Each year, the American Mathematical Society’s (AMS) Committee on the Profession chooses outstanding programs to be designated as Mathematics Programs That Make a Difference. The award was created in 2005 as a way to bring recognition to outstanding programs that successfully address the issue of underrepresented groups in mathematics.
For 2017, the committee selected the National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences (the Math Alliance) for its programs over the last 10 years promoting participation by groups underrepresented in doctoral programs in the mathematical sciences. Now based at Purdue University, the Math Alliance began in 2001 as a partnership of three Iowa State Regents universities and four Historically Black Colleges and Universities and has grown into a national network of institutions and faculty that mentor minority students in both undergraduate and graduate programs.
Phil Kutzko, UI professor of mathematics, is the director of the Math Alliance and one of its founders.
“A critical moment in the history of our Alliance occurred in 2012,” Kutzko recalls. “The Alliance was growing rapidly, and we applied to the National Science Foundation to provide us with staff and infrastructure. Kathryn Chaloner, who at that time was chair of the University of Iowa Department of Biostatistics, proposed that the Department of Biostatistics become the Alliance’s new home, and she offered us excellent office space in the brand new College of Public Health.”
The college served as the home of the Math Alliance from 2012 until 2016, when it moved to Purdue University.
“It’s hard to imagine how we could have accomplished what we did during that time without the generous support we received for all aspects of our project from faculty and staff in the Department of Biostatistics and the College of Public Health,” Kutzko says. “I would like to thank them for going the extra mile for the Alliance and to commend them for their commitment to broadening participation in our professions.”
The Math Alliance holds the annual Field of Dreams Conference, attended in 2015 by 174 undergraduates and 130 faculty from over 115 institutions. In addition, Alliance Mentors work at the predoctoral, masters, PhD, and post-doctoral level to help students succeed in their studies and progress on to the next level. In 2015–16, the program listed 552 faculty mentoring over 600 active scholars. The Alliance has expanded its network 30-fold over the last 10 years, and has recently been used as a model for a similar program in physics by the American Physical Society.
Read more about the history and programs of the Math Alliance in an AMS article.