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Grand Challenges of Our Time

Presidential Distinguished Forums

University of Maryland President Darryll J. Pines invites Terps to attend a unique series of virtual Presidential Distinguished Forums featuring renowned experts working at the forefront of today’s most pressing issues. From the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change to voter access and the social unrest that has led to the Black Lives Matter movement, current national and world events present unprecedented challenges, but also provide a meaningful chance to investigate today’s issues together and explore new and better paths forward. 

Featured speakers include the scientist whose research exposed the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, a Fulbright scholar who revolutionized the way we communicate data, and a Terp alum who followed a remarkable path from prison inmate to critically acclaimed author.

Each speaker delivers a powerful story that illuminates current events through the lens of history, our shared humanity and the implications of each for the future ahead.

Collectively, these discussions are part of the “Grand Challenges of Our Time” course for first-year students that President Pines is teaching this fall. On select dates, the entire campus community is invited to hear from these renowned speakers.


Previous Speakers

Reginald Dwayne BettsNov. 18, 2020 • 4 p.m.
Featured Speaker: Reginald Dwayne Betts ’09

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Reginald Dwayne Betts ’09 is a critically acclaimed writer, public speaker and advocate for incarcerated people. He spent nine years in prison for his role in a carjacking at age 16, during which time he discovered a passion for poetry and literature. After his release, he enrolled at Maryland, where he received a bachelor’s degree in English. He went on to earn an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College and a J.D. from Yale Law School. He is a Ph.D. in Law candidate at Yale and as a Liman Fellow, he spent a year representing clients in the New Haven Public Defender’s Office. His most recent book, “Felon: Poems,” received the 2019 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry.


Stephanie EvergreenOct. 14, 2020 • 4 p.m.
Featured Speaker: Stephanie Evergreen

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Data, and the way it’s presented, can shape the world around us. Stephanie Evergreen has revolutionized the way we communicate data, best known for her research-based approach in helping organizations and researchers rethink data visualization in communicating their work. 
Evergreen’s work—as founder of Evergreen Data Academy, prolific author and highly sought-after speaker—also extends to confronting and remediating social and racial injustice. Her clients range from small nonprofits and community foundations to Head Start and the United Nations.


Dr. Mona Hanna-AttishaSept. 30, 2020 • 4 p.m.
Featured Speaker: Mona Hanna-Attisha

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Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is the physician, scientist and public health activist who shined a national spotlight on the Flint, Michigan water crisis through her research revealing children had been exposed to dangerous levels of lead. The director of an initiative to mitigate the impact of this crisis, Hanna-Attisha also authored “What the Eyes Don’t See” and shares her inspiring personal story about speaking truth to power.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s appearance is co-sponsored by the Gemstone Honors Program, Honors Humanities, University Honors, Do Good Institute, University Libraries and Leadership & Community Service-Learning Voices of Social Change.