New program encourages minority students pursuing mathematics careers

Sep 11, 2015

North Central College minority students pursuing careers in mathematics are getting a boost from a new program that invites professional mathematicians to discuss their research with students.

The Minorities in Mathematics Speaker Series (MIMSS) also will create networking and mentoring opportunities that will benefit underrepresented students. This MIMSS program is funded by a grant from the Mathematical Association of America’s Tensor-SUMMA Program, initiated by mathematics faculty at North Central College, the United States Military Academy (West Point) and Youngstown State University (YSU).

Marco V. Martinez, North Central assistant professor of mathematics, participated in project NExT, a professional development program for new or recent Ph.D.s in the mathematical sciences. There he met two Latina mathematicians, Pamela Harris of West Point and Alicia Prieto-Langarica of YSU.

“Our areas of research are very different, but we share a passion for making the mathematical community more diverse,” says Martinez. “We also share the fact that we’re among the few minority professors at our home institutions.”

In 2014, Martinez, Harris and Prieto-Langarica decided to work together on a way to expose students to a more diverse group of researchers in mathematics. Their efforts resulted in the MIMSS project and grant initiative.

“The goal of MIMSS is to promote the dissemination of minority mathematicians’ research and provide a venue where students can meet and interact with minority researchers invested in mentoring underrepresented students in mathematics,” says Martinez.

The invited speakers will present a talk, which incorporates their research and personal educational story as a source of motivation for students interested in pursuing graduate school and industry positions. In addition, the MIMSS program will give students the opportunity to form mentoring relationships with mathematicians outside their institution.

“An integral part of MIMSS is a mentoring lunch or dinner with faculty and students,” says Martinez. “The purpose of the mentoring meal is to continue the interaction with the invited mathematicians and students of the respective hosting institution in a more informal setting. The host faculty will spark conversation between the students and speaker with pointed questions.” Martinez notes that very little prompting is needed at such events. “Students are eager to hear more about the speakers’ academic and career life, which often leads to great conversations about challenges they faced in academics and the positive ways they overcame them.”

The schedule for the speaker series will be finalized soon. For more information contact Martinez at 630-637-5228 or

By Stephanie Snyder ’15