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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: Location, Location, Location
October 21, 2010 - 6:37pm

Statistical measures such as “mean”, “median” and “mode” are measures that give us a sense of where data are located on a number line. They are therefore, sometimes, called “measures of location”. I had to think of them this past week as Ursuline College prepares to host the meeting of the Ohio Division of the Mathematical Association of America, which, for the first time in its history, will be located at our small college campus. A group of math professors from throughout Ohio will be descending on our campus this weekend, and my colleague in the math department is responsible for not only arranging to have the conference come to our campus, but also is responsible for taking care of many of the details that go with planning a conference. Always more of a “big picture” person than one who can deal with minutia, I am in awe of the job she is doing. Her involvement ranges from finding work study students to handle registration to arranging to make coffee and hot chocolate herself rather than pay a high price to have it made for the conference. I certainly could never have done such a good job, and I look forward to watching the conference unfold on our campus that is temporarily missing students, who are on a “fall break.”

When my colleague joined us at Ursuline almost ten years ago, she immediately signed up to have her membership in the Mathematical Association of America transferred to her new Ursuline College address. However, when she filled out the form to do so, she was unable to find Ursulline College on the list of Ohio campuses from which to choose. She found herself checking “other”, and then writing in the name of “Ursuline College.” That would have to change, she recalls thinking!

Over the years, she became involved in the M.A.A. in many ways, such as making a commitment to attend their Ohio conferences and serving on the Curriculum committee for Ohio. She was able to take the knowledge she gained from these experiences and bring them back to Ursuline as we revised our own curriculum and began encouraging students to enroll in graduate programs in mathematics. These were years when I took a “sabbatical” from conferences because I had a young child, so I admired the work she was doing with the organization, and how she was expanding her influence in the field beyond our classrooms. It was not long before the name “Ursuline College” was added to the list of colleges in Ohio that appeared on the application for the Mathematical Association of America.

But that obviously was not enough for her. Several years ago, when the year 2010 seemed like another lifetime away, she volunteered to host the MAA meeting on our small (but picturesque) campus. She laughs now at the fact that she was given the advice to “be sure to delegate” the work, since we are a two (full time) person department, and there aren’t many people to delegate to. Instead, she arranged to take a sabbatical this semester, and is using some of that sabbatical time to help make the conference unfold.

When the professors attending the conference arrive this weekend, they will see a beautiful little campus in the suburbs outside of Cleveland, Ohio. At its center is a small lake with a fountain in the middle, where geese and ducks are our constant companions. Most of the conference will be held in a very new building, with a beautiful stained glass window commemorating our alumna, Sr. Dorthy Kazel, who died a martyr while working with the poor in El Salvador in 1980. I have heard visiting friends say that there is an air of peace about the campus, something that I am sure our visitors will sense as they settle into several days of talking about math.

I will be there for some of the time, but not for all of it, since I don’t want to take that much time away from my weekend with my family. For those who will be there the whole time, there are speakers on some very interesting topics, such as the relationship between music and math, a discussion topic that I tried (with mixed results) to bring up the last time I taught History of Math. And so, dear math professors descending on Pepper Pike, Ohio, this weekend, Welcome to Ursuline College! May you have a wonderful weekend at what is a very beautiful location!


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