Pullman Scholar Sarah Dickey, Elmhurst College, ’20, shares her absolute love of her major, Math!

Math classes were my favorite thing in high school, and equations and graphs always made sense. So to me, it was obvious to pursue a degree based in my interests and in what made sense to me: Mathematics. Even though I’m only a freshman, I’m already involved in the Math community, and I absolutely love it.

The experiences I have had in my Math classes alone have been wonderful. Last semester in my Calculus 2 class, I found friendship in many of the other women Math majors. We formed a study group with a few others and it made me feel at home. While my class was split pretty even between guys and women last semester, my current class is all female except for one guy.  Even the professor is a woman. And I’ve got to say, I love my professor. She is really amazing and knows what she is talking about and was incredibly excited to see so many women in her class. It honestly makes me happy, too. The amount of people who look surprised or scoff at me when I tell them I am a Mathematics major is too many to count. I don’t want to be asked, “Wow, that’s really hard. Are you sure you want to do that?” I want to be encouraged and accepted for my passion, and I think the world is slowly on the way to believing that.

Because I’m a STEM major, I have the opportunity to be involved with an on-campus organization called KEYSTONE. Through this program, I have the option of taking different classes, as well as participating and applying for some really cool things. So far, I have taken two of these classes. One was a freshman-year-seminar based on Math, and the other was a freshman research class. For the research class, I was able to conduct an independent psychology experiment with a small group of students. While I worked on much of it, I was enthralled to be working with the data and all the stats that were collected. Not only was this a valuable experience, but I got to present my research at an honors undergraduate research conference last month. I was also able to get a job working with a faculty member from the Mathematics department to help with their own research over the summer. These opportunities have made my love of Math grow deeper because the more I get involved and understand, the more I want to know. It seems like Math will be a never-ending learning process, and I can’t wait for the journey to continue throughout the rest of my life.

I’m absolutely in love with the subject that I’m studying, and it has been incredibly rewarding to advance my knowledge and broaden my perspective on Math. I recommend others to try this path as well, even if it’s only for one class. It has made my life so much better, and I want others to know that it’s a possibility, too.

Pullman Scholar Alumna Kristen Schreck, Illinois Institute of Technology, ’87,  shares her experience in Math and how she’s teaching future mathematicians.

My love of mathematics and physics was inspired by my professors. In high school, my parents brought me to our local library to research careers. It was there that I discovered Electrical Engineering (EE). Soon after, I met some engineering students to learn more about the profession.

While at IIT (Illinois Institute of Technology), I was fortunate to be part of a group of young women who were engineering majors.  We developed projects for the WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) summer program at IIT for young girls. It provided the opportunity for young girls to see that their educational and career possibilities have no bounds.

After graduating from IIT with a B.S.E.E., I worked at Sargent & Lundy, LLC in Chicago as an Electrical Project Engineer on a nuclear power plant project. The work was exciting and challenging.  However, in my heart, I knew I wanted to further my studies and teach someday. I thought that being a professor would be the ultimate job. Different events and some very instrumental people came into my life which led me to graduate school at UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago) where I earned an M.S. and a Doctorate in Arts (D.A.) in Mathematics.

Learning mathematics has been my infinite quest that has culminated in guiding students to discover its secrets. Currently, I am an Assistant Professor at Saint Xavier University and advisor to the Archimedeans Math Club. As a member of the Leadership Team for the Southwest Chicago Math Teachers’ Circle, I collaborate with local college faculty and middle school/high school math teachers on challenging and interesting math problems.

Kristen’s students from her Multivariable Calculus course last fall in which 3D printing was introduced.

One of my most important teaching endeavors is to bring the mathematics to life for my students.  Last summer, I became an Ultimaker 3D Printing Education Pioneer and was awarded an Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer for my courses.  I have written lessons incorporating 3D printing into my Multivariable Calculus curriculum.  To see students hold and investigate surfaces they designed and 3D printed using the mathematics was amazing! In my Modern Geometry course, students will model and 3D print constructive geometric solids and my Senior Seminar student will be designing and printing 3D models related to manufacturing from the theory of Lagrange Multipliers with business applications.  My goal is to develop a service project for students to use 3D printing to help communities.

Being a woman in engineering and mathematics has been a most fulfilling experience for me. Follow your passion, use your talents to the best of your ability – always keeping that focus – and have faith that what you are doing is good work. Ever since I was ten years old, I’ve had a fascination with Albert Einstein. My advice to math majors comes from Einstein, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”  It’s all about persistence, perseverance, and using your prior knowledge and experience when working on math problems.  It’s also very helpful to work on problems together with fellow students.  Get to know your mathematics faculty.  Math teachers love working on problems with students in and out of class – it’s why we chose this profession!

Math, the last part of STEM, and the base to a lot of the aforementioned fields is another field with a shortage of women. If you think about it, all of the other fields use Math in some way, so there are more female mathematicians out there, but not necessarily with that title.

The Pullman Foundation has 228 female Mathematicians in the Pullman Scholar Community, 12% of our women in STEM. Each decade there have been fewer and fewer math majors, but they’re doing exciting things. This week, you’ll meet Pullman Scholar Alumna Kristen Schreck who is teaching calculus with 3D printing at Saint Xavier University and Pullman Scholar Sarah Dickey who shares her love of Math.

If you’re in Math and would like to share your experience or organizations that support your career, please contact Katie Desir .