NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – When does one plus one plus
one add up to more than 100?
Answer: When women with a passion for numbers have three
opportunities to study and discuss mathematics at Smith College through its Center
for Women in Mathematics.
Established two years ago with a $1.5 million grant
from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Center for Women in Mathematics offers
programs aimed at increasing the number of women at the top of the field.
This semester, there are three notable programs for
women at Smith – an undergraduate math conference, a junior-year-at-Smith program,
and a postbaccalaureate program.
“The idea of an undergraduate math conference
is not unusual but we wanted to do one that focused on women,” said Ruth Haas,
professor of mathematics and statistics, and founder of the center. “At Smith,
students are lucky because they know women do math, engineering, etc. But there are
a lot of women undergrads who really want to know they’re not unique – that
women enjoy math.”
The center will host its first conference for women
in mathematics in New England on Saturday, Sept. 27. Based on the registration numbers,
more than 100 undergraduates from throughout the region plan to attend the one-day
event, at which speakers will include prominent women mathematicians, female graduate
students in the field, and peers.
This year, the center also enrolled its first class
of scholars in a junior-year-at-Smith program, through which four undergraduates – women
majoring in mathematics at coeducational institutions throughout the country – are
studying at the college through the exchange program. The junior year program gives
the students an opportunity to conduct challenging research and take advanced courses
in an all-women environment.
And, Smith’s postbaccalaureate math program for
women enrolled its second class this year – women who received their undergraduate
degrees from schools as varied as Yale and Dartmouth universities and the University
of Michigan – and are now pursuing advanced study in mathematics.
The women include a practicing lawyer who wants to make
a career change and a woman who already has a master’s degree in statistics
but wants to delve further into the field, said Haas.
Funded for five years under the NSF grant, Smith’s
Center for Women in Mathematics capitalizes on the college’s success in graduating
women who go on to earn advanced degrees in the field. Ten percent of Smith’s
math graduates enter graduate programs in the field as compared to 3 percent of women
from coeducational institutions.