Excellence in Mathematics Mentoring

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Department of Mathematics

The department believes that success in the graduate program stems from the following simple philosophy: if you create a positive, supportive atmosphere in which qualified people are expected to succeed, they will. In particular, we believe that the very competitive environment which has been common in graduate mathematics programs can be discouraging to many talented students. We have strived to create a more supportive environment, while maintaining high standards and expectations for success in our graduate program: we do not believe that these goals are incompatible. This has enabled us to attract more women into our program and has positively affected the overall quality of the program.

Friendly Climate for Education

The Department is nationally recognized for its success in mentoring female Ph.D. students. The cooperative climate we have established contributes to the success of all students. In the 2000 National Doctoral Program Survey conducted by the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, our department ranked first out of all mathematics graduate programs included in the survey in nearly every category, including "Overall Satisfaction".

For more information please see the links below.

College Press Release

Warming the climate for women

Women in Graduate School

What data or evidence tells us that this works?

The Department has also gained a well-deserved reputation for success with female graduate students. For example, during 2005-2006 thirty-three of our seventy-two graduate students (46 were women, when the national average was 36 Also, 38of the Ph.D.s awarded by the Department from 1996 to 2005, and 40of those awarded from 2001 to 2005, went to women. (The national average for the past ten years is under 30) In 1998, in recognition of our outstanding success in mentoring female Ph.D. students in the 1990's, the Department received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring .

AMS Notices article

Social Interaction

Graduate students at Nebraska have many opportunities for informal social interaction with faculty and visitors. They are encouraged to attend parties and receptions, and to accompany visiting speakers to dinner. The Department hosts lunches in the Department lounge for female visitors. All graduate students are invited to these lunches, which often feature discussions about women in mathematics, time management, and balancing careers against family needs.

Reflection of the former Chair, Jim Lewis

Job 1. We made it a priority to strengthen the graduate program, with an emphasis on recruiting women students.

Focus on positive things. We created cash awards for the outstanding first year student, outstanding qualifying exam, outstanding GTA teacher. We provide funds for students to travel to national meetings.

A supportive environment. We let students know that we believe they have the potential to be successful and that we want them to succeed.

Everyone benefited. By focusing on the goal of being more successful at recruiting and retaining female graduate students, we have, in fact, made our program more successful for all students - male and female.

Reflections from students

"It is the consistently supportive, encouraging environment that makes the department a success in all its endeavors to promote women in mathematics."

"The graduate school environment was incredibly supportive, due not only to direct faculty support of students, but also to a strong sense of community among the graduate students. Every graduate student in the program benefits from it."

"The environment in the department was wonderful for both women and men. Having a student body which resembles a random sampling of all people contributed to the positive atmosphere."

"I have two children, and the faculty of the department has always been flexible and understanding when designing my work schedules."

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