AWM 2020 Student Chapter Awards

AWM sponsored its annual Student Chapter Awards, with awards given in four categories: scientific excellence, professional development, fundraising/sustainability and community outreach. We thank all who participated in this year’s competition for the attention to their proposals and congratulate them on the strength of the activities they are pursuing to create productive environments for women in mathematics. Mathfest was cancelled this year, so the chapter winners were recognized at the annual Student Chapters Virtual Meeting on November 6, 2020.

Texas A&M University
Winner of the Community Outreach Category

The AWM Student Chapter at Texas A&M University is receiving this award in recognition of its outstanding work in reaching out to both the external and internal mathematical communities.  Their members make substantial efforts to encourage girls towards careers in the mathematical sciences by volunteering at events such as the Annual Mathematics & Statistics Fair, STEMFest for elementary and middle school Girl Scouts, weekly Math Circle activities, high school math contests, and SMART camp. The Mathematics Fair is attended by nearly 200 people, from pre-kindergarteners through adults, with chapter members leading an arts and crafts section, hosting puzzle and game tables, and coordinating the Julia Robinson Math Festival. Chapter members also act as graders and proctors for a local high school mathematics contest and work as instructors in their SEE math camp for middle-schoolers.  In addition, for two weeks during the summer, members serve as counselors for SMART camp, where high school students are introduced to new mathematics and mathematical research. A special highlight this past year was the chapter’s hosting of the Texas Women in Mathematics Symposium, which brought together 112 mathematicians from all over the state of Texas to attend research presentations by female mathematicians, to hear advice from a panel of chapter alumna on professional paths in mathematics, and to join discussions on how to foster a welcoming environment for mathematicians of all genders and backgrounds. Within the Department of Mathematics itself, the chapter organizes a Peer Mentoring Program, matching first- and second-year graduate students with more advanced male and female students, and sponsors a monthly Women in Math Mentoring Lunch for all women in the department.  Each lunch discussion focuses on a topic pertaining to professional development and encourages dialogue between female students and female faculty.  We applaud the Texas A&M’s chapter for its outstanding work in bringing girls and women from the larger community into meaningful contact with mathematics, in highlighting the work of female mathematicians in Texas, and, finally, in strengthening the community of women within its own department. 

University of Maryland
Winner of the Fundraising/Sustainability Category

The AWM Student Chapter at Florida Atlantic University is receiving this award for a second consecutive year, this time in recognition of its winning a Postdoctoral Ambassadorship from the Women and Mathematics Program (WAM) at the Institute for Advanced Study, made possible by the generous financial support of Lisa Simonyi. Augmenting this with contributions from the FAU Department of Mathematical Sciences and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science Office of the Dean, they raised $4,500 to fund the very first Florida Women in Mathematics Day and follow-up activities. FWIMD was a one-day conference designed to promote women in mathematics, including a half-day immersion experience for girls interested in mathematics.  The conference featured research talks, networking opportunities, mentoring across all levels, a career panel, and a hands-on mathematics activity for local high school students. The funds were used to reimburse travel and lodging for female mathematicians in the region and the keynote speaker, for promotional items, food and refreshments for the participants, and for supplies for the high school activity. With the remaining funds, they were able to support their mentoring program, Dare to BEE, and to cultivate relationships with local high schools and others in the mathematical community. Their initiative and energy in developing programs to promote young women in mathematics and finding the resources to support them deserve another occasion for congratulations.

Cornell University
Winner of the Professional Development Category

The AWM Student Chapter at Cornell University is receiving this award in recognition of the breadth and success of its program to develop students’ professional involvement in mathematics. The chapter does this through a mentoring program, afternoon teas with focused discussions on topics of mathematical interest, and teas and colloquia with invited faculty and/or visitors sharing their research and their experiences in the mathematics profession. In addition, the chapter has instituted a competitive travel grant, and holds LaTeX workshops aimed principally at undergraduates.

Their “Women Mentoring Women in Math” program matches freshman and sophomore undergraduate math majors with upperclass and graduate students. Mentors and mentees meet several times during the semester and also attend a monthly workshop for everyone, where the topic can range from CV and resume writing, to goal setting, to how to find REUs and internship opportunities, to discussing the imposter syndrome. Building on their chapter’s history of afternoon tea, they have held regular tea-time conversations on a variety of timely themes of interest to AWM members and of importance to the profession generally. The first such event was devoted to the controversy sparked by the use of diversity statements in faculty hiring, while the most recent centered on the disparity in how different groups of mathematicians are affected by the pandemic.

The chapter has also instituted informal gatherings, inviting women on the Cornell faculty, as well as visitors to provide insights into different career paths, and into ways of dealing with obstacles at both the personal and professional level. The chapter is also able to choose one department colloquium speaker a year, allowing it to increase the diversity of visiting speakers while having role models and potential mentors visit and meet with chapter members and other students. Several years ago the chapter instituted a travel grant program, given out twice a year, that funds up to $500 towards graduate student participation in a conference or other professional activity. Finally, they have established a LaTeX workshop, as well as a speaker series intended to introduce math research to undergraduates. The former is an opportunity to learn a skill that is useful but rarely formally taught, while the latter provides Cornell graduate students practice in communicating mathematics to a non-expert audience. We congratulate the Cornell chapter for the extensive list of professional development opportunities it provides both to its own members and to the entire department.


Columbia University & University of Utah
Winner of the Scientific Excellence Category

The AWM Student Chapters at Columbia University/Barnard College and at the University of Utah are both receiving this award for their very different, but equally impressive scientific programs. The selection committee felt that both deserved the special recognition of the award for Scientific Excellence.

The Columbia/Barnard Student Chapter has grown impressively over its short time and is working on a number of ways to build a successful mathematical community. As part of its scientific program, it had organized a conference for over 50 women and other gender-minorities in mathematics in the New York area; unfortunately, it had to be postponed because of the pandemic. However, even after students were required to leave campus, the chapter was able to organize reading groups that provided students an opportunity to learn some new mathematics with a group of peers and in a more structured setting. Each group met once a week to study a chosen topic in probability, machine learning, number theory and cryptography, representation theory of finite groups, or Lie theory and its associated representation theory. These groups were led by a range of upperclassmen and a graduate student, and the participants ranged from first-years to graduate students at Columbia and even some students from other colleges in New York.

The AWM Student Chapter at the University of Utah organizes an annual speaker series as well as a conference for advanced undergraduate and early career grad students every 2 years. As part of their speaker series, they invite four mathematicians from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to come to campus for 2-3 days. During these visits, the invited speaker gives 1-2 research talks, a talk about their paths through mathematics. and meets informally with students during coffee hours and meals. Two speakers are supported by the department’s RTG grant, but two are supported by a combination of departmental funds and additional fundraising work by the chapter.

Their second major scientific activity this past year consisted of the organization of BRIDGES 2020, a conference for advanced undergraduate and early career graduate students, again from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. As was the case for other institutions, the conference was postponed until 2021 because of COVID-19. Once it takes place, the chapter will host 46 or more students, 65% of whom identified as female, nonbinary, or another gender minority and 39% of whom identified as an underrepresented minority. Most notably, despite the delay, the chapter is currently working to sustain enthusiasm and interest, as well as to build community among participants by organizing a calendar of virtual events throughout the 2020-2021 academic year leading up to the actual scheduled event.

We extend our congratulations to both of these chapters for their dedication to providing outstanding scientific programs to their undergraduate and graduate students in spite of the difficulties that the pandemic has placed before them.