Student Essay Contest

Tasha R. Inniss

2001 AWM Essay Contest: 1st Place in the College Student Category

by Cadet Charles A. Moffit

Tasha Inniss was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. Tasha was an intelligent girl as a child and recognized her love for mathematics at an early age. As a fourth grader, Tasha saw math as a puzzle waiting for someone to put it together. In her eyes, all it needed was someone to find the right pieces. Although she realized her skill for math, it was not until college that Tasha decided that she wanted to be a math teacher. While an undergraduate at Xavier University of Louisiana, Tasha began to understand that anyone can learn math, and anyone can do math, but it takes someone special to teach math. She learned this while helping her friends and classmates with their course work in college. Everyone seemed to always tell her that she had a unique gift for presenting math concepts in a way that anyone could understand.
At this point in her life, Tasha knew that she wanted to pursue a career in mathematics, but she still had many obstacles to overcome before reaching her goal. One of these obstacles is one that many people may be able to neither understand nor appreciate. As a young African-American woman, Tasha faced adversity in the shape of discrimination. At times, she felt that others did not want her to succeed, nor did they encourage her to try. Tasha succeeded anyway, however, and went on to earn her masters degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and her doctorate degree from the University of Maryland, where she again always felt that she had to prove that she was worthy of earning a Ph.D. in math. Through these adverse times, Tasha drew strength from the Lord and kept the verse found in Philippians 4:13 close to her desk. It says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This strength coupled with her determined will made it impossible for her to fail.
Today, Dr. Inniss is a Clare Boothe Luce Professor of Mathematics at Trinity College in Washington, D.C. where she works sixty hours a week preparing, teaching and tutoring her students. In fact, the interview that this essay is based on was difficult to conduct simply because students seeking help with Calculus were continually in and out of her office. It was obvious even during the interview that her students are her top priority.
In addition to her teaching, Dr. Inniss is an affiliate member of the National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research (NEXTOR) and a visiting researcher for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Dr. Inniss is currently conducting research for NEXTOR, which is commissioned by the FAA. Part of her research deals with minimizing delay for aircraft landings at commercial airports during inclement weather. This project includes forming statistic-based models that are used to estimate airport capacities during undesirable weather. These models are then used to and find ways to maximize and increase the effectiveness of that capacity. When severe weather strikes, fog, low cloud cover, and thick precipitation causes the number of aircraft the airport can safely land to fall well below the number of aircraft that need to land. Dr. Inniss’s research and work with NEXTOR will help to alleviate this problem. Amazingly, Tasha Inniss still managed to find time to orchestrate and run a club for female students at Trinity who are interested in math, science, engineering, business, and many other fields. Dr. Inniss takes these students on field trips to expose them to job opportunities in their desired fields and schedules guest lecturers who educated the students on subjects like investment strategies and introductions to varying fields of engineering. When I asked Dr. Inniss what advice she would offer to her students who expressed an interest in the mathematical sciences, she said, “I tell them to always work hard, because math builds on itself and you need a good foundation. Never get deterred from your dreams and ultimately, do what you love.”
When she does manage to get free time, Tasha loves to play games, which is not surprising considering her playful approach to math. She loves to read and play card and board games. She stated that her greatest challenge in the classroom is finding the perfect balance to teach so that the material is both clear and challenging and yet still cover all the necessary subjects required in the standard Calculus curriculum. In her opinion, when dealing with students that run the gamut of educational backgrounds and math foundations, the test is to challenge everyone without losing anyone. So far in her career, the thing she holds highest and is most proud of is being able to take in a student who has not taken math in twenty years and instill in them, a renewed confidence in their abilities or to take a student who is either afraid or intimidated by math and watch their eyes grow large and the mental light come on. To Tasha Inniss, this is what makes teaching a most honorable profession.
About the author: My name is Charles Andrew (Andy) Moffit, and I am a sophomore at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. I was born in Maryville, TN and enlisted in the Army when I was 18, in January of 1996. After basic and advanced training, I attended Airborne school in Ft. Benning, GA, which is one of the greatest experiences of my life. Among others, the values I have learned in the military are hard work, loyalty, diligence, resourcefulness, dependability, duty, trust, and a love and appreciation for my family and friends. Here at USMA, I am on the West Point competition skydiving team (BEAT AIRFORCE!) and am majoring in studies in leadership and management. The reason I chose to write this essay is because of the amazing positive impact some great teachers have had in my life. God knows there aren’t enough of them.
Some essays have been modified for posting on the AWM website.