Special Events

paraDIGMS Spring 2021

paraDIGMS 2021 Spring Conference

Diversity in Graduate Mathematical Sciences

April 23-26, 2021

This conference is an event of the American Mathematical Society’s paraDIGMS initiative. Our programming works to foster a community of practice for graduate education in the mathematical sciences, with the goal of making the profession stronger and more equitable. The AMS is grateful to IMSI for supporting this conference, as well as to the Department of Mathematics of the University of Chicago

The goal of the conference is to highlight the work of individuals and organizations to build a diverse and equitable profession at the graduate level, while also challenging us to see how far we still have to go. With the understanding that diversity is multidimensional and intersectional, paraDIGMS programming for 2020-21 has a particular focus on diversity and inclusion with respect to race and ethnicity.

The audience for this conference is the mathematical sciences community at large; individuals at all career stages and from all kinds of institutions (including undergraduate-only institutions) are welcome to participate. Participants may sign up for the conference even if they are not able to attend all sessions.

The conference will be held April 23-26, 2021. There will be two sessions on each day of the conference, one at 2pm and one at 4pm ET. These sessions will be:

  • plenary talks
  • panel sessions
  • a session of contributed lightning talks (submit a proposal)
  • small reading group meetups related to the work of the plenary speakers

The conference will take place online via Zoom. There are no costs associated with attending.

Confirmed speakers and panelists include:

If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact the organizers by email: [email protected].

Statement of Inclusion

The organizers of the paraDIGMS 2021 Spring Conference are committed to creating an environment that is inclusive, supportive, and safe. We support the rights of all attendees to fully participate in the conference regardless of race, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, pregnancy, immigration status, or any other aspect of identity. Please see the AMS’s Policy on a Welcoming Environment.

Conference Policy on Harassment and Discrimination

All participants at the paraDIGMS 2021 Spring Conference will be treated with dignity and respect, and discrimination or harassment of any form will not be tolerated. Participants who do not comport themselves in keeping with the conference’s statement of inclusion will be banned from the conference and run the risk of being excluded from all future paraDIGMS programming. Please see the AMS’s Policy Statement on Anti-Harassment.

Organizing committee:

Contact: [email protected]

Plenary Speakers

Dr. Erica J. Graham is an assistant professor of mathematics at Bryn Mawr College. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Bryn Mawr College and master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematics from the University of Utah. Her research in mathematical biology focuses on applications to endocrinology and physiology. Her particular research interests include cellular mechanisms of type 2 diabetes progression, anticoagulant (blood thinner) effectiveness, immune-mediated mechanisms of blood clotting, and reproductive hormone regulation as related to ovulatory dysfunction. Professor Graham is a co-founder of the Mathematically Gifted & Black website, which in 2021 partnered with SIAM to create a new early-career fellowship for historically excluded groups. She is committed to redefining mathematical and academic spaces with a vision toward inclusion and anti-racism.

Dr. Shirley Malcom is senior advisor and director of SEA Change at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In her more than 40-year tenure at the Association she has worked to improve the quality and increase access to education and careers in STEM as well as to enhance public science literacy. Dr. Malcom is a trustee of Caltech and regent of Morgan State University. She is a former member of the National Science Board, the policymaking body of the U.S. National Science Foundation, and served on President Clinton’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. Malcom, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, received her PhD in ecology from the Pennsylvania State University, masters in zoology from UCLA, and bachelor’s with distinction in zoology from the University of Washington. In addition, she holds 17 honorary degrees.

Malcom is a former high school science teacher and university faculty member. She serves on the boards of the Heinz Endowments, Public Agenda, National Math-Science Initiative and Digital Promise Global. In 2003, Malcom received the Public Welfare Medal of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the highest award given by the Academy.

Dr. Kasso Okoudjou was born and raised in Bénin, West Africa. He moved to the US in 1998 and earned his PhD in mathematics at Georgia Tech in 2003 working under the supervision of Chris Heil. He has held positions at Cornell University, University of Maryland–College Park, Technical University of Berlin, and MIT, among others. He is currently professor in the Department of Mathematics at Tufts University. His research interests lie in pure, applied, and computational harmonic analysis, as well as analysis and differential equations on fractals. Dr. Okoudjou is co-chair of the Task Force on Understanding and Documenting the Historical Role of the AMS in Racial Discrimination.

Dr. Francis Su is the Benediktsson-Karwa Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College. He is a past MAA president and a current AMS vice-president. His research is in geometric combinatorics, and he has published numerous papers with undergraduates. From the MAA, he received the Haimo teaching award in 2013 and the Halmos-Ford writing award in 2018. His book Mathematics for Human Flourishing, winner of the 2021 Euler Book Prize, is an inclusive vision of what math is, who it’s for, and why anyone should learn it. Dr. Su is co-chair of the Task Force on Understanding and Documenting the Historical Role of the AMS in Racial Discrimination.


Panel #1: What can we learn from intentional research communities about helping students transition into research?

This panel will discuss issues related to helping graduate students to begin their path in research, with a focus on the importance of having an environment and network conducive to research. To this end, we have invited a slate of panelists with broad and extensive experiences in research programs and intentional research communities to share the expertise and perspectives they have gained through these experiences.

Dr. Federico Ardila received his Ph.D. from MIT in 2003, and is Professor of Mathematics at San Francisco State University and the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá. He is a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, an NSF CAREER Awardee, and a winner of the MAA National Haimo Award for Teaching in the US, and a recipient of the Premio Nacional de Ciencias and Premio Nacional de Matemáticas in his native Colombia. His research is in combinatorics and its connections to geometry, algebra, topology, and applications. Federico is constantly working towards fostering an increasingly diverse, equitable, and welcoming community of mathematicians that serves the needs of all communities. With that goal, he founded the SFSU-Colombia Combinatorics Initiative, he co-directs the MSRI-UP undergraduate research program, he hosts more than 200 hours of combinatorics lectures on YouTube, and he reads and writes about the role of mathematics in education and society. Federico has advised more than 50 thesis students; the majority of his US advisees are women, and the majority are members of underrepresented ethnic groups. These days, when he is not at work, he is probably cooking, reading, playing records, or playing marimba de chonta.

Dr. Jacqueline Hughes-Oliver is a Professor of Statistics at North Carolina State University (NC State). She earned her PhD in Statistics from NC State in 1991, following a BA in Mathematics from the University of Cincinnati in 1986. She was Director of the Exploratory Center for Cheminformatics Research at NC State (2005-2009) and was Director of Graduate Programs for the Department of Statistics at NC State (2007 to 2010). Hughes-Oliver’s methodological research focuses on prediction and classification, variable and model selection with dimension reduction, design and analysis of pooling or mixture experiments, optimal design, and spatial modeling. Application areas include drug discovery and cheminformatics, environmental modeling, transportation modeling, engineering manufacturing, genomics, and metabolomics. Hughes-Oliver is passionate about outreach to underrepresented groups in the mathematical and statistical sciences. She has an extensive service record to conferences and workshops such as StatFest, Field of Dreams, Infinite Possibilities, Joint Statistical Meetings Diversity Program and Mentoring Workshop, and ENAR Diversity Workshop. She also currently serves on a number of boards focused on broadening participation, including the National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences, and the African Diaspora Joint Mathematics Workshop (ADJOINT). Hughes-Oliver is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and a recipient of the Blackwell-Tapia Prize. 

Dr. Emily Riehl (she/her) is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore working on higher category theory, abstract homotopy theory, and homotopy type theory. She has mentored one postdoctoral fellow, four PhD students, one masters student, and has led reading courses with half a dozen undergraduates, starting as a mentor for the Directed Reading Program while in grad school at the University of Chicago. She has been mentored by too many wonderful people to name at each stage of her mathematical development. As a postdoc, she founded the Kan Extension Seminar, an online graduate reading course in category theory. At present, she serves as the organizer for the Johns Hopkins Category Theory Seminar, an expository seminar aimed at graduate students.

Panel #2: Models for orienting graduate students

The goal of this panel is to share robust models for orienting and enculturating first-year graduate students into the practice and culture of the mathematical sciences at the graduate and research levels, as well as setting norms and expectations for students as members of their department. Panelists will share details about the history, goals, structures, and outcomes of such efforts in their departments.

Dr. Silas Alben has been a professor in the mathematics department at the University of Michigan since 2012, and was previously an assistant professor at Georgia Tech. He has been the director of the Applied and Interdisciplinary Mathematics graduate program at Michigan since 2015. In this role he advises Master’s and Ph.D. students and oversees their progress through their respective programs. He is an applied mathematician working in fluid and solid mechanics inspired by biolocomotion, and has received a Sloan Fellowship and funding from the National Science Foundation and Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

John Peca-Medlin is a PhD student in mathematics at UC Irvine, studying random matrix theory and its applications to problems in numerical analysis, physical system modeling, and number theory. His advisors are Mike Cranston and Tom Trogdon. Next fall he will be the Richard Pierce Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Arizona. Prior to UCI, John received an AB in mathematics from the University of Chicago. He then worked in educational research at the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center with Washington State University and as a data analyst in the Office of Research at the University of Washington. This year, John is the inaugural COMP (Community, Outreach, and Mentoring Program) Fellow for the math department at UCI. COMP is a student-led program designed to foster community and inclusivity within the math department through organized social events and weekly seminars on topics ranging from student health and well-being to broader social issues that affect the mathematical community.

Dr. Kim Ruane: “I am a first generation college student with a “colorful” past. As an undergraduate, I remember calling the Graduate Director of a program I had hoped to attend for my Ph.D. and when he asked me about my GRE scores, I said, “what are those?” His response, “how did you get my number?” This was the beginning of my journey. I am currently serving as Chair of the Mathematics Department at Tufts. I served as the Graduate Director of our program for 7 years and I am proud to say that we transformed —and continue to transform—our program into a community where students have a voice and a support system. I wish I could take all of the credit for the good stuff, but almost all of our success can be traced back to student initiatives that our department supported. Our students formed the OGSM (Organization for Graduate Students in Mathematics) and this has been an important structure that fosters solid communication between the graduate students and the faculty. Our students developed and now run a Graduate Development Seminar for all first students which helps first year students acclimate to the department. This is a formal course on the books, required of all first year Ph.D. students that includes teacher training, mentoring by senior students, discussions about how to choose an advisor, how to do research and many other things. The Graduate Committee selects two Head TAs that serve as the instructors of record for this course each year and we have a faculty member who serves as an advisor for the course. I have advised both Masters and Ph.D. students over the years.  It is truly one of the most rewarding parts of my job.”

Panel #3: Experiences and perspectives of graduate student labor union organizers

The panel will present some of the basics of graduate student labor unions, share successes and setbacks panelists have had in trying to improve student working conditions and lives through organizing, and share ways that faculty members support their students’ efforts in organizing.

Dr. Claudio Gómez-Gonzáles is a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California at Irvine, working with Jesse Wolfson and Nathan Kaplan in arithmetic topology, and will begin in the Fall as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Carleton College. Before that, Claudio earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago as a student of Benson Farb. While in graduate school, Claudio was an organizer with and later President of Graduate Students United, the labor union representing graduate workers at the University. He was also a co-founding organizer of the UChicago Labor Council, a coalition of unions and community organizations, and has both trained and organized with various academic unions and mutual aid groups over the last four years. Today, he is a proud member of UAW Local 5810.

Amzi Jeffs: “I am a fifth-year PhD student in Mathematics at UW Seattle, studying discrete and convex geometry under Isabella Novik. I am also a Head Steward and Bargaining Team member with UAW 4121, the union of graduate students, academic workers, and postdocs at UW. Our union has won important improvements to equity at UW, including access gender-affirming healthcare, mental healthcare, and robust protections from discrimination and harassment. In our current contract negotiations we are fighting to extend these victories, and make UW’s wages competitive with peer schools so that academic workers and grad students (especially those from underrepresented backgrounds) can afford to live in Seattle. I am also active in local political movements such as Tax Amazon, the People’s Budget, and the Kshama Solidarity Campaign, which are crucial extensions of our work on campus.”

Liz Tatum: “I’m a PhD student in the UIUC math department. My research interests are in algebraic topology, particularly chromatic homotopy theory. I have also been an active member of the GEO, our graduate student labor union. In particular, I helped to organize the math graduate students during our 2018 strike, and helped to coordinate our picket lines.”

Conference participants

The conference will be held April 23-26, 2021. Sessions will happen at 2pm and 4pm ET on each day of the conference. All of the session will happen in the same Zoom room; the link will be included in the conference welcome email.

Friday, April 23Saturday, April 24Sunday, April 25Monday, April 26
1:45-2:00pm ETWelcome and
opening remarks
2-3pm ETPanel #1:
Transition to research
Shirley Malcom
Panel #2:
Orienting first-year students
Panel #3:
Graduate student labor unions
3-4pm ETBreak and informal
Break and informal
Break and informal
Break and informal
4-5pm ETPlenary:
Erica J. Graham
Lightning talksReading groupsPlenary:
Kasso Okoudjou & Francis Su

Friday, April 23

The Zoom waiting room will be open at least 15 minutes before sessions begin. All times Eastern time.

1:45pm Welcome and opening remarks Kevin Corlette, IMSI
Ruth Charney, AMS
2:00pm Panel #1: Transition to research Federico Ardila, Jacqueline Hughes-Oliver, Emily Riehl, Bianca Viray (moderator)
3:00pm Break and informal networking
4:00pm Plenary Erica J. Graham

The Black Lives Matter movement, and many like it, has sparked words and work toward dismantling the racist structures woven into the fabric of our society at large. The academic discipline of mathematics–alongside many institutions of higher education–has also reached a point of reckoning in its history of institutionalizing racism. At the core of reshaping the field and realizing transformative, long-lasting change is the necessity of persistent and active anti-racist work. In this talk, I will review my ‘Five Ws and How’ for anti-racism in mathematics and discuss how these fit into a framework of graduate education.

Mathematics, We Have a Problem

Saturday, April 24

2:00pmPlenaryShirley Malcom

Looking especially at historical pathways for mathematicians of color, I want to look at baccalaureate origins of doctorates, patterns of participation, the role of mentors as well as community building. I will also explore issues related to the “culture of the discipline” as a possible barrier to diversity, equity and inclusion and, drawing on the goals of SEA Change, reflect on transformative actions that might be undertaken to make mathematics more inclusive.

Real Analysis: Why Isn’t There More Diversity in Mathematics Graduate Education?
3:00pmBreak and informal networking
4:00pmLightning talksSpeakers, titles, and abstracts

Sunday, April 25

2:00pmPanel #2: Orienting first-year studentsSilas Alben, John Peca-Medlin, Kim Ruane, Matthew Ando (moderator)
3:00pmBreak and informal networking
4:00pmReading groupsThe AMS’s Task Force report
(pages 1-13 of the report, which are pages 9-21 of the pdf)

Monday, April 26

2:00pmPanel #3: Graduate student labor unionsClaudio Gómez-Gonzáles, Amzi Jeffs, Liz Tatum, Marissa Loving (moderator)
3:00pmBreak and informal networking
4:00pmConference photo, closing remarks, plenaryKasso Okoudjou, Francis Su

The AMS Task Force on Understanding and Documenting the Historical Role of the AMS in Racial Discrimination recently released its report: Towards a Fully Inclusive Mathematics Profession. We co-chaired this Task Force, and we encourage you to read it. The report has implications beyond AMS—in particular, there are implications for graduate programs, which play an important role in determining the future of our profession. We will share some of our reflections on the report and suggest steps that graduate programs can take to build an inclusive culture. After a short presentation to generate dialogue about our findings, we will encourage conversation, Q&A, and brainstorming.

The Role of Graduate Programs in Moving Towards a Fully Inclusive Mathematics Profession

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