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EDGE Program for Female Mathematicians Receives $290,000 NSF Grant; Professor Ami Radunskaya Named Co-Director

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This summer, female mathematicians who are starting Ph.D. programs will convene at Pomona for 25 days as part of the Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) summer workshop and mentoring program, of which Professor of Mathematics Ami Radunskaya is now a co-director. The program recently received a $290,000 National Science Foundation grant and a $17,500 National Security Agency grant that will fund it through 2012.

Pomona has twice hosted the summer conference before, once in 2003 and again in 2008. "We think of everyone in the program as a 'participant,'" says Radunskaya, "not just the students starting graduate school. This reflects our belief that what we need to do in order to support the diversity we desperately need in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields is to build a community that will slowly change the current culture."

Each summer program has 22 participants, including 14 new graduate students, three peer leaders (more advanced graduate students), four workshop facilitators (visiting or local faculty), and one session leader (local faculty). During the 13 years the EDGE program has existed, 163 women have gone through the program with 39 finishing their doctorate degree and at least 98 finishing their Masters. Radunskaya notes that many more are "in the pipeline."

Three Pomona alumnae have participated in the program, says Radunskaya. Omayra Ortega ’01 has successfully completed her Ph.D. and is now a tenure-track professor at Arizona State University, and Biji Wong ’03 is a Ph.D. student at Brandeis University and Cara Mullen ’07 is a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

“Another huge benefit of the Pomona College connection is that EDGE participants come here and get to know Claremont a bit. This increases their chance of wanting to work here—a wonderful thing for us since this is an amazing pool of unusually talented women,” says Radunskaya, who notes that Assistant Professor of Mathematics Talithia Williams at Harvey Mudd College was an EDGE participant.

EDGE also provides the participants with ongoing mentoring and support through their graduate experiences and beyond, including workshops and symposia for new faculty. Other EDGE activities include outreach at universities to encourage undergraduates to go on to graduate school; support for "mini sabbaticals" which allow new Ph.D.s to visit with research collaborators; and visits to graduate programs to brainstorm with graduate directors on how to support their own graduate cohorts.

The ongoing mentor program offers eight mentoring clusters throughout the United States. "Our local Southern California cluster supports, for example, the WIMSoCal symposium, a one-day conference where women mathematicians give research talks, meet each other, and exchange words of wisdom and encouragement," says Radunskaya, who co-directs the program with Professor Ulrica Wilson of Morehouse College.

The EDGE summer workshop will be held at Pomona College from June 4 to June 29, 2012. The deadline for application is February 27, 2012. More information can be found at www.edgeforwomen.org.