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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: March Madness in the Suburbs of Ohio

Wishing the athletes good luck.

March 3, 2016

When I was in graduate school, I sometimes used a program that came to statistical conclusions using an iterative procedure. If I remember correctly, these iterations, where the results are derived from earlier results, reminded me of the process we are about to enter in the next few weeks, often called “March Madness.” For, in the next few weeks, basketball teams will meet and play games, with each moving on to the next level depending on who wins games at the previous level. This is a phenomenon that is at the front of the minds of many members of the Ursuline College community these days, as Ursuline just achieved the most wins in its division for its own basketball conference. We will therefore go on to host the playoffs, which began last night and will continue throughout the weekend.  This is a huge milestone for our small women’s college best known for its nursing program. If all goes well, the team will go on to participate in the “brackets” for which March is best known. Many of the faculty will be at the games to cheer on the team. The students, of course, will be there, too.

When I first arrived on campus in 1998, the school was a very different place. Most faculty shared offices, there were five less buildings, and the cafeteria was located off to one side of campus, up a hill that sometimes seemed to be at the top of a mountain. And, perhaps most importantly, there were no sports. In response to my surprise at this, I heard more senior faculty tell me that the prevailing attitude was that young women did not want to be competitive! Luckily, our previous college president noticed that young women indeed, did want to participate in sports, and so she brought sports to campus, somewhere in the middle of building new classroom buildings, a new dorm and a new cafeteria that serves healthy food. It was not long until the college looked very different from the one that I arrived at almost twenty years ago. By the summer of 2013, with our acceptances into Division II of the NCAA, our president smiled and mused to those around her, “now all I need is a new gym.” Little did we know what the future held for our tiny campus!

 We are a small college that makes very good financial decisions, so, as much as our former president might have wished for a new gym to go with our new status, everyone knew that there was no way that the school would have chosen to invest in building a new gym at that time. But then, we are also a school founded by theists, and God seemed to have some different ideas than would have been proposed by the very frugal administrators. And so, in the early hours of July 20th, 2013, a tornado tore through the suburbs of Ohio, harming no one and damaging only the property of Ursuline College. The old gym, built for intermural sports in the 1970s, was destroyed. The tornado also damaged some academic buildings and rendered the swimming pool unsafe, and it was soon clear that the pool would need to be removed, making space for a new gym. When the wind died down and the situation was assessed, it was clear that Ursuline could now take the next step towards becoming a Division II sports power. The story of how our new gym was built is told in a newspaper article that has our current president describing our gym as a “phoenix” arising from the ashes.

I am off campus this semester, so I have not seen any students who are basketball players. I therefore want to take a moment to wish those players the best of luck as they play this weekend. I wonder if those people who, years ago, said that young women did not want to be competitive will be taking note. I know that my daughter and her own (much younger) basketball team will be. And, just maybe, perhaps, someday, at least one of them will be also suiting up to participate in a conference-wide tournament.


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