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 UMD News Releases

Communication Associate: Public Relations | Lori Melton | | (218) 726-8830

February 18, 2008
Susan Beasy Latto, Director, UMD Public Relations (218) 726-8830
Carmen Latterell, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics (218) 726-6573

UMD to Host Presentation

"Native Americans in Mathematics: A Proud Past, and a Look to the Future"

March 6

The UMD Department of Mathematics and Statistics will host a lecture entitled "Native Americans in Mathematics: A Proud Past, and a Look to the Future," presented by Professor Robert Megginson, on March 6, at 3 p.m. in the UMD Solon Campus Center, Room 130. Professor Megginson is one of a very few Native Americans with a Ph.D. in mathematics.
The event is free and the public is cordially invited to attend.

In his presentation Mr. Megginson, a Professor of Mathematics and an Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Graduate Education at the University of Michigan, will talk about the history and future of "Native Americans in Mathematics." Professor Megginson will also discuss some of the barriers preventing more full participation for Native Americans in mathematics, as well as the opportunities that are now available for them in mathematics-based fields.

Dr. Megginson's current project is to climb all of "Colorado's Fourteeners" (the mountains in Colorado whose summit elevations exceed 14,000 feet).
He is pictured here at the 14,267 foot summit of Torreys Peak in the Colorado Rockies

Professor Megginson explains:
"Too many people believe that 'Native American mathematics' is almost an oxymoron, and that mathematics is an activity in which the Native people of the Western Hemisphere did not participate before the arrival of Europeans. In this talk, I will try to dispel that myth, and will even show how, arguably, a 'too-good knowledge' of how to do mathematics by the Mexica (Aztec) people contributed to the European conquest of Central America."

The presentation will be dedicated to the memory of Thomas F. Strorer, Dine (Navajo), a friend, colleague and role model of Professor Megginson. Thomas F. Strorer was one of the very first Native Americans to receive a Ph.D. in pure mathematics.
The visit of Professor Megginson is funded by a National Science Foundation grant.

About Professor Megginson:
For the last decade, much of Professor Megginson's interest and time have been absorbed by the problem of the serious under-representation of minorities in mathematics. One of only about a dozen Native Americans known to hold doctorates in mathematics, Megginson has served on and chaired numerous professional and national committees addressing this problem. He has served as the co-chair of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Committee on Minority Participation in Mathematics. He chairs the MAA's Coordinating Council on Human Resources, as well as the Human Resources Advisory Committee of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute at the University of California at Berkeley.

For his record of mentoring students of color and other work with under-represented groups, Mr. Megginson was one of ten individuals to receive the 1997 U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.

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