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Sept. 13, 2006

Got Math? Smith College does


With a $1.5-million federal grant, Smith is launching two ambitious programs to boost the number of women in mathematics.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Smith College recently received a $1.5-million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish a Center for Women in Mathematics that will run two programs aimed at increasing the number of women at the top of the field.

The five-year grant will support the nation's first postbaccalaureate mathematics program and a junior-year-at-Smith program to assist women in attaining undergraduate and graduate degrees in the subject. Smith will enroll women in each program during the initial 2007-08 academic year.

“Talented women continue to leave the mathematics pipeline,” said Ruth Haas, professor of mathematics and statistics, and one of the program’s chief architects. “By shoring up the holes that cause women to drop out and giving women the opportunity to do advanced math together, we hope women maintain the movitation and determination needed to reach their goals.”

Many reasons – including lower expectations for girls and women in mathematics, lack of support and cultural norms – contribute to the low number of women in mathematics.

Smith's programs capitalize on the college's success in graduating women who go on to earn advanced degrees in mathematics. Ten percent of Smith’s math graduates enter graduate programs in the field as compared to 3 percent of women from coeducational institutions.

Postbaccalaureate Program

Smith’s post-baccalaureate math program functions much like yearlong preparatory programs for medical school and is the only one for mathematics in the nation. Students who already have their bachelor’s degrees and wish to pursue additional studies in mathematics will take the coursework and perform research they did not pursue as undergraduates.

“Many female math majors discover their love of the subject late in their undergraduate careers – too late to take the necessary preparation for graduate school,” said James Henle, professor of mathematics and statistics, and center architect. “We want to address this largely ignored group of women.”

Postbaccalaureate students will receive full tuition as well as a $12,500 stipend for living expenses. The Office of Graduate Study will review applications for the postbaccalaureate program.

Junior-Year-At-Smith Program

The junior-year-at-Smith program is offered to women majoring in mathematics at coeducational institutions throughout the country as a chance to perform challenging mathematical research and enroll in advanced courses in an all-women environment.

“By doing a year of math in an environment of their peers and building a supportive peer group in the process, college women will gain confidence in their ability to do mathematics,” said Henle.

A student in the junior-year-at-Smith program will pay the college's undergraduate tuition and will be eligible for need-based financial aid. Smith guarantees to meet her full financial need, as calculated by the college. She should apply to the college's Office of Admission.

Throughout the next five years, the Center for Women in Mathematics will assess the success of the two programs based on the academic and career decisions made by the women who complete them.

For more information about the Center for Women in Mathematics go online.

Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation’s foremost liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,600 students from every state and 60 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women’s college in the country.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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