USM COVID Research & Innovation Task Force Launches PSA Public Health Challenge

At Least $18,000 in Prizes Available for Creative Messages Urging Vaccine Use, Safe COVID-19 Related Practices

Baltimore, Md. (Dec. 11, 2020) – The University System of Maryland (USM) COVID Research and Innovation Task Force is bringing together people, expertise, and resources from its 12 universities to rapidly advance solutions to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the generous support of several local organizations, the Task Force is inviting members of the USM community to take part in a multimedia, Public Health Challenge seeking creative submissions that highlight ways for USM students, members of the broader university community, and all Marylanders to stay safe and healthy while waiting for a vaccine to become available.

The USM is greatly appreciative for sponsorship support in this endeavor from the following: the Maryland Marketing Partnership; BioHealth Innovation, Inc.; the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore; the Maryland Technology Council; Connected DMV; the Baltimore Metropolitan Council; and the USM Foundation.

While recent positive news regarding COVID-19 vaccines offer real hope for overcoming the coronavirus pandemic, there are still months to go before a vaccine will be widely available to the public. And each passing day seems to add to the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths nationwide. It is clear that people and communities must avoid “pandemic fatigue” and recommit themselves to sound public health practices.

That is why the USM is seeking effective and engaging public health messaging that promotes continued vigilance and compliance with public health guidelines, while encouraging people to get vaccinated once doses become widely available.  The USM COVID Task Force seeks to foster the development of such messaging that is both effective and entertaining.

The competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumni from all USM institutions. Individuals or teams may apply.  Live action videos, animated videos, or a package of images/memes suitable for a social media campaign are all eligible. Submissions should encourage COVID-19 vaccinations and highlight ways for USM students, members of the broader university community, and all Marylanders to stay safe and healthy.

Submissions will be accepted in two categories: 
  1. Live action or animated videos up to one minute in length
  2. A designed non-video social messaging campaign of at least three original digital images

All entries (video or images) should include at least three CDC-approved strategies for combating COVID-19 and incorporate messaging from the State of Maryland’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.

The top three winners in each category will each receive $3,000. 

Prizes will be awarded to the submissions that most effectively: 
  • highlight the safety and efficacy of vaccines and the importance of getting vaccinated, especially for members of underpresented communities;
  • convey the importance of following public health guidelines, including limiting exposure, face covering, physical distancing, sound hygiene, and other strategies;
  • address the issue of “pandemic fatigue” in a creative, compelling, or humorous way; and
  • reach out to Marylanders, particularly young people, and students.

Additional details on eligibility, entry guidelines judging criteria, and prizes are available on the task force website.

Submissions will be accepted via a USM COVID Task Force Web portal. Entries must be submitted no later than 9 a.m., Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. Winners will be announced Feb. 8, 2021. A collection of USM faculty, representatives of supporting sponsors, and key members of the business community will review application and select winners.

“We are fortunate to have so many creative minds throughout the USM community. And these messages they’ve put their minds to are critically important, especially as many are fearful, skeptical—even suspicious—of a vaccine,” said USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman. “But it’s vital that all of us get vaccinated whenever a federally approved vaccine is available—not just for our own safety but for the safety of others. And it’s important that, for a while longer, we not let pandemic fatigue interfere with the basics: wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands.”

Chancellor Perman announced the formation of the COVID Research & Innovation Task Force in April. The task force is leveraging and mobilizing systemwide research and innovations to engage policymakers, business leaders, and the entrepreneurial community in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

This public health communications challenge is intended to harness the creativity of our students, faculty, and staff across the system, for the development of effective messages to help protect Marylanders in the crucial months ahead,” said Laurie Locascio, the task force chair and vice president for research at University of Maryland, College Park and University of Maryland, Baltimore.

The USM comprises 12 institutions: Bowie State University; Coppin State University; Frostburg State University; Salisbury University; Towson University; the University of Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; and the University of Maryland Global Campus. The USM also includes three regional centers—the Universities at Shady Grove, the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, and the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland—at which USM universities offer upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses.

Systemwide, student enrollment exceeds 172,000. The USM and its institutions compete successfully nearly $1.5 billion in external grants and contracts annually. USM institutions and programs are among the nation's best in quality and value according to several national rankings. To learn more about the University System of Maryland, visit


Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719