The Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics (NCUWM) has been chosen to receive the "Mathematics Programs that Make a Difference" award of the American Mathematical Society. NCUWM, held each year at the University of Nebraska--Lincoln, is honored for its remarkable contribution to the national effort to produce more women PhDs in the mathematical sciences. The annual award was created by the AMS Committee on the Profession to recognize outstanding programs that successfully address the issue of underrepresented groups in mathematics.
Abigail Thompson of the University of California, Davis, who serves as chair of the Committee on the Profession, said, "The Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics has been making a difference since 1999. As confirmed by many enthusiastic program alumnae, this 3-day conference, focused around the opportunities for and achievements of female mathematicians, has provided a life-changing experience."
Since its founding 14 years ago, the annual NCUWM has touched the lives of more than 2,600 women undergraduates, stimulating their motivation and interest in mathematical sciences research. The three-day conference boosts participants' self-confidence and sense of community through a carefully planned set of activities. Participants leave the conference energized and inspired by interactions with other undergraduates, accomplished women graduate students, and prominent women mathematicians.
The conference features plenary lectures by women mathematicians, panel discussions on issues such as choosing a PhD program and building a career, breakout sessions for smaller group interactions, and talks and poster sessions by the undergraduate students. Current mathematics graduate students---many of them past participants in NCUWM---are invited to the conference to serve as role models for the undergraduates. Careful choices are made to ensure multiple role models from outside academia, such as from the National Security Agency. Informal interactions are stimulated through several social events, such as the opening banquet and Saturday pizza dinner.
Because the conference draws together women at a variety of educational and career stages, there is a good deal of "vertical integration" of mentoring. The younger undergraduates are inspired by the older ones who give talks and present posters, who are in turn inspired by the graduate students. Students at all levels have the opportunity to observe and interact with experienced and successful women mathematicians. Seeing themselves in these mentors is enormously empowering for the students.
The growth of the conference has been tremendous. In 1999, 53 undergraduates attended, with 30 schools represented. In 2013, there were 257 undergraduates and 107 schools represented. The frequent---and glowing---reports about the NCUWM in mathematics department newsletters show that the conference has become a highly valued and much-anticipated event for departments across the nation.
Registration fills up soon after opening in October each year.
The NCUWM is sponsored by the Department of Mathematics at the University of Nebraska--Lincoln. The department is a national leader in producing female PhDs in the mathematical sciences and is known for its inclusive atmosphere and nurturing approach. In recognition of this success, the department received the 1998 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.
In 2009, the Nebraska department received yet another honor, the AMS Award for an Exemplary Program or Achievement in a Mathematics Department. That award recognized the department's overall success in creating a supportive and welcoming atmosphere and in integrating research, teaching, and outreach. The "Mathematics Programs that Make a Difference" award to the NCUWM shines a spotlight on one of the department's most outstanding programs.
The official announcement of the award to the NCUWM, including the selection committee's citation, is available from the AMS Public Awareness Office and appears in the May 2013 issue of the NOTICES OF THE AMS. That issue is available on the NOTICES web site http://www.ams.org/notices; no subscription is necessary.
Find out more about this and other AMS awards at http://www.ams.org/profession/prizes-awards/ams-supported/make-a-diff-award.
Founded in 1888 to further mathematical research and scholarship, today the more than 30,000 member American Mathematical Society fulfills its mission through programs and services that promote mathematical research and its uses, strengthen mathematical education, and foster awareness and appreciation of mathematics and its connections to other disciplines and to everyday life.
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