On our path towards a more diverse mathematical community

Picture acquired from Pixabay (free for comercial use // No attribution required).

Picture acquired from Pixabay (free for comercial use // No attribution required).

As informed in an article published by the AMS [1], only 6% of mathematics PhD degrees conferred to U.S. citizens in 2013 were given to Hispanics, African-Americans, American-Indians and Native Hawaiian (more specifically 51 out of 857). Of those 857, women accounted for 231 (roughly 27%). Often we hear that we should improve such numbers. When reading the article the following question came to my mind. As graduate students, what can we do to help improve and promote diversity in mathematics? It will be tempting to say that we do not have the resources (at least not yet) to tackle this situation. However there are several things we can start doing that will later help us in our efforts towards having a more diverse mathematical community.

 

  1. First and foremost, you have to do well in your program. This may seem unrelated to the topic but it really is not. Your primary focus should be your career and there is no point in spending time trying to promote diversity if your career is going south.

 

  1. Go to conferences, seminars, colloquia, etc. Attending this type of academic activities not only makes you a better mathematician but it allows you to meet people from different places/universities. The AMS has a list of conferences (http://www.ams.org/meetings/calendar/mathcal); here are some that take place yearly (or bi-yearly):
    1. AMS Sectional Meetings (http://www.ams.org/meetings/sectional/sectional.html)
    2. MAA Sectional Meetings (http://www.maa.org/community/maa-sections/section-meetings)
    3. SACNAS National Conference (sacnas.org)
    4. USTARS (ustars.org)
    5. AWM Research Symposium (https://sites.google.com/site/awmmath/home/awm-research-symposium-2015)
    6. Blackwell-Tapia conference (Google it as it changes place between the national math institutes)

Attending and participating in these types of conferences will be beneficial for your career, and it is a great way to meet potential mentors (see below).

 

  1. Find a mentor, in fact find several mentors. A mentor could be a professor from your undergraduate institution, a professor from your current institution, a former adviser of yours or simply someone you met at a conference/seminar and kept in touch with. These mentors will advise you throughout your career, write letters for you (recommendation letters are usually very important!), and inform you of opportunities you may otherwise not be looking for. The SACNAS, USTARS and Blackwell-Tapia conferences are great for such purposes (and so are many others).

If you decide to organize programs/workshop/conferences (especially targeted towards improving underrepresentation in mathematics), these mentors will be your main source of help and advice.

 

  1. Get involved locally. Most universities have several student organizations. Join any (or all) math organizations. Also look for organizations representing minority students. These organizations often run seminars, conferences and events in which topics regarding diversity in mathematics are discussed. Also, often hearing other success stories from some of your peers will motivate you.

It is important to understand that as a graduate student your main purpose is to do well and obtain your PhD. However, you can start creating connections and getting the necessary experience to then be successful at your efforts towards a more diverse mathematical community.

 

[1] Report on the 2012-2013 New Doctoral Recipients. http://www.ams.org/profession/data/annual-survey/2013Survey-NewDoctorates-Report.pdf

About adiaz

Alexander is a fifth-year PhD student in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Notre Dame. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, he completed a bachelor's degree in mathematics at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagez before arriving to Notre Dame. He currently studies Coxeter groups, representations of Hecke algebras and peak sets of classical Coxeter groups.
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