Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Women in math

A program to promote women pursuing careers in the male-dominated field of mathematics that was founded by Assistant Professor of Mathematics Rachelle DeCoste has won a grant from the National Security Agency (NSA).

The $12,000 award from the NSA will help fund the Career Mentoring Workshop, which is scheduled to take place at the end of June. The three-day gathering prepares women who are Ph.D. candidates in math for their job search and creates a network of mentors and peers.

“I am excited that we are able to continue the mentoring after taking last summer off due to lack of funding,” Professor DeCoste said. “I’m also particularly excited to host the workshop in our new spaces in the Mars Center for Science and Technology!”

DeCoste, who joined the Wheaton faculty in 2008 after teaching at the United States Military Academy at West Point, was inspired to create the workshop because of her own experiences. She conducted the first mentoring workshop at West Point last August.

“After I finished my Ph.D.,” she said, “I would run into women I knew from graduate school or other math programs I had been affiliated with as they were finishing their Ph.D.s, and they were on the job market. They would have the usual stress that goes with finding a job and felt like they had no one they could talk to. So I would share my experience honestly, and that included discussing all the doubts I had. A couple of them told me afterward that these honest, open discussions really helped them.”

Twelve to 15 participants are invited to each summer’s workshop. Five junior faculty members from various academic institutions will mentor participants throughout the workshop. The mentors are women who have recently finished their own Ph.D.s and who now work in academia. These women will share their experiences of finishing their degrees and navigating the job search. Additional senior mathematicians will be invited to work with the participants as well.

Throughout the years, the program’s funding has been provided by the MAA/Tensor Foundation Program, Wheaton College, the United States Military Academy, the EDGE Program, and the Summer Math Program at Carleton College.