Finding Community at MAA MathFest with the New NAM-MAA Blog Editors

By Omayra Ortega and Anisah Nu'Man

Hello, world! We are Omayra Ortega, Anisah Nu’Man, Haydee Lindo, Jamylle Carter, Jacqueline Brannon-Giles, and Leona Harris; and we are the members of the new NAM editorial board for MAA Math Values! Watch this space for posts on teaching ideas, opportunities, current events, and cool math concepts. While you may not hear everyone’s voice in each post, all six of us contribute to each blog post in some way. What’s more, as women of color with degrees in mathematics, we’re rare birds! We reside in California, Texas, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Washington DC, and are in various stages of our careers. We are a geographically, politically, mathematically, religiously, and culturally diverse group of women, who are all members of the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM). We plan to leverage the diversity of personal experience in this group to contribute thought-provoking posts to the MAA Math Values Blog.


We are currently looking forward to MAA MathFest, where there are many wonderful NAM sessions planned. MAA MathFest, which began in 1997, was inspired by an earlier NAM event of the same name, MATHFest, that began just 6 years before, so it makes sense that MAA and NAM would continue to collaborate on these events, this blog, and many other activities!

One highlight of this year’s MAA MathFest will be the 25th annual David Harold Blackwell Invited Address, Dudeney's No Three-In-Line Problem: Problem, Solutions, Conditions, Progress, and Conjectures, which will be given by Dr. Johnny Houston on Aug. 2 at 4 p.m. in Ballroom A of the Convention Center. This is a historically momentous year to attend the invited address because April 24, 2019 was David Blackwell’s 100th birthday! Dr. Blackwell had to break through many barriers to study, teach, and do research in mathematics. Despite the discrimination he experienced, Dr. Blackwell went on to win the John von Neumann Theory Prize in 1979 and was the first African-American to be inducted into the National Academy of Sciences. 

David Blackwell

David Blackwell

NAM is organizing several special sessions at MAA MathFest in Cincinnati, OH, to honor this great man’s legacy, as well as the 50th anniversary of the National Association of Mathematicians.  Through his contributions to research and service to the profession, Dr. Blackwell had a lasting impact which is still palpable today. Dr. Blackwell began his career teaching at Southern University, Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University), and served as the chair of the Department of Mathematics at Howard University. He then joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley where he was a beloved professor for 34 years and retired in 1988. During his career, Dr. Blackwell served as an officer with multiple professional organizations and supervised over sixty PhD students. He passed away at the age of 91. Dr. Blackwell will be celebrated at MAA MathFest with the following lectures and events:

Dr. David Blackwell Centennial Celebration Events at the MAA MathFest 

Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019,  DECC Room 232

  • 1:30-1:50 p.m., Dr. Ronald E. Mickens (Clark Atlanta University), The Alternative Universes of David Blackwell and William Claytor

  • 1:50-2:10 p.m., Asamoah Nkwanta (Morgan State University), Game Theory: A Survey of an Intriguing Contribution of David Blackwell

  • 2:10-2:30 p.m., Mark E. Lewis (Cornell University), Blackwell’s Contribution to Dynamic Programming

  • 2:30-2:50 p.m., Kimberly S. Weems (North Carolina Central University), David Blackwell: Bayesian Statistics and Contributions to the Statistics Community

  • 2:50-3:10 p.m., Carlos Castillo-Chavez (Arizona State University/Brown University), Blackwell-Tapia 2008-2018

  • 3:10-3:30 p.m., Richard Tapia (Rice University), Behind the Scenes: the David Blackwell that I Knew 

In addition, keep an eye out for more information on the NAM-MAA Blackwell Birthday Party on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, at 5 p.m.

We are also looking forward to some other intriguing invited addresses at the MAA MathFest including Dr. Ami Radunskaya’s MAA Invited Lecture Uncertainty: The Mathematics We Don’t Know on Aug. 1 at 9 a.m.,  Dr. Mohamed Omar’s Lecture Secrets of Grad School Success on Aug. 1 at 1:30 p.m., and Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez’s MAA James R.C. Leitzel Lecture What’s at Stake in Rehumanizing Mathematics? on Aug. 3 at 9 a.m.  

MAA MathFest is shaping up to be a great event this year, with so many of the invited lectures, sessions, and workshops planned with an eye towards #inclusivity,  #community, #communication, and #teachingandlearning. These are the main themes of the MAA Math Values Blog and they point to the huge mental shift that has begun to address diversity, equity, and inclusion within the mathematical sciences.  While great strides are being made, there is still more work to be done. This is why we are highlighting a snapshot of sessions and lectures that are either presented by speakers from varied backgrounds or are on topics related to diversity.  We do this to help foster the growth we want to see within our community. 

This year’s MAA MathFest also includes a Contributed Paper Session entitled Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Mathematics which will address methods to engage diverse student populations, in particular, underrepresented minority, first-generation, low-income, and female students. Below are a few talks from the session you might find interesting.  See the program for the names of the speakers and their institutions.

Contributed Paper Session: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Mathematics 

  • Beyond Leaky Pipes: Fostering Pathways and Persistence in the Mathematical Sciences

  • Change Is a Thing You Can Count On: Adjusting to Meet Diverse Student Needs

  • Diversifying and Humanizing Mathematics through Community Collaboration

  • Inclusive Teaching and Learning of Mathematics in an Afterschool Math Enrichment Program for Underrepresented Minority, First-Generation, Low-Income Students

  • Recruitment, Resilience, and Reaching Higher vis Early Research Experiences

  • The NREUP and Howard’s Program

  • Supporting the Transition to Undergraduate Mathematics: Collaborative  Learning and Mentoring in Teams

You can find a complete listing of talks and presenters with MAA MathFest online.

We hope you enjoy our post and be sure to stop by next month for a new post on mathematics.


Dr. Anisah Nu’Man is an assistant professor of mathematics at Spelman College. Originally, from Atlanta, GA Dr. Nu’Man obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research interests lie in geometric group theory. 

Dr. Omayra Ortega is an assistant professor of applied mathematics and statistics at Sonoma State University and serves as the chair of the publications and publicity committee for the National Association of Mathematicians. She uses the tools from statistics, mathematics, public health and epidemiology, to tackle emerging health issues through her teaching and scholarship. Dr. Ortega is deeply committed to broadening the participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM and mentoring students through the challenges of academia.