Louise Hay Award

2022 Winner: Vilma Mesa

In recognition of her outstanding contributions to mathematics education, the Association of Women in Mathematics (AWM) presents the 2022 Louise Hay Award to Vilma Mesa from the University of Michigan. Mesa is recognized for her  distinguished contributions to mathematics education research at the collegiate level, for her teaching and mentorship, and as an  advocate for access to mathematics for women and members of underprivileged populations.


Professor Vilma Mesa exemplifies methodologically rigorous, programmatic, innovative, and impactful research in mathematics education. This work, together with her teaching and recognized mentorship at diverse levels, have served as a model inspiring other already accomplished scholars in the field.

Mesa’s scholarship has two main strands – curriculum, and college level instruction.  Her curriculum work started at the Universidad de los Andes, where she joined a group of instructors writing texts for precalculus and statistics.  Her University of Georgia dissertation was an international comparison of 8th grade presentations of the concept of function.  She used her methods to then study college textbook presentations of trigonometry and calculus concepts.  More recently, she has explored instructors’ use of open source and open access electronic mathematics textbooks for Calculus, Abstract Algebra, and Linear Algebra.

Mesa’s work on collegiate instruction has three related foci: calculus instruction; inquiry-based learning (IBL); and community college mathematics instruction.  In the MAA National Study of College Calculus, she led the team that focused on calculus instruction in community college.  In 2005, Mesa became an evaluator of IBL math courses at the University of Michigan.  She brought expertise to this work gained from her involvement with the Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.

Mesa’s contribution to the study of mathematics instruction in community colleges is, arguably, her most important contribution to mathematics education. Indeed, in 2014, she and her colleagues published a landmark argument for the importance of doing research in community college settings. And she further articulated the equity implications of improving instruction in community college mathematics. Mesa has developed a ground-breaking body of practice-actionable work in this underdeveloped area of research.

Mesa is a distinguished contributor to mathematics education research at the collegiate level.  She has had several (inter)national level leadership roles, including: associate editor for several leading journals; officer of the SIGMAA on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education; leadership in the national inquiry-based learning movement; and advising projects in Chile, Colombia, and Spain.  In all her service activities, as well as in her teaching and research, Mesa has advocated for access to mathematics for women and members of underprivileged populations.  Professor Mesa amply demonstrates the qualities that the Louise Hay Award is meant to celebrate.


It is a great honor to have been awarded the 2022 AWM’s Louise Hay Award for contributions to mathematics education. Dr. Louise Hay was a remarkable scholar and, as I have learned from her personal account, a tour de force. I am humbled and grateful for the nomination, for the committee’s work,  and that you thought that my work exemplifies the spirit of the award. I am even more honored to join past Louise Hay Award recipients! The list includes the names of distinguished colleagues whose work have influenced mine, colleagues who have mentored me, and colleagues whom I profoundly admire. Being listed among this group is truly a highlight of my career. Thank you.