UR professors create program to advance women in math

October 12, 2017

Della DumbaughUniversity of Richmond mathematics professors Della Dumbaugh and Heather M. Russell have been awarded a National Science Foundation sponsored grant for a program designed to advance women in mathematics.

“Leveling Up: Building Commmunity and Confidence,” focuses on women students at all points in the mathematics curriculum, but especially those enrolled in two courses: “Multivariate Calculus” and “Linear Algebra.”

“These courses represent critical transitions in mathematical thinking where students are challenged to ‘level up’ and move beyond the computational to the theoretical,” Russell explained.

Dumbaugh and Russell note that more than half of all American students who begin in STEM fields drop out in their first or second year.  

“If women feel unconfident or uncomfortable, they may feel deterred from continuing their undergraduate studies in math,” Dumbaugh said. “Our project aims to address this issue by making the classroom a key place for advancing women in math.” 

Heather RussellWith a focus on mentoring, increasing confidence and strengthening core knowledge, Dumbaugh and Russell proposed strategies that create positive peer relationships for first and second year students and build confidence from the inside out within the broader community of women in mathematics at UR. For example, study groups will pair students with women mentors from previous classes.  

Dumbaugh and Russell hope this program will also serve as a step toward larger initiatives that broaden representation in math and STEM.

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This program is being funded through a National Science Foundation Includes “WATCH US” grant, which stands for Women Achieving Through Community Hubs. NSF INCLUDES is a comprehensive national initiative designed to enhance U.S. leadership in STEM discoveries and innovations focused on NSF's commitment to diversity, inclusion, and broadening participation in these fields.