Two mathematics programs that make a difference

The American Mathematical Society recognizes two outstanding mathematics programs that have made significant, successful efforts to encourage underrepresented minorities to continue in the study of mathematics: The graduate program at the University of Iowa and the Summer Institute in Mathematics for Undergraduates (SIMU) Research Experience for Undergraduates program conducted at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Humacao from 1998 to 2002. Both programs will be recognized at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Antonio, January 12-15.

Graduate Program
Department of Mathematics
University of Iowa

In 1995, the Department of Mathematics at the University of Iowa made a long-term commitment to substantially increase the number of its U.S. graduate students from underrepresented minority groups (African American, Latino/a, and Native American U.S. citizens and permanent residents). Specific aspects of the ongoing program include a three-week intensive Summer Institute for incoming students, faculty mentoring for all students, peer mentoring at key points in the graduate career, and a new course, "Introduction to the graduate program." In addition, the Department has built ties with several institutions, including a group of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the Mathematics and Theoretical Biology Institute for undergraduates at Arizona State University and a consortium of mathematics departments at 12 area colleges and universities.

The Department's underrepresented minority graduate student population has grown from zero students in 1995 to twenty-four students currently. The Department has done this while maintaining high average GRE scores and GPAs for entering students. Eight of the Department's U.S. minority students have been awarded the Ph.D. since 1998; in 2004-2005, roughly 10% of the total number of doctoral degrees awarded to U.S. minority students in mathematics have been at the University of Iowa. The Department projects that, out of an average of 12 Ph.D.'s awarded each year, 3 will be awarded to U.S. minority students for the foreseeable future. Creating a more supportive environment has helped other groups of students; for example, 41% of the graduate students in the Department are now women. Retention rates have increased for all students since the program has been implemented.

The AMS commends the Department of Mathematics at the University of Iowa for its successful efforts to improve the diversity of the profession of mathematics in the United States.

Summer Institute in Mathematics for Undergraduates
Universidad de Puerto Rico, Humacao

The goal of SIMU was to increase the number of Latinos/as and Native Americans earning graduate degrees and pursuing careers in the mathematical sciences. Junior and senior undergraduate students who were Hispanic/Latino/a and Native American U.S. citizens or permanent residents spent six weeks on the campus of the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Humacao. During the program, students were able to participate in a mathematics seminar and to attend a series of colloquium talks, complete an undergraduate research project, and learn about the skills and techniques needed for research careers. Later, students had opportunities to present their work at a Society for Advancement of Chicano and Native Americans in Science conference and the Joint Mathematics Meetings and to continue the mentoring relationships developed during the summer experience.

The program has been highly successful in meeting its goal. During five summers, 107 students participated in the program. Polls conducted after the program was over indicated that 92% of the students now wished to pursue a graduate degree in mathematics or science. Forty-four of these students have been accepted into mathematics Ph.D. programs; three have completed Ph.D.'s in mathematics and one student has completed a Ph.D. in physics. Twenty-one participants have completed Masters degrees in mathematics.

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The AMS commends the high level of commitment that the two program co-directors, Hebert A. Medina (Loyola Marymount University) and Ivelisse Rubio (Universidad de Puerto Rico, Humacao) have made to produce these remarkable results.

More information about both programs is at http://www.ams.org/employment/makeadiff.html.

Background:

This is the first year that the AMS has made this recognition. In the future, each year the AMS will highlight two programs that specifically:

(1) aim to bring more persons from underrepresented minority backgrounds into some portion of the pipeline beginning at the undergraduate level and leading to an advanced degree in mathematics, or retain them in the pipeline; (2) have achieved documentable success in doing so; and (3) are replicable models.

Founded in 1888 to further mathematical research and scholarship, the 30,000-member American Mathematical Society fulfills its mission through programs and services that promote mathematical research and its uses, strengthen mathematical education, and foster awareness and appreciation of mathematics and its connections to other disciplines and to everyday life.


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