After members of the Applied Mathematics Department at CU felt like there was a lack of resources and representation for women within the department, a group of women coordinated with administration in order to positively impact the lives of students and faculty. The Association for Women in Mathematics was founded a year ago and is helping the campus climate at CU to evolve. Although it started in the Applied Mathematics Department, it welcomes members from across campus and now has members from the Mathematics Department as well.
Alyson Fox helped to found the group, along side her colleague Amy DeCastro. “We started talking about creating the group over a year ago… when the department review asked what our feelings were on everything. Amy and I were actually part of the review …and discussed how our departments were lacking in representing different resources. We thought it would be good to start getting organized and create a community within our department,” said Fox.
The Association for Women in Mathematics has 3 main roles on campus. They work to advocate for underrepresented groups, spread awareness about the challenges those groups face, and finally attempt to build an inclusive community. They do this by hosting speakers for the department, holding open and inclusive meetings, providing role models and mentors for students considering a STEM career, recruiting more minorities and women into the programs, and finally checking in with current students to help address concerns they might have.
Due to a variety of factors, there is a huge problem nationally when it comes to retaining women in STEM majors. It is a “common problem,” said AWM members. Common problems of women in STEM fields include feelings of insecurity due to the lack of proper support. In the spring of 2017, the group hosted talks on campus that addressed how to deal with microaggressions and imposter syndrome. According to Merriam- Webster, a microaggression is “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group,” while the imposter syndrome is “false and sometimes crippling belief that one's successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill.”
Check-ins with graduate students each semester also aim to help women stay on course with their education. This year, the group is hosting semi-monthly research seminars for undergraduate students and plans to hold AWM study sessions for both undergraduate and graduate students.
For the Fall of 2017, the Applied Mathematics Department is expected to have the largest percentage of female graduate students in its history: half (or 8 out of 16) of the incoming class are women. Meredith Plumley, an AWM member, attributes this increase in female enrollment to the group’s involvement with recruitment for the department.
The AWM board currently consists of around 2 women and one faculty advisers. Sabina Altus, a graduate student in Applied Mathematics is the President. Krisztina Dearborn, a graduate student in Mathematics is the Vice-President. Danielle Lyles, Instructor in the Applied Mathematics Department is the faculty adviser. The board meets for semimonthly lunches to discuss future plans and challenges/opportunities facing the group. For more information, please see the following website: https://awmcub.wixsite.com/awmcuboulder.