New College Welcomes Back EDGE Program, Preparing Women for Graduate Studies in Math

The EDGE Program – Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education – has returned to New College, with 12 students studying with Professor of Mathematics Eirini Poimenidou, the local coordinator, and other instructors this month.

The program opened Monday, June 3, with a lunch hosted by New College Provost Stephen Miles and a welcome speech by President Donal O’Shea, a mathematician himself.

EDGE’s goal is to help women complete graduate programs in mathematics. Its philosophy is that women who have had success in early math courses, but who have had limited exposure to advanced courses, are capable of earning doctorates.

Dr. Poimenidou said a program like EDGE is vital for women in her field. “Women in mathematics often feel isolated and marginalized in math departments and graduate program and many of them decide to quit their math studies or change fields,” she said.

“EDGE has been successful in strengthening the ability of young women, especially from underrepresented minorities, to persevere and successfully complete their graduate studies and receive their PhDs in mathematics.”

EDGE has a documented record of success. Studies at multiple universities have found that 30 to 70 percent of students drop out of doctoral programs. A 2002 study at one major university found that nearly 60 percent of its 363 new doctoral students left their programs after two semesters.

Over the first eight years of the EDGE program, more than 90 percent of participants had either received their master’s or doctoral degrees or were still pursuing their studies. Only 8 percent had ended their studies without receiving a master’s degree. Forty-six of the participating students have received their doctorates.

The program’s participants are women who have completed undergraduate courses in analysis and abstract algebra and have been accepted to graduate programs in math. The program focuses in particular on women from under-represented demographics.

The program’s centerpiece is the four-week summer session, where students take core courses in analysis and linear algebra, mini-courses in pure and applied mathematics and work with faculty in problem-solving sessions.

The instructors include four math professors, the program’s two national directors, its co-founder and two graduate mentors. Students also meet with visitors from academia and industry.

After the summer program ends, EDGE provides ongoing mentoring and support, and offers funding for students to take sabbaticals and give research talks.

New College is one of eight colleges and university partners in EDGE. The summer program rotates between the schools each year; New College first hosted it in 2006.

The program was founded in 1998 by Bryn Mawr College and Spellman College. It is funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency.

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