Screen readers: Two navigational links to follow.Skip to site navigation.Skip to page content.
The University of Iowa News Services
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release


April 14, 2008

UI Mathematics Department wins national award for minority recruitment

The University of Iowa Department of Mathematics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) has received one of the most prestigious awards of its kind -- the 2008 AMS Award for an Exemplary Program or Achievement in a Mathematics Department from the American Mathematical Society (AMS). The award cites the department as "a national leader in recruiting and developing underrepresented U.S. minority doctoral students in mathematics."

The UI award is the third such AMS recognition, with previous honors having gone to Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, Calif., in 2006 and the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2007.

"The mathematics community is fortunate to have the University of Iowa present such an outstanding example of an exemplary program in a mathematics department," the citation reads.

UI President Sally Mason said the award recognizes an outstanding UI program involving diversity, a UI focal point.

"Diversity is at the heart of our educational mission," Mason said. "In order to integrate diverse intellectual perspectives, we must develop the social and cultural diversity of our university community. I often say that diversity is something that must be part of the fabric of our everyday work, and that we all need to ask ourselves every day what we are doing to improve diversity. The Department of Mathematics is a model for the entire university in a daily commitment to diversity. This well-deserved award is a great honor for the department, and the university is proud of and inspired by this important achievement."

Said CLAS Dean Linda Maxson, "I applaud the leadership the Department of Mathematics has shown in recruiting and mentoring a diverse graduate student body. Other departments at our university, other Iowa institutions, and mathematics departments nationwide have benefited from the energy and creativity that our mathematics faculty has shown in fostering an environment in which a diverse student body can thrive. Their efforts have achieved, and will continue to achieve, excellence through diversity."

According to Department of Mathematics Chair Yi Li, the award is the result of hard work by many individuals.

"The Department of Mathematics is honored and pleased with this national award recognizing its mentoring of graduate students and its commitment to providing equal opportunity for underrepresented minorities," Li said. "We are committed to continue working tirelessly in these efforts with the support of all department faculty members and graduate students, as well as support from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the university as a whole."

In a news release announcing the award, the AMS told how the UI is making a difference in mathematics nationwide. "Starting in 1995, the department made a concerted effort to recruit minority students. But it didn't just recruit the students and let them sink or swim. The department listened to what the students had to say about their struggles and achievements, what was missing from their mathematical backgrounds, and how they fit in socially. Using this feedback, the department reoriented its graduate program to make student success the top priority.  In the process, it created a welcoming, supportive environment that has raised the level of achievement of all students.

"Over the past decade, the University of Iowa mathematics department produced about one percent of the total number of mathematics doctorates granted in the United States, and about four percent of those granted to students who are members of underrepresented minorities.  During that time, 12 minority students received Ph.D.s at Iowa. The year 2002-03 was especially noteworthy: That year, three minority students received their Ph.D.s in the department, and this number represented roughly 10 percent of the math doctorates awarded nationally to U.S. minority students during that year. Today, about a quarter of the department's approximately 115 graduate students are minority, and about 40 percent are women."

The AMS award is the most recent in a continuing series of honors won by the UI Department of Mathematics.

In 2006, the UI Department of Mathematicians won a prestigious five-year, $3 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to help train high-quality U.S. mathematicians. Called VIGRE (Vertical Integration of Research and Education), the project is one of only three such grants awarded annually across the country. The project builds upon recognized UI success with the goal of developing a model for research university mathematics programs nationwide.

Also, in 2006, Philip Kutzko, CLAS Collegiate Fellow and professor of mathematics, won the "Faculty Mentor of the Year" Award from the Southern Regional Education Board-Alliances for Graduate Education in the Professoriate Doctoral Scholars Program.

And in 2005, the Department of Mathematics earned nationwide recognition when it received one of 14 2004 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring presented at the White House in Washington, D.C. Supported and administered by the NSF, the award was the only one of its kind presented to an academic department in 2005 and included a $10,000 grant for continued mentoring work and a presidential commemorative certificate. The department won the award for its work with U.S. minority graduate students.

The AMS award, established in 2004 and given for the first time in 2006, recognizes a department undertaking an unusual or particularly effective program of value to the mathematics community, internally or in relation to the rest of society. Founded in 1888 to further mathematical research and scholarship, the AMS has more than 30,000 members.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,