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The New American University: Mentorship in the Mathematical Sciences

For eleven years the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute (MTBI) has mentored over consecutive summers a highly diverse group of undergraduate students (277) who had not yet been tracked into selective mathematics programs. The goal of MTBI programs is to increase the number of underrepresented US minorities with doctorates in the mathematical sciences. MTBI participants in general have been juniors or seniors, have come primarily from “non-selective” colleges and universities; and have had either a solid, very good or outstanding academic record. MTBI alumni while undergraduates often lacked access to a high level academic curricula and most often had no clear idea of the challenges and opportunities awaiting for them in the mathematical sciences. Participants have included a high percentage of individuals from underrepresented US minority groups and women but these groups of undergraduate participants have always included members of most ethnic groups and some international participants. MTBI’s recurrent system of mentorship has held its critically important summer camp for the past eleven summers with the institutional support of Cornell University(1996 − 2002), Cornell University - Los Alamos National Laboratory (2003), Arizona State University - Los Alamos (2004 − 2005) and Arizona State University(2006− ). The results have been equally successful regardless of the location. A summary is provided below. Funding has come from the National Security Agency, the National Science Foundation, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Alfred T. Sloan Foundation, and the offices of the provosts of Cornell University and Arizona State University. In 2005, MTBI/SUMS alumni received 10 Ph.D.s in the mathematical sciences, 7 of which were awarded to members of underrepresented minority groups. Seven now hold postdoctoral positions (including six underrepresented US minorities) at selective institutions and one a tenure-track faculty position in Puerto Rico. The 2005 class of MTBI Ph.D.’s includes four “Latinas” and one African American woman. Wherever this type of student success becomes systemic is an open question.  Why has the MTBI model worked?  What are the best examples of MTBI mentorship efforts? What has MTBI become an important contributor to the efforts that have resulted in the establishment of large graduate student communities of mathematicians at Arizona State University, the University of Iowa and Cornell University? These questions will be addressed briefly in this manuscript.

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Carlos Castillo-Chavez - Arizona State University
Carlos W. Castillo-Garsow - Arizona State University