CID Summer 2005 Convening: Supporting Intellectual Community

Topic 4: Developing a Professional Identity within a Disciplinary Community

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Mathematics

This Snapshot describes how the doctoral program in the Department of Mathematics helps students develop a professional identity as a member of a disciplinary community and as a steward of the discipline.

As stewards of the discipline, scholars have responsibilities to their departmental, university, and disciplinary communities as well as to society at large. Doctoral students develop a professional identity that allows them to represent the discipline in these communities.


A strong sense of departmental community is built through seminars and professional development programs. This departmental community forms the foundation for a student's professional identity, providing an entry point into the greater mathematical community. This identity is reinforced through outreach programs and conference participation, both in Nebraska and elsewhere.

Goals for Students

Doctoral graduates in mathematics should become stewards of the discipline, people who are entrusted with:

  • advancing mathematical knowledge
  • preserving and developing the mathematical literature
  • communicating mathematical knowledge to others
  • understanding and advancing the role of mathematics in society
  • Students can pursue academic careers in research-intensive doctoral granting departments, teaching-intensive departments, and government or the private sector. Thus, graduate education should produce scholars who are prepared for a variety of careers that utilize their mathematical knowledge.

    Purpose of Doctorate in Mathematics

    Assessment Tools

  • Mathematical Landscape seminar feedback
  • number of papers and presentations given by graduate students
  • students' assessment of their professional development and outreach experiences
  • student exit interviews
  • job placement of our Ph.D. graduates

  • Community Development

    Incoming graduate students are introduced to the department in many ways. After an initial week-long orientation, the following help to build a sense of community:

  • Our Mathematical Landscape Seminar introduces students to faculty and their research interests, as well as the research interests of their peers.
  • As early as their first year, students can become active members in a variety of departmental committees.
  • Research experiences and specialized programs connect current graduate students to former students, beginning graduate students nationwide, and faculty.
  • Graduate students are heavily involved in the recruitment of new graduate students, as well as new faculty members.
  • Building Community

    Targeting Transitions

    Transitioning from one stage to another of an academic career can be daunting. Through peer mentoring in key transition periods we can help our community grow. The Nebraska Mentoring through Critical Transition Points (MCTP) program targets two critical transitions periods:

  • undergraduate to graduate education
  • graduate education to academic position
  • Mentoring Through Critical Transition Points

    Unanswered Questions

  • How can we best poll current students and recent grads about the effectiveness of our initiatives?
  • Have we made sufficient adjustments to our Ph.D. requirements to accommodate students seeking interdisciplinary degrees?
  • What other ways can we include collaborative learning into the program? (I.e., through cross-disciplinary experience, and experiences for those interested in careers in government or industry)

  • Contact Information

    John Meakin

    Professional Development

    Professional development goes beyond research seminars and teaching of undergraduate courses. Through specialized seminars and a wide variety of outreach programs, students can enrich their professional identity.

  • Our Introduction to Teaching Seminar, offered each spring semester, gives new students the tools they will need when they are in charge of their own classes. Together, the Mathematical Landscape and Teaching Seminars reinforce the notion that we are a community of teacher-scholars, where teaching and research are equally valued.
  • Many graduate students are involved in outreach programs. These programs cater both to students and to instructors themselves.
  • Several seminars aimed at more advanced students discuss issues in teaching, the job application process, and other professional development issues.
  • Students are encouraged to attend conferences, visit other universities, and give talks on their research. Each year the department hosts several conferences and provides ample funds for graduate student travel.
  • Professional Development

    Excellence in Mathematics Mentoring

    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.

    Mentoring Women in Mathematics

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