Profession, State Of

Carlos Castillo-Chavez, Duane, Helen Grundman, Kristin Lauter, and Talithia Williams.

Carlos Castillo-Chavez, Duane Cooper, Helen Grundman, Kristin Lauter, and Talithia Williams.

In the spirit of sharing things in time for quick readers to partake in awesome events, I am live blogging at the AMS Committee on the Profession Panel Discussion: Diversity and Inclusion in the Mathematical Sciences.  Moderator Helen Grundman (brand new AMS Director of Education and Diversity) has just asked the panelists, Carlos Castill0-Chavez of Arizona State University, Duane Cooper of Morehouse College, Kristin Lauter of Microsoft Research and outgoing president of the AWM, and Talithia Williams of Harvey Mudd College, to give one suggestion each to increase diversity in the profession. Carlos Castillo-Chavez kicked off with a great answer that we need to both remember what it is like to be an undergraduate, and remember that times have changed, so we cannot insist on giving our students exactly the same training we ourselves had.  “It is not the middle of the last century,” he says, and pretending that it is a ticket to driving students away.

Duane Cooper says, “Do what you can, where you can.  I would encourage professors to be aware of just how powerful our opinions are to our students, and our encouragement.” “Identify the potential, polished or raw, in the students that you encounter.”  “Make a point to say something, and encourage that.  See yourself as a headhunter for mathematics.  Share the possibilities of mathematics with students–they may not know.”

Kristin Lauter has noted that increasing diversity is more than an ethical imperative–“It is truly good for the profession.”  She notes that under 10% of tenure track positions at Research 1 universities are held by women. “That’s my number one priority–to hire more women in research positions at universities.”  In support of this goal, Kristin has devoted an incredible amount of energy to building research networks to support women doing mathematics.  She says, “Doing mathematics research is a community endeavor.  People think it’s merit based but it’s not–it’s network based.”

Talithia Williams, a “mathemastatistician” (my new favorite word) says that in high school in Columbus, GA, “I wasn’t a star student.”  Her AP calculus teacher took “17 seconds” to tell her that she was actually talented in math and she should consider majoring in math in college.  “Those 17 seconds have lived with me every day in this life.”  “Intentional invitations to the mathematical table” are essential, she says.  “Stop people where they are and encourage people to dig into the field.”

This promises to get better and better.  Further controversial quotes: “No more calculus reform!” “We do not live in a meritocracy!” Stop by in A601, Atrium Level, Marriott Marquis.  The panel was organized by Pamela Gorkin, Monica Jackson, and John McCleary, started at 4:30 and continues until 6 PM.

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