Responding to a Need

/Responding to a Need
Responding to a Need 2017-09-10T12:36:38+00:00
Sylvia BozemanRhonda Hughes

A Shared Commitment to Young Women Mathematicians

The EDGE program was co-founded in 1998 by Sylvia Bozeman of Spelman College (left) and Rhonda Hughes of Bryn Mawr College (right).

Lee Lorch

Lee Lorch Makes an Introduction

Lee Lorch is an eminent mathematician and leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He helped nurture an entire generation of African American mathematicians through dedicated service as a professor at Fisk University. Dr. Lorch achieved his impressive legacy by challenging the status quo in the mathematics community and in world at large. He knew that Rhonda Hughes and Sylvia Bozeman shared a commitment to nurturing young women mathematicians; it was he who introduced them at an AMS meeting nearly twenty years ago. This is where the EDGE story begins.

From: Graduate Education: Reconsidering Our Response
by Sylvia T. Bozeman, Spelman College and Rhonda Hughes, Bryn Mawr College
in Math Education Reform (MER) Newsletter, Summer 2000—Special Issue.

The First Response:
As professors at small liberal arts colleges, we were motivated by the high interest among our students to find a method that could capitalize on that interest and address the unacceptable national statistics. We envisaged a program that would encourage undergraduate students more broadly to major in mathematics, to go to graduate school, and ultimately to pursue careers in the mathematical sciences. Our first response, an REU-type summer program, was the Spelman—Bryn Mawr Summer Mathematics Program aimed at women at the freshman-sophomore levels. The program, funded for four years by the NSF, ultimately proved to be highly successful in achieving its goal. Of the 32 women who participated, approximately 60% have pursued graduate degrees in the mathematical sciences or related areas. Considering that many of these women were rising sophomores when they participated in the program, we regard that program as highly successful in meeting its goals. Five years later, we reconsidered and altered that response to more pointedly address some of the crucial issues related to the success of minorities and women in pursuing mathematics at the highest levels.

The Second Response:
Despite the success of the earlier program jointly sponsored by Bryn Mawr and Spelman colleges, we continued to experience frustration with the number of talented and ambitious women who still had difficulty negotiating the transition to graduate school. We observed that the high school and undergraduate stages of the “pipeline” received considerable attention from several private and governmental sources, but that attrition still took its toll at the graduate level. Women and minority students were particularly adversely affected by the change in culture in the transition from undergraduate to graduate study. Consequently, at the conclusion of the earlier undergraduate program, we reconsidered our response and decided that a new approach was needed. The result is the EDGE Program.

The Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) program is a collaborative effort of Bryn Mawr and Spelman College, designed to increase the number of women and minority students who successfully complete graduate programs in the mathematical sciences. The goal is to strengthen the ability of the women who participate to successfully negotiate the transition from undergraduate to graduate education in mathematics, and ultimately to succeed in graduate school.

The structure of the program involves two basic components: an intensive summer program, and a follow-up mentoring program. Summer activities include two four-week core courses in algebra and analysis; minicourses on selected areas of mathematical research; problem sessions aimed at preparing participants for graduate qualifying exams; and panel discussion by mathematicians at all stages of their careers.

A Message from Lee Lorch to the participants of
The EDGE Program:

Your courage, initiative, persistence and abilities combine to inspire others to challenge — and overcome — the racism, sexism which play essential, divisive roles in an unjust society.

Your struggles are part of the overall campaign for justice and peace. Keep going and remember the context. Many thanks for what you have done and what you will do.

–Lee Lorch