2020-21 Academic Theme: Outbreak

The Annual Academic Theme: An Introduction

Since its inception in 1994, the University of Maine at Augusta theme has brought our communities together for numerous activities and programs. Beginning in 2006, an annual colloquium of faculty members has chosen the theme and a corresponding reading to share with other faculty, students, staff, and the larger community. We feature discussions in and outside of our classes and organize events in order to promote larger conversations about the theme. These events have provided a platform for multiple voices to be heard on such significant topics as health and social justice, immigration, and bioethics.

The UMA Colloquium is pleased to announce that the 2020-2021 Academic Theme is OUTBREAK.


Outbreak is defined as a sudden or violent increase in activity, eruption, upsurge, commencement. The UMA community will consider the implications of the theme in our current moment as well as through a variety of lenses: epidemiology, public health, information science, history, art, and literature, among others.

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern WorldThe Academic Theme is addressed at Convocation in the fall and then through the spring INT/HON seminar, culminating at the UMA Student Research Conference in April. Another component of this year’s academic theme is the adoption of a single theme-related book by a number of classes across the curriculum: The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic — and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, by Steven Johnson. Johnson explains how the mystery behind the rapid spread of cholera in 19th century London was solved by a local clergyman, Henry Whitehead, and a doctor, John Snow. Through Whitehead’s knowledge of the residents and Snow’s maps connecting the location of cholera deaths with street pumps in the neighborhood, the disease was ultimately traced to a sick baby’s diapers that contaminated a well on Broad Street. While this cholera outbreak took place in the 19th century, this story has implications for understanding how we consider epidemics more broadly — as well as outbreaks of other kinds — in our own world.

Thanks to all the faculty colloquium participants this year:
Susan Baker, Kate Darling, Cindy Dean, Matt Dube, Les French, Anne Hayes-Grillo, Pete Milligan, Elizabeth Powers, Amy Rahn, Chelsea Ray, Tim Surrette, Ellen Taylor, and Rebecca White.

Best,
Lisa Botshon & Lorien Lake-Corral
2020-21 Colloquium Co-Chairs

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