Department of Mathematics and Statistics

A small group of faculty, working under the name JEDI Knights (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion [Carleton] Knights), began the year by having a listening session with a small group of departmental alumni of color both on Zoom and on email. 

What we heard:

  • Although she wasn’t looking for people with a common experience, one woman found community in SWiMS (the predecessor of GeMMS which is Gender Minorities in Math and Stats).  She enjoyed being a mentor in SWiMS and learning from Carleton alumni about their professions.  She would suggest a similar type of group for students of color.
  • One participant said she didn’t find that students were rude to her because she was a particular ethnicity, but she did feel that she received microaggressions because she is a woman.
  • An alum suggested we have a Tour talk or a 2-credit course on Ethics of Math/Stats.
  • An alum had an English prof who said kind and encouraging things to them; they thought that faculty shouldn’t just pick out students of color but should be encouraging to all students.  They thought paired mentoring like GeMMS does would be really great and agreed that a student group for students of color could be helpful.
  • One alum suggested we gather data on where in the four years we lose students of color to mathematics/statistics.
  • We heard that talking about and being aware of students of color is good for community health.
  • The alumni appreciated when professors from the next natural class would advertise in the prerequisite class so that they could meet their next potential professor and hear a bit about what the next class would be like.
  • We heard that hiring faculty with more diversity is very important, though white faculty members can be mentors for students of color as well.
  • We heard that hiring more faculty who can do research with students is important.
  •  We heard that a Tour talk on how to combat racial microaggressions could be helpful.

Actions we took in 2021-22:

  • Starting in the Fall of 2021, each term our department offered a loaning library with texts from some of the intro-level classes that can be borrowed for the term by students for whom it would be a financial hardship to purchase the textbooks. 
  • We held listening sessions with departmental alumni of color (see above).
  • We used a Tour of Math talk time to discuss rehumanizing mathematics and making all feel welcome in our classrooms.  Led by Claudio Gómez-Gonzáles and using some video clips of Rochelle Gútierrez, the hour was an honest and heartfelt conversation between students about the importance of making mathematics and the mathematics classroom welcoming for all.  Approximately 45 students attended.
  • The JEDI bookshelf in the Math Skills Center was started to offer students interesting literature about the ethical use of mathematics and statistics, and making the subjects open for all.
  • In our tenure track hiring this year, we listened to the student call for faculty who have, as our ad said, “a demonstrated commitment to attracting and retaining students from underserved groups and who will contribute to our vibrant college-wide culture of undergraduate research.” We hired two new mathematicians of color which, when taken with our current early-career POC faculty member in the department, helps to move our faculty demographics to more closely track the student population.
  • We added an additional section of Math 101 each year to decrease the class size for this introduction to calculus for students who need some review of high school mathematics ideas along the way.
  • We began experimenting with using TAs and prefects in some of our introductory classes as an additional avenue of support for our students.
  • We awarded the first Sy Schuster Prize for Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion in our department. 

Next Steps for 2022-23:

  • We plan to continue and slightly expand the textbook loaning library.
  • We plan to continue holding listening sessions each year with a select subset of students, alumni, and faculty of color.
  • We plan to run another Tour talk on a discussion of an EDI topic.
  • We plan to continue to encourage faculty a) to seek out opportunities to encourage all students to continue with their math/stats studies, b) to give microaffirmations, and c) to help make the transition from one class to the next more welcoming.
  • We plan to continue experimenting with using TAs and prefects in some of our introductory classes.
  • We plan to launch a student group in mathematics and statistics for students of color.