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Discussion Questions and Reading Tips

Dear New Students,

The UMBC campus is waiting to greet you. We are very happy you have chosen UMBC.

One of the signature events of Welcome Week is a small group discussion of a book chosen just for new students.  We expect you to have read the book over the summer and be prepared to engage with it and other students and faculty/staff members.  This year’s book is Not in My Neighborhood:  How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City.  While Baltimore is the focus of the book, the story, in many ways, relates to any city–including where you, your parents, and your grandparents grew up. Keep this is mind as you explore this text.

The “great American city” is Baltimore, particularly during the 1900s.  Policies and practices related to housing were highly discriminatory against people of color.  Although slavery ended after the Civil War, biased attitudes continued, and were enacted into laws and policies throughout the United States. Color was not the only basis for discrimination—religion and national origin were also used to exclude; Jews were a target, particularly in Baltimore. Because Baltimore is UMBC’s city, we need to reflect on its history, and understand as best we can how recent events in the city are interrelated.  The Freddie Gray case and the civil unrest that occurred in response to it give an urgency to our efforts at understanding.

A seasoned Baltimore Sun reporter, Antero Pietila, wrote Not in My Neighborhood, interviewing numerous individuals and reviewing many documents.  The book reads well, like newspaper articles.  There are some pages we especially recommend that you focus on to ground your understanding. The maps in the book are also important to study because as you become acquainted with the city, they will help you recognize what you are seeing.

Best of luck with this challenging book.  We look forward to talking about it, and the future of Baltimore, Maryland, and the United States.

See you at summer’s end.

Best regards from the New Student Book Experience Committee,

Mary Rivkin, Professor and Chair


Half the Sky
by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Half the SkyStudy Questions
Note:These questions are currently in the process of being updated for the current selection.

Learning about the legacy of discrimination in UMBC’s home city (though, really, in any city); And what difference this legacy may have made in the life of your family.

Select Three of the following topics to

  1. find what “facts” you can learn from the book, and
  2. have a conversation with members of your family (parents, grandparents, even neighbors or family friends, etc.) for what you can learn from them, as well as from your own observations and experience.