Last week, Bates hosted speaker Susan Burch, from Middlebury College, for a workshop called “Learning for EveryBody: Inclusive Teaching and Curricular Practices”. I was lucky enough to be able to participate in the interactive session and later have dinner with the speaker, and in this post, I wanted to first share some of the main ideas from the workshop, and also some of my own ideas on how this could be applied to the mathematics classroom.
A few weeks ago I attended the 2017 Field of Dreams conference. This is the annual gathering of Scholars and Mentors of the Math Alliance. I wasn’t really aware of this group until about a year ago, when I heard about it from Edray Goins. Even then, I don’t think I understood the reach and the power of the alliance until I attended the conference. With this post, I hope to bring more attention to the important work being done by the Math Alliance and their sponsors.
This keeps happening to me:
Student: When did you decide to become a calculus teacher?
Me: I didn’t, and I’m not.
And then I laugh reassuringly and explain that they are at a research university and that their professors are people who decided they wanted to do research. Many of us do also enjoy and care about teaching, but the way the system works we are basically discouraged from caring too much about teaching. I tell them that the idea is that those doing cutting-edge research in a field are inherently valuable as mentors, role models, and educators simply because we might have the ideas, perseverance, and dedication to make it in academia. Of course, this is a highly flawed philosophy. (Some of this was discussed in Edray’s post which you should read if you haven’t already.)
(Guest post by Emily Riehl.)
A few months ago, after our post for Pride month, the i/e editorial board reached out to Spectra to request a guest blog post. That led to the wonderful interview that follows, which was conducted during the Floer Homology and Homotopy Theory summer school, co-organized by Mike and at which Emily spoke, that was held at UCLA in July.
We are about halfway through Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. This means it is also time for the second edition of the Lathisms calendar, a website celebrating accomplishments by Hispanic and Latinx mathematicians. This website, aka the best thing ever, combines the inspirational power of seeing lots of Hispanic and Latinx success stories, with the excitement of an advent calendar. It always has me thinking: “who will be featured next?” and it’s always particularly exciting when it’s a person I know.
A snapshot of this year’s calendar. Who will be next? Check daily to find out.
The calendar is the brainchild of some pretty wonderful people: Alexander Diaz-Lopez, Pamela E. Harris, Alicia Prieto Langarica, and Gabriel Sosa — all of whom of course are too modest to include themselves in the list but definitely deserve a spot on it. Last year, after the inauguration of the calendar, Evelyn Lamb published a great interview with the creators of the website on the AMS Blog on Math Blogs.
But besides being inspirational and fun, this calendar is important. It matters that we can show SO MANY people who are doing mathematics at a high level and are also Hispanic/Latinx. It matters because I have had a place to point to when my Hispanic/Latinx students feel like they don’t belong in math. And it matters as a resource for people thinking about conferences and sessions.
On that note, I also wanted to remind people of the wonderful Mathematically Gifted and Black, an equally important, wonderful and fun calendar which was unveiled during Black History Month earlier this year.
I invite you all to check daily for the next mathematician and I leave you with some wise words from Federico Ardila (who was featured in last year’s calendar).
I knew at a pretty early stage in my life — my freshman year of college, to be exact — that I wanted to become a research mathematician. I have degrees from fancy research universities and had visiting positions at fancy research facilities. I worked up the ladder from Assistant to Associate to Full Professor of Mathematics; mentored postdoctoral fellows and graduate students alike; and received NSF grants to conduct research with undergraduates. And the one thing I’ve learned throughout it all: I hate working at research universities, and its time for a career change.
If you have been paying attention, you have by now heard that President Trump has ordered an end to the Obama-era Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation (often referred to as Dreamers). As far as I can tell, this is a very unpopular decision, from both sides of the political spectrum, puts about 800,000 young people at risk of being deported (people who don’t remember living in any other country and might not speak anything but English), and could heavily impact the economy. My Bates colleague Christopher Petrella wrote a great column for the Washington Post, arguing that “ending DACA isn’t about the rule of law. It’s about race.”
Many people have been pointing out how most Dreamers have made great contributions to the economy and American society, how they are mostly model citizens, and how they are everywhere — they are our classmates, our doctors, our firefighters. In this post, I will share with you the writing of a dear friend and exceptional mathematician who was herself an undocumented child. I have edited the post to hide her identity, as she is understandably worried about repercussions, not just for her but her extended family. Still, I applaud her bravery — sharing any of this is not easy, especially not this week.
Before her story though, I want to mention that we should not just limit ourselves to worrying about “exceptional” Dreamers — they all need our support, especially the undeserving. I will quote Bryan Stevenson here from his book Just Mercy. The book (which is wonderful) is about mercy in the context of criminal justice, but the sentiments apply here too.
“Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.”