Spelman Mathematics

"The primary goal of the mathematics department is to teach all students to think logically and critically." So says the official website of the department of mathematics at Spelman College.

Logically, this makes math the single most important department on campus, whose dedicated and distinguished faculty are entrusted with delivering a key component of the education of every Spelman woman.

May 2013: Department of Mathematics, Spelman College.

May 2014: Dr. Nagambal "Swarna" Shah joins Dr. Sylvia Bozeman & Dr. Gladys Glass (C'58) in retirement, after 42 years on the faculty.

This website focuses on the extraordinary legacy of a century of mathematical excellence at Spelman, going back to the 1920s. It was created and is curated by longterm math dept member Colm Mulcahy, and reflects his personal take on the history of the program. See the official website of the Spelman department of mathematics for current information about math at Spelman.

See last links at the bottom here for slides and YouTube video of Colm's Jul 2020 presentation on the history of mathematics at Spelman College going back the 1920s, hosted by PRiME summer program at Pomona College run by Edray Goins.

Right now we feature the 1050+ women who have majored in math at Spelman, and who in many cases used it extensively in their subsequent careers. Soon, we will add information about the scores of faculty members who taught and mentored these women from 1924 onwards.

There are regular relevant tweets at @SpelMath, as shown below please use bar on right to scroll down to see earlier ones:

Of the over 1050 math majors that Spelman College has graduated since 1925, most of them graduated since 1970. These are all listed at the page Mathematical Spelman Grads, which also includes some non-math grads whose careers saw them work in math in some form.

Over 120 of those women are known to have gone on to earn doctorates, starting back in 1972, and these are highlighted on the companion page Mathematical Spelman Doctorates.

At least 375 other math grads have earned masters degrees (that includes 83 MBAs). Futhermore, there are numerous math majors who have qualified as MDs (17), DDS (4) or JDs (16). These are buried in the Grads page, and will be documented in a more useful way down the road.

The upshot is that about 50% of our majors (who graduated between 1927 and 2019) have successfully pursued advanced degrees.

See A Century of Mathematical Excellence at Spelman College 2017 talk slides (by Colm Mulcahy) at the AUC Digital Repository.

This is an ongoing project. Planned future additions include spin-off pages on:

Faculty (from Georgia Caldwell Smith to visitors such as Earl Barnes),

Interviews with grads and faculty,

Curriculum (when was Foundations introduced? Or Math 200? Complex Variables?),

Independent Study (our students have long explored topics outside of the curriculum with faculty guidance),

Seminar Speakers (from Paul Erdős and Fern Hunt to Evelyn Boyd Granville and Edray Goins),

and much more.

We're happy to receive comments, additions, or corrections via email.

Credit: this information has been gathered from many sources, going back to paper documentation collected by department chairs in the 1980s & 1990s, especially Teresa Edwards (C'76) and Sylvia Bozeman. Nagambal Shah, Yewande Olubummo, and department alumae Monica Stephens (C'91, also on the faculty), the late Karen King (C'91), Kim Weems (C'93), Talitha Washington (C'96), and many others have made valuable contributions.

Special thanks to Kassandra Ware and Holly Smith at the Spelman Archives, for facilitating access to some records from the first half the 20th century, and to the Archives for numerous images from decades past.

AUC library online resources feature many useful documents, including old Spelman yearbooks.

Special thanks also to James Sanders of Institutional Research for providing lists of former math majors.

Extra special thanks to Dan Bascelli for his never-wavering and cheerful assistance extracting desirable images from PDFs of old archival sources.

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