AWM Service Award 2022

The AWM Service Award, established by the AWM Executive Committee (EC) in November 2012, recognizes individuals for helping to promote and support women in mathematics through exceptional voluntary service to the Association for Women in Mathematics. The award is given annually to a select group of AWM volunteers in recognition of their extensive time and effort devoted to AWM activities during the previous seven years. Presidents (past, present, and -elect) and current officers are not eligible for the award. The 2022 AWM Service Awards were presented at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Seattle, WA to Ellen Kirkman, and to the Notable Women in Math Playing Cards Project Management Committee (EvenQuads PMC). The committee members are sarah-marie belcastro (Chair), Sherli Koshy-Chenthittayil, Linda McGuire, Monica Morales Hernandez, Denise A. Rangel Tracy, and Oscar Vega.

Ellen Kirkman, Professor of Mathematics at Wake Forest University, is recognized for her eight years of service (2012 – 2020) as AWM Treasurer and Chair of the Financial Oversight and Investment Committee, for her service on the Membership Portfolio Committee, and for her role as an organizer and a research leader in the WINART (Women in Noncommutative Algebra and Representation Theory) Research Network.

As AWM Treasurer, Ellen made dramatic improvements in the budget process and was integral in developing and implementing an Investment Policy for AWM. She adhered to this Policy by rebalancing accounts annually to match investment goals. Ellen worked closely with the fiscal teams at both the former and current management companies to ensure that the quarterly financial reports provided were accurate and received in a timely manner. In 2017, her efforts were instrumental in reestablishing AWM’s nonprofit status. For eight years (and beyond), Ellen worked tirelessly to provide AWM with conservative stewardship, allowing the Association to continue with a sound financial footing as we move into the next 50 years. Ellen also served on the Membership Portfolio Committee during the same time period. She closely monitored membership data of both individuals and institutions, another vital contribution towards sustaining the AWM.

An active member of the WINART Research Network, Ellen helped organize the special session New Developments in Noncommutative Algebra & Representation Theory at the 2017 Joint Math Meetings and the WINART2 workshop at Leeds in 2019. WINART now connects more than 120 mathematicians. The main purpose of the WINART3 workshop was to bring together women and non-binary people to do research in various subfields of noncommutative algebra and in representation theory. This workshop was organized around eight research groups consisting of four to six participants, each led by two research leaders. A variety of research topics were presented at the workshop; groups were formed several months before the workshop so that participants could prepare and also share ideas for projects.

Ellen has also served the broader mathematical community as a member of The Sylvia Bozeman and Rhonda Hughes EDGE Foundation Board of Directors, the AMS-ASA-MAA-IMS-SIAM Data Committee (2000 – 2007 and 2009 – present), and coauthor of the CBMS 2010 and the CBMS 2015 surveys, Statistical Abstract of Undergraduate Programs in the Mathematical Sciences in the United States.

The AWM is grateful for Ellen’s service in these leadership roles, which are so vital to the long term health of the Association. Congratulations, Ellen!

Response from Kirkman

I am honored to receive the 2022 AWM Service Award. I appreciate the help and support of the five awesome AWM presidents I served under: Jill Pipher, Ruth Charney, Kristin Lauter, Ami Radunskaya, and Ruth Haas, all of whom were extremely helpful as AWM worked to improve its financial position. I am also grateful to Marie Vitulli, Magnhild Lien, and Karoline Pershell, who served on the Financial Management Committee and contributed their astute expertise and advice. Finally, I want to thank Executive Committee members and other AWM members, who worked to provide the AWM with high quality programs and management, so that the AWM can attract members and financial support to continue its important role in the mathematical sciences community. Many thanks for this award!

The Notable Women in Math Playing Cards, also known as EvenQuads, is a project inspired by the Notable Women in Computing Playing Cards. The EvenQuads PMC is being honored for their role, via this novel and elegant project, in promoting women’s accomplishments in mathematics for the purpose of inspiring and encouraging future generations of mathematicians. With a little guidance from the initial proposers and a criteria committee, the EvenQuads PMC took a seed of inspiration and turned it into amazing success in just under two years. The project, which currently enlists around 200 volunteers, began by compiling a list of 1400 mathematicians and seeking nominations from the community. Biographic and professional information was collected on these nominees, and at least 2 volunteers reviewed each nominee using a rubric, the results of which determined inclusion in the first deck of 64. Several new games were created, including the popular EvenQuads, and artists were called upon to illustrate the women whose biographies are featured on the playing cards. The volunteer list includes game creators, data collectors, reviewers, biographers, artists, a fact checker, and a statistician. A Kickstarter campaign to print the decks was launched in October of 2020 with a goal of $3000. The campaign, in just six weeks, earned 414 backers pledging over $17,000! Some pledges were for deck donations to secondary educators mainly from underserved schools. There was enough post-Kickstarter demand that the first shipment of EvenQuads Limited Edition decks that arrived at the AWM online store sold in a matter of hours.

These decks are the first of their kind, combining multifaceted text about women who have contributed to mathematics in many different ways with beautiful graphic design that evokes multiple professional mathematics organizations.  The cards are dual educational resources, spreading mathematical concepts and exercising abstract thinking through the EvenQuads game and variants while also informing players about women mathematicians. Beyond this, the physical decks are supported by a website with full biographies augmented by stories told by the honorees. 

Every member of the EvenQuads PMC is passionate, dedicated, and committed to this very complex project. Individual members were responsible for executing certain aspects such as logistics and planning, a Kickstarter campaign, webpage coding, editing text, translation of text into Spanish, and management of collections of volunteers. The members are described as being supportive of each other through the personal and professional challenges that arose with the COVID-19 pandemic, and through challenges to the project itself. The success of the project is attributed to the remarkable and true collaboration — built on consensus, flexibility and respect — that became the EvenQuads Project Management Committee. The entire mathematical sciences community benefits from this project, especially the AWM. 

Response from the Committee

We are thrilled to receive an AWM Service award for our work on the ongoing EvenQuads project.  Even with only the first phase complete, we are pleased to have created a lasting contribution to the AWM and the larger mathematical community.  It has also been a pleasure for us to work together, forging friendships as we reach consensus.  We have extensively debriefed our work on the first deck, discussed all feedback received, and made adjustments to streamline and improve the processes for the next three decks. Together, the set of four decks can be used for a 256-card EvenQuads game (and any two of the decks can be used for a 128-card game! Just you wait!).  Finally, while we collectively direct the project, a great deal of work has been and will be done by many many additional volunteers. In addition to the aspects listed in the citation, some volunteers have assisted by doing statistics on the reviewing data, drawing multiple portraits of selected women, fact checking biographical information, consulting on marketing, creating photos and videos, liaising with other professional organizations, and dealing with production companies.  We are grateful to all the volunteers for responding to our requests for assistance; the EvenQuads decks would not exist without them. Want to be one of these volunteers? Contact the committee at