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Release: April 30, 2001

UI math department wins $173,000 federal grant for minorities

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa department of mathematics has won a three-year, $173,000 GAANN (Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to assist in training minority doctoral candidates in mathematics. The latest award is the fourth GAANN grant the department has received over the past six years, bringing the total of such grants to more than $1.5 million.

The grants, which provide full funding for minority graduate students, are designed to help increase the number of minority mathematics professors nationwide. At the UI, underrepresented U.S. minority students presently account for 25 percent of the math department's graduate student population, a statistic that has attracted national attention, according to UI Mathematics Professor Paul Muhly.

"The hard work of our faculty, staff and students in winning four GAANN grants, combined with the GAANN grants themselves, is responsible for the University of Iowa's position of national leadership in training minority doctoral candidates in mathematics. We anticipate that some of these doctoral students will go on to assume leadership positions in higher education," Muhly says. "Two of our previous graduates who now teach in Puerto Rico are currently sending us students for our graduate program."

He estimates that of some 1,100 doctorates in mathematics earned at U.S. colleges and universities each year, only about 25 are earned by African-American or Hispanic students. Muhly says that because those two minority groups account for 25 of the UI's current mathematics graduate students, Iowa is in a position to make a significant contribution to the national minority mathematics effort.

Examples of the UI math department's rise to local and national prominence abound.

Currently, the department has a partnership with the mathematics department of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Fla. to create a seamless transition between the curricula of the two departments for the purpose of producing African American doctoral candidates in mathematics. The partnership with the historically black institution involves faculty and student exchanges.

At the April 2000 David Blackwell and Richard Tapia Conference hosted by Cornell University's Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute, current Cornell President and former UI President Hunter R. Rawlings recognized the UI math program and UI Math Professor Herbert Hethcote for contributing to the training of minorities in the mathematical sciences. UI Mathematics Professor Eugene Madison, chair of the department's Committee for Minority Student Recruitment and Development, accepted the award on behalf of the department.

In 1999 the UI department of mathematics was one of two winners of the university's inaugural Catalyst Award, presented by the UI Office of Affirmative Action to individuals or organizations for work in diversity.

In January 2001, the Committee for Minority Student Recruitment and Development in the University of Iowa department of mathematics held its first annual Martin Luther King Celebration. The activity included reports on the department's diversity activities and future initiatives, as well as informal accounts of the role of African Americans in the field of mathematics at Iowa and across the country.