paraDIGMSDiversity in Graduate Mathematical Sciences

The goal of the paraDIGMS initiative is to create channels of communication, spaces for reflection, opportunities to collaborate, and a greater sense of collective responsibility for the well-being of the profession at the graduate level. Graduate directors and graduate committee members, as well as department chairs and others invested in graduate education, often work in relative isolation. The activities of paraDIGMS are designed to help build a professional community among these faculty and to provide professional resources to support their work.

In addition to serving as support and professional development for individual graduate program leaders, the activities of paraDIGMS aim to energize systemic changes in graduate education by enacting policies and practices that provide equitable opportunities for all students, with a particular focus on students belonging to groups historically marginalized in the mathematical sciences.

Join the paraDIGMS mailing list to learn about new events and opportunities as they are scheduled.

2022 Spring Conference, April 28-May 1

The paraDIGMS 2022 Spring Conference will be hosted virtually by the Institute of Mathematical and Statistical Innovation (IMSI) on April 28-May 1. Sponsored by the American Mathematical Society (AMS), the conference will highlight work by individuals and organizations to build a diverse and equitable profession through graduate education, while also challenging us to see how far we still have to go. Registration is free and is now open. More details on the other sessions will be announced on the IMSI conference website in the coming weeks.

Plenary speakers for the Spring Conference include:

Dobbins Tabbetha Dobbins, is a Professor in the Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, the Interim Vice President for Research, and Dean of the Graduate School at Rowan University. She mentors students in both graduate and undergraduate research projects and engages in broadening the participation of students in synchrotron x-ray and neutron studies at national research laboratories. Her research programs are aimed at attracting and recruiting top students to the sciences using societally relevant energy-related and biomedical-related topics. She continues to do cutting edge research in applying synchrotron x-ray and neutron analysis to modern engineering problems in carbon nanotubes, gold nanoparticles, the hydrogen fuel economy, and polymer self-assembly. Also, she works diligently to engage high school students in science through her NSF funded programs.


LilyLily Khadjavi, is a Professor of Mathematics at Loyola Marymount University. She received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and her BA from Harvard University. Broadening participation in STEM fields is central to Dr. Khadjavi’s scholarly activity, both in and outside the classroom. She has co-chaired the Infinite Possibilities Conference, a national research and mentoring conference aimed at supporting women of color in the mathematical sciences, with funding from the NSF. She currently serves on advisory boards for a number of non-profits, including the AMS Council; Building Diversity in Science; the Broadening Participation Advisory Committee for MSRI; and Spectra. Her research interests include policing and the issue of racial profiling, and in 2020 she was appointed by the State Attorney General to the Racial and Identity Profiling Act Board which works with the California Department of Justice.


Ogilvie Craig Ogilvie, serves as Dean of the Graduate School and Associate Vice President for Research at Montana State University (MSU). He currently serves as PI of an NSF RAPID grant to gather info on how graduate students were impacted by the pandemic, a ten-university NSF AGEP grant (CIRTL AGEP) that is working to improve the inclusive climate within research groups, and an NSF INCLUDES grant (Aspire) to prepare graduate students to teach at community colleges. Prior to being at Montana State, he was Morrill Professor of Physics and Assistant Dean of the Graduate College at Iowa State University. As a research physicist and educator he is author or co-author of over 300 refereed publications.

Return to top ↑

paraDIGMS Working Groups

Each working group brings together about six current and prospective graduate program leaders from different institutions with shared interests and concerns. These small collaborative groups identify common challenges, develop solutions, share successful practices, and build a supportive community with a shared sense of purpose. Group members develop and implement equitable policies and practices for recruiting, admitting, retaining, and supporting students in their programs, especially students from underrepresented groups. Working groups are provided with discussion prompts and have access to paraDIGMS Workshops and other resources to stimulate their discussions. Scheduling is flexible and is coordinated by working group members.

All levels of experience and expertise are welcome—we are all here to learn from one another. Please sign up if you are interested in joining a working group.

Return to top ↑

paraDIGMS Workshops

Next Workshop: "Qualifying Exams Structures and Transformations (QuEST) for Higher Graduate Student Retention "
Workshop Facilitators: Emily T. Winn, Tim McEldowney, Jessica Deshler, and Nick Papalia

Date: April 14, 2022 at 2-3:30 PM ET
Attendance cap: 20 people. This workshop is now full. Please email us if you would like to hear about future workshops.

Description: Many mathematics PhD programs have two distinct and sequential communities of practice in which students need to participate to complete the degree. The barrier between the two communities is typically a set of qualifying exams in a variety of mathematical areas. In this workshop we will work with participants to consider the power dynamics in current structures of mathematics qualifying exams and how systems are (or are not) equipped for difficult scenarios. We will share what we have learned about various exam formats, exchange ideas around the process, and reflect on how qualifying exams can be used to meet program goals.

Facilitator Bios

Emily Winn is a NSF Graduate Research Fellow and PhD candidate in Applied Mathematics at Brown University specializing in shape statistics and variable selection in nonparametric models. After the success of her public database of GRE policies for mathematics graduate programs in the United States and Canada, Winn conducted a survey in Spring 2021 on the practices of these exams and compiled more than 100 responses from over 80 graduate mathematics programs into a public spreadsheet as a resource for both departments and prospective students. She brings the expertise gained from this survey on qualifying exam practices to this workshop.

Tim McEldowney is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Centre College in Kentucky. This summer, McEldowney will return to West Virginia University as a NSF-funded postdoctoral researcher leading a project titled: Undergraduate Knowledge of the Mathematics Graduate School Application Process (Knowledge-GAP). The Knowledge-GAP project seeks to understand how mathematics majors learn about applying to graduate school and how that knowledge (or lack of knowledge) serves as a barrier to admission. His research seeks to understand systematic barriers in mathematics graduate education and especially how those barriers impact minoritized students.

Jessica Deshler is Professor of Mathematics and is currently serving as the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University. Her research in mathematics education has focused on graduate student development and issues of equity in mathematics, and has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the West Virginia Department of Education and the US Fulbright Commission. Her current research projects include building on Emily Winn's survey to dive deeper into the purposes, structures and effects of preliminary exam structures in mathematics.

Nick Papalia is a current graduate student at West Virginia University. Papalia became interested in studying qualifying exams for graduate students after his experience with taking qualifying exams. He was also a research assistant for an NSF-funded project studying the effects of mentoring in teaching among graduate students in mathematics and presented this work at national and regional RUME conferences, and has a manuscript under review at PRIMUS.

This workshop is open to Working Group members.

Additional workshops will be announced on a rolling basis.

Return to top ↑

Past Events

Watch plenary addresses from previous paraDIGMS conferences.

2022 Workshop: Moving Beyond Access and Achievement: Calling in the Community to have Courageous Conversations

March 17, 2022, 2:00 pm ET "Moving Beyond Access and Achievement: Calling in the Community to have Courageous Conversations about Disrupting the Preservation of Whiteness in Mathematics." Led by Nicole M. Joseph, an associate professor with tenure of mathematics education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University.

Description: Broadening participation in mathematics is an effort many faculty, researchers, and practitioners have engaged in for over 20 years now. The emphasis of many of these initiatives, programs, and efforts have focused on "access" and "achievement" centering levers of change at the micro and meso levels. While these efforts are important, they leave ideologies (whiteness) and structures unchallenged. This interactive workshop invites the decision-makers and leaders in graduate mathematics to co-construct ideas about a different conversation — a conversation about the roles they believe they play in disrupting the preservation of whiteness in mathematics. Dr. Joseph will build upon celebrations of the current work happening with mathematics faculty and departments, while also co-constructing plans for praxis at a deeper level — addressing latent power relations in our discipline.

2021 Fall Conference, October 28-31

The paraDIGMS 2021 Fall Conference was hosted virtually by the Institute of Mathematical and Statistical Innovation (IMSI) on October 28-31. Sponsored by the American Mathematical Society (AMS), the conference highlighted work by individuals and organizations to build a diverse and equitable profession through graduate education, while also challenging us to see how far we still have to go. Additional details can be found on the conference webpage.

Plenary addresses included:

Stop Playing Diversity: Starting a Conversation That Should be Happening but Isn’t. Monica F. Fox, PhD, Ohio State University

Although most organizations know how to attract and hire minoritized people in theory, they don’t have the tools to apply authentic diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices. As a result, organizations often are hostile and toxic for people who are “firsts” or “onlies.” The session provides strategies for accomplices who wish to learn authentic ways to promote effective DEI strategies individually and collectively. You will: (1) Learn what it means to "play" diversity. (2) Recognize initial signs that diversity efforts aren't what they should be in an organization. (3) Identify the costs of diversity and what it means to engage authentically with diversity. (4) Discover practices that move individuals and organizations from playing diversity to embodying authentic diversity practices.

Enrichment Programs for Mathematical Science Graduate Students. Dennis Davenport, PhD, Howard University

There are many summer enrichment programs for undergraduate students, such as REU programs, working in government labs, and internships. A requirement that students who attend a federally funded REU program must return to their institution for at least one more semester of study leaves graduating seniors with very few options. There are also very few options for graduate students. Having enrichment programs could have a significant impact for students from underrepresented groups. In this presentation we talk about some current programs and discuss what can be done to increase options for graduating seniors and graduate students.

Who Needs Diversity, Anyway? Lloyd Douglas, independent consultant

The attempts to diversify graduate education in mathematics have a long history with valiant efforts by some key individuals. So, why is diversity still an issue? We will discuss some of those efforts and the ways in which they sought to increase diversity. We will also engage in what I hope will be a robust conversation on the issue of diversity itself, why it’s important, who benefits from it, why the obstacles remain and what we can do to remove them.

2021 Spring Conference, April 23-26

The paraDIGMS 2021 Spring Conference was hosted virtually by the Institute of Mathematical and Statistical Innovation (IMSI) on April 23-26, 2021. The Spring Conference focused on problems and promising practices related to supporting graduate students in their programs, especially students with identities that are minoritized in the mathematical sciences. The conference included plenary talks, panel discussions, a session of contributed lightning talks, and small reading group discussions. Additional details can be found on the conference webpage.

We were delighted and honored to offer the following plenary addresses:

Mathematics, We Have a Problem. Erica J. Graham, PhD, Bryn Mawr College

The Black Lives Matter movement, and many like it, has sparked words and work toward dismantling the racist structures woven into the fabric of our society at large. The academic discipline of mathematics—alongside many institutions of higher education—has also reached a point of reckoning in its history of institutionalizing racism. At the core of reshaping the field and realizing transformative, long-lasting change is the necessity of persistent and active anti-racist work. In this talk, I will review my ‘Five Ws and How’ for anti-racism in mathematics and discuss how these fit into a framework of graduate education.

Real Analysis: Why Isn’t There More Diversity in Mathematics Graduate Education? Shirley Malcom, PhD, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Looking especially at historical pathways for mathematicians of color, I want to look at baccalaureate origins of doctorates, patterns of participation, the role of mentors as well as community building. I will also explore issues related to the “culture of the discipline” as a possible barrier to diversity, equity and inclusion and, drawing on the goals of SEA Change, reflect on transformative actions that might be undertaken to make mathematics more inclusive.

The Role of Graduate Programs in Moving Towards a Fully Inclusive Mathematics Profession. Kasso Okoudjou, PhD, Tufts University, and Francis Su, PhD, Harvey Mudd College

The AMS Task Force on Understanding and Documenting the Historical Role of the AMS in Racial Discrimination recently released its report Towards a Fully Inclusive Mathematics Profession. We co-chaired this Task Force, and we encourage you to read the report. The report has implications beyond the American Mathematical Society (AMS)—in particular, there are implications for graduate programs, which play an important role in determining the future of our profession. We will share some of our reflections on the report and suggest steps that graduate programs can take to build an inclusive culture. After a short presentation to generate dialogue about our findings, we will encourage conversation, Q&A, and brainstorming.

2021 Workshop: Looking for Dr. Green

The workshop Looking for Dr. Green: A Workshop on Uncovering Historical Departmental Data on Underrepresented Students was offered by Dr. Edray Goins on February 9, 2021.

2020 Fall Conference, November 20-23

The paraDIGMS 2020 Fall Conference, hosted by the Institute for Mathematical and Statistical Innovation (IMSI) on November 20-23 highlighted the work of organizations to build a diverse and equitable profession through graduate education. We were honored to host these plenary addresses:

Black, Brown, and Bruised: How Racialized STEM Education Stifles Innovation. Ebony McGee, PhD, Vanderbilt University

My research reveals that most of the stress STEMers of color report is associated with factors other than academic demands. Stereotyping colors their daily interactions with others, becoming cognitively intrusive and creating constant tension in their academic lives. Empowering URM STEMers requires more than reciting basic principles and the virtues of mentoring and gets down to the nitty gritty. I argue for the creation of equitable and inclusive environments in which URM students and faculty feel welcome, can be open about who they are, and can thrive in their chosen disciplines. I expose the need for support designed for URM students in STEM, support that ensures more than mere survival, support that leads to flourishing and feeling like valued members of their disciplines. Solutions do not involve fixing the URM student; rather, I put the burden for change on STEM departments and their racialized cultures.

Graduate Education in Mathematics: How Has it Served the Minority Community? William Y. Vélez, PhD, University of Arizona

What is the purpose of graduate education in mathematics in this country? Is it to create a cadre of top- notch research mathematicians? Should graduate education be viewed as serving the needs of the nation, equipping its citizens to use their mathematical training to address the serious problems that confront society? My view of graduate education in mathematics is the former, an industry heavily invested in its own research programs, almost blind to the empowerment of our domestic students. This situation has gone on for decades, much to the detriment of the minority populations in this country. The US has been producing doctoral students for more than 70 years, yet there is a dearth of minority faculty in our top departments.

We are fortunate as mathematical scientists that our subject is now an invaluable tool in addressing so many different scientific problems. As we look towards the future, a commitment to provide the mathematical skills to our citizens should be uppermost in our minds.

EDGE: A Thriving Community of Women Mathematicians. Raegan Higgins, PhD, Texas Tech University

Mathematics is the gateway to all STEM (science, engineering, technology, and mathematics) subjects. Yet, women are underrepresented in this vital field. There is a litany of reasons for this absence, such as women often being tokenized and their brilliance and accomplishments not being credited to their abilities and hard work. Prevalent as this absence is, fortunately, for over twenty years, the EDGE Program has provided a mathematics ecosystem in which a widely diverse group of women has thrived both academically and personally. We will discuss the philosophy on which the EDGE Program is built, as well as outcomes and perspectives on which program features foster success in women, and in particular, women of color. We consider some of the professional and personal benefits that participants seem to derive from a community of this kind and the value EDGE participants add to the mathematics community.

2020 Fall Conference Workshop: Equity in Graduate Admissions

The workshop Equity in Graduate Admissions occurred during the paraDIGMS 2020 Fall Conference. Dr. Julie Posselt and Dr. Casey Miller presented evidence about the role of typical admissions criteria and practices in maintaining racial and ethnic inequities in graduate education.

Return to top ↑

Contact us

Please email us if you have questions or would like to be further involved.

paraDIGMS program coordinators: Matthew Ando (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Justin Lanier (University of Chicago), Marissa Loving (Georgia Tech), and Bianca Viray (University of Washington).

Return to top ↑