Gweneth Humphreys Award

2012 Winner: Deanna Haunsperger


In recognition of her outstanding mentoring of undergraduate women in mathematics, the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) presents the M. Gweneth Humphreys Award to Professor Deanna Haunsperger of the Department of Mathematics, Carleton College.

Haunsperger’s nomination letters describe the amazing community of women in mathematics that she has created and nurtured for many years. She is a dedicated mentor, going out of her way to help young women make connections in the mathematical world.

Together with Stephen Kennedy, Deanna Haunsperger conceived of the Summer Mathematics Program [SMP] to mentor talented women early in their undergraduate studies. They have directed it nearly every summer since 1995, with Deanna playing the primary role in mentoring the participants. This program is different from other mathematics programs for women because it is intended for mathematically talented students in their first or second year of college who are uncertain about their future mathematical trajectory. Many are from small colleges from which few students go on to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics. The program gives these students a community of women who are serious about mathematics, and in the end many pursue graduate studies in mathematics.

Haunsperger has brought her energy and leadership to other projects as well. Colleagues at Carleton credit her with the helping to build and sustain the strong community of math majors there (the number of majors has doubled in the 17 years since her arrival).  She served as co-Editor of Math Horizons, as Second Vice President of the MAA and chaired a key strategic planning group on MAA activities for students.

The nomination letter describes Haunsperger’s extraordinary efforts first to connect with each and every student at SMP using devices such as “Deanna Chats” and ultimately to continue to be a mentor, friend and resource long after the program has ended. “The participants know that throughout the rest of their undergraduate years, during graduate school, and beyond, they can always contact Deanna and she will encourage, support, and advise them.” More than 50 SMP graduates already have Ph.D.s and 50 more are currently in mathematics graduate programs.  Her enthusiasm and dedication make the program and community the great success they are.

Five women mathematicians who have been involved with the program at many levels wrote supporting statements for the nomination.  They reveal much about Deanna’s impact:  “Because of her charismatic personality and personal experiences and knowledge regarding graduate school and academia,… she is everyone’s first-choice source of advice and guidance.” “At a professional meeting she has always taken a moment to introduce me to whoever comes over to greet her (and she knows everyone!)”

About the community she’s built and nurtured:

“It is difficult to imagine us not knowing one another, and we will forever be grateful to Deanna for the creation of the SMP community as it enabled our close friendships to form.”

“Deanna’s constant, selfless acts on behalf of cultivating the careers of young women mathematicians have inspired us to dedicate our energy to what she has so naturally taught all of us through her actions – to pass along the same mentoring and opportunities to those around us.”

The AWM is pleased to honor Deanna Haunsperger for her wonderful achievements and unwavering efforts over decades in the mentoring of undergraduate women in mathematics, in particular in attracting them into the study of mathematics and creating a thriving community which supports them throughout their mathematical careers.

Response from Deanna Haunsperger:

I am deeply honored to receive AWM’s M. Gweneth Humphreys Award for Mentoring.  I have long known that the AWM recognizes the importance of mentorship; I myself received mentoring when I participated in an AWM graduate student paper session twenty years ago.  I appreciate the AWM for supporting the mentoring of young members of our profession, and for giving me this honor.

Mentoring is truly its own reward – the relationships I have formed with current and former students at Carleton and participants in the Carleton College Summer Mathematics Program for Women over the past 20 years have been the most meaningful part of my career.  Stephen Kennedy and I began with a shared vision for a summer program to mentor women in 1995, and, supported by the NSF, NSA, and Carleton College, it has grown into an entire community of nearly 300 women scholars.   Some of these women have made our summer program part of their professional careers, and have repeatedly taught for us – Erica Flapan, Karen Brucks, Judy Kennedy, Margaret Robinson, Pam Richardson, Laura Chihara, Katherine Crowley – or are frequent visitors to help mentor the young folks and build this vibrant community – Alissa Crans, Jen Bowen, Karen Lange, Becky Swanson, Della Fenster, Emily Ognacevic, Becky Patrias.  All these women, along with other fantastic people too numerous to mention, have made my life richer for knowing them, and to them I am eternally grateful.  I am inspired by the women who realize the importance of reaching a hand backwards to mentor younger people as they themselves are scaling new heights.