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Pomona College Hosts Program to Increase Success of Minority Women Students in Graduate Mathematics Programs "Giving the EDGE to Women in Mathematics"

From June 5 through July 3, Pomona College will host EDGE 2008, a national program designed to increase the number of women students successfully completing graduate programs in the mathematical sciences. This unique program, Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE), is structured to provide an academic bridge from undergraduate to graduate school and to prepare students for the distinctively different academic culture awaiting the small number of women who choose to study mathematics.

According to Ami Radunskaya, a Pomona College professor of mathematics and the 2008 program coordinator, "While women constitute 31 percent of students earning Ph.D. degrees in mathematical sciences, minority women in math Ph.D. programs equal only 1.5 percent of total. Because so few minority women enter the Ph.D. system, it's critical that they have the tools to complete their studies. This program helps ensure their success, by giving them a realistic understanding of what is expected of them in graduate school, by reinforcing fundamental concepts and by providing them with a critical support network."

Fourteen women will participate in the 2008 program at Pomona College, the program’s only West Coast host. The program was founded in 1998 as a special project of the Mathematics Departments of Bryn Mawr and Spelman Colleges. More than 100 women, with approximately half from underrepresented minority groups, have already completed the program. Among the 50 EDGE participants in the program’s first five years, 14 have already earned Ph.D.s and only eight percent discontinued their studies without earning the master's degree.

In order to realize its goals, the EDGE provides prospective female graduate students with a clear understanding of what will be expected of them in graduate school, basic tools needed to increase both their confidence and their ability to compete in graduate school, a support network, a broad perspective about mathematics and its connections to other disciplines, and an understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses under stress, in group study, and in a competitive environment.

A special feature of the summer session is a reunion weekend when the new participants can hear first-hand the experiences of 2006 EDGE participants from their first two years in graduate school.

In addition, participants in the 2008 program will receive a stipend of $2000, plus travel, room and board. According to Radunskaya, the stipend is really critical in allowing participants to attend the program. "Many of the students we're trying to help," explains Radunskaya, "often have to work in the summer to pay their way through graduate school. The stipend is the only way some of these women are able to take advantage of the program."

EDGE (Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education) was founded by Sylvia Bozeman, a professor at Spelman College, and Rhonda Hughes, a professor at Bryn Mawr, who continue as the program's co-directors. Financial support is provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Science Foundation, with a significant contribution by Pomona College.

Pomona College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, participates in several community outreach programs through admissions including the Posse Foundation and Questbridge, and as a location for College Bound. Pomona College’s own outreach program, Summer Scholars Enrichment Program, for rising tenth-twelfth graders who are underrepresented at liberal arts colleges, enters its sixth year this summer. Pomona College was founded in 1887 and offers to its regular students, a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Hallmarks of a Pomona education include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.

From June 5 through July 3, Pomona College will host EDGE 2008, a national program designed to increase the number of women students successfully completing graduate programs in the mathematical sciences. This unique program, Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE), is structured to provide an academic bridge from undergraduate to graduate school and to prepare students for the distinctively different academic culture awaiting the small number of women who choose to study mathematics.

According to Ami Radunskaya, a Pomona College professor of mathematics and the 2008 program coordinator, "While women constitute 31 percent of students earning Ph.D. degrees in mathematical sciences, minority women in math Ph.D. programs equal only 1.5 percent of total. Because so few minority women enter the Ph.D. system, it's critical that they have the tools to complete their studies. This program helps ensure their success, by giving them a realistic understanding of what is expected of them in graduate school, by reinforcing fundamental concepts and by providing them with a critical support network."

Fourteen women will participate in the 2008 program at Pomona College, the program’s only West Coast host. The program was founded in 1998 as a special project of the Mathematics Departments of Bryn Mawr and Spelman Colleges. More than 100 women, with approximately half from underrepresented minority groups, have already completed the program. Among the 50 EDGE participants in the program’s first five years, 14 have already earned Ph.D.s and only eight percent discontinued their studies without earning the master's degree.

In order to realize its goals, the EDGE provides prospective female graduate students with a clear understanding of what will be expected of them in graduate school, basic tools needed to increase both their confidence and their ability to compete in graduate school, a support network, a broad perspective about mathematics and its connections to other disciplines, and an understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses under stress, in group study, and in a competitive environment.

A special feature of the summer session is a reunion weekend when the new participants can hear first-hand the experiences of 2006 EDGE participants from their first two years in graduate school.

In addition, participants in the 2008 program will receive a stipend of $2000, plus travel, room and board. According to Radunskaya, the stipend is really critical in allowing participants to attend the program. "Many of the students we're trying to help," explains Radunskaya, "often have to work in the summer to pay their way through graduate school. The stipend is the only way some of these women are able to take advantage of the program."

EDGE (Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education) was founded by Sylvia Bozeman, a professor at Spelman College, and Rhonda Hughes, a professor at Bryn Mawr, who continue as the program's co-directors. Financial support is provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Science Foundation, with a significant contribution by Pomona College.

Pomona College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, participates in several community outreach programs through admissions including the Posse Foundation and Questbridge, and as a location for College Bound. Pomona College’s own outreach program, Summer Scholars Enrichment Program, for rising tenth-twelfth graders who are underrepresented at liberal arts colleges, enters its sixth year this summer. Pomona College was founded in 1887 and offers to its regular students, a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Hallmarks of a Pomona education include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.