Working in groups on assignments and discussing problems is more fun than work.— Sarah Anoke, a post-baccalaureate student in the program.

ruth_haas_022NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – The Smith College Center for Women in Mathematics was recently honored for its success encouraging women and members of underrepresented minority groups to pursue studies in the mathematical sciences.

The American Mathematical Society honored the Smith program, along with the Department of Mathematics at North Carolina State University, with its annual “Mathematics Programs that Make a Difference” award. The two are model programs with replicable methods for increasing participation of these groups in the field.

“Students in these programs receive extraordinary and individualized mentoring in a supportive, yet demanding atmosphere,” said Susan Loepp of Williams College, who served as chair of the selection committee. “The number of women and underrepresented minorities who are inspired to continue in mathematics because of these two programs is impressive.”

Founded in 2007, the Smith College Center for Women in Mathematics focuses on a particular group: women who discover their desire to do mathematics only after having exited the traditional educational track and who need to build up or refresh their backgrounds to be able to enter graduate school.

The center’s post-baccalaureate program, the first in mathematics in the U.S., is a one-year program in which students take upper-level courses courses that prepare students to get started on research.

“Before I started this program, I knew very little about what math existed beyond introductory calculus and statistics, and much less about careers in mathematics,” said Sarah Anoke, a current student in the post-baccalaureate program. “Because of my uncertainty, I felt very limited in what kinds of graduate programs and professional goals I could pursue. Just a few months into this program and I already feel more confident in my mathematical abilities and what kinds of skills I can bring to my eventual profession.”

By the fall of 2010, 24 women had completed the post-baccalaureate program. Of those, 17 entered graduate school in the mathematical sciences immediately after completing the program, and five will have entered after brief deferrals.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, the center provides tuition and a living stipend for some of the post-baccalaureate students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Among the center’s other activities is a Junior Program for undergraduate women from outside Smith College who want to spend one or both semesters of their junior year in a mathematically intense environment. The center also hosts an annual conference called Women In Mathematics In New England (WIMIN).

“The undergraduates here and the other women in my program are as enthusiastic to learn as I am, and working in groups on assignments and discussing problems is more fun than work,” said Anoke.

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,800 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.

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