – student success.”

And the fact that UMBC gives her the path to excel as an academic leader and get her motorcycle out on the track is an added bonus. “I feel so grateful to UMBC for creating a community where the concept of work-life balance is not only a reality, but something that is strongly encouraged.”

– Katherine Scrivener

PAGE TURNER

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Many people share thoughts, ideas and emotions in a handwritten journal or an online blog. The entire business model of Pinterest is based on such sharing of ideas and images that spark creativity.

But how do you spin that sort of activity into a more creative life? Adam Kurtz ’09, visual arts, says you can do it 1 Page At A Time – the title of a new “daily companion book” that he published in October with Perigee Trade, a division of Penguin Books.

“I think this [book] could be really great for anyone who needs a little help moving along,” Kurtz says. “Someone who has maybe abandoned journals in the past. This is a fun, weird, silly book, but it’s not a coincidence that the title sounds a little bit like a recovery slogan.”

Kurtz says the process of taking creative exploration in small steps – literally one thing each day – offers an unintimidating entry point into constant creativity.

“My book is for human beings, for anyone with a pulse,” he insists. “We’re all creative in some way, that’s maybe what makes us human at all.”

And in a society that increasingly revolves around the Internet, adds Kurtz, a book like his new work can be an impetus to slow down and pace your creativity by exploring a bit of it each day and recording it.

“I put feelings into words and words onto objects,” Kurtz says, “and then I hold them and never let them go.”

– Shannon Williams ’14

REVISING THE LIST

f14-ATPLAY_kaylaHow much influence can a blog post have in reshaping public perceptions about race, gender and even what’s “sexy” in science? In June, Kyla McMullen ’05, computer science, decided to find out.

McMullen – an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Florida – was perusing a 2013 Business Insider feature on “The Sexiest Scientists Alive” and noticed something strange: Not one of the 50 scientists named to the list was a black woman.

So McMullen created her own list of “Sexiest Black Female Scientists” and posted it on her own website. The story went viral, and was such a success that she created a similar list of black male scientists (“Brilliant Is the New Black”) in October.

“The reach of the article has surprised me the most,” says McMullen.“I have had people tell me that they have landed speaking engagements, or been called for faculty interviews, and all sorts of wonderful things from being on the list. I was even contacted by the head of the search committee of a very prestigious school to help identify candidates to diversify their faculty search.”

McMullen also organizes seminars and speeches, and works with middle and high school students to help address the issues raised by her list about minority participation in STEM fields.

“It’s my job to get out there,” she says, “and let young people know that they have options far better than what the media would have them think.”

– Richard Byrne ‘86
Photo: Michael Oliver

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