Summer Undergraduate Research Program in MathematicsAn Important Next Step
Since 1985, St. Norbert College has hosted the Regional Pi Mu Epsilon (PME) Undergraduate Mathematics Conference under the direction of Rick Poss (Mathematics). PME is the National Mathematics Honorary Society and, through Summer 2009, St. Norbert has inducted 247 members. In the past few years, participants in the PME Conference have traveled to our campus from 22 Midwestern colleges and universities. In November 2010, the 25th Annual PME Conference set records for the total number of students in attendance at 190, and the total number of students speakers at 37 with 5 from St Norbert.
The St. Norbert Mathematics Discipline has long supported undergraduate research in the field. Faculty have encouraged students to participate in summer research experiences at other institutions and nurtured those experiences by advising students as they presented their work at regional and national conferences.
The Mathematical Association of America and PME hold a national meeting each August with St. Norbert frequently having the second most student speakers, next to Youngstown State in Ohio (resulting in a friendly competition), for at least the last decade. Since 1985, Poss has accompanied St. Norbert student speakers to every summer national meeting, now part of Mathfest.
No other college or university in the country has had student speakers at every one of these meetings. Our presence at this national level has been notable.
Although our students are among the most active in the country in presenting the results of their research, it is now time to take it to the next level and offer those research experiences here on our campus. In Spring 2008, led by the enthusiasm of Terry Jo Leiterman (Mathematics), the mathematics discipline became energized to provide the increasing number of interested students a quality summer research experience here at St. Norbert College.
Student Needs and Outcomes
Opportunities to develop analytical thinking abilities are essential ingredients in an undergraduate degree program. Competent training in critical thought will keep St. Norbert students competitive with their peers at other institutions. More than ever, a holistic and interdisciplinary education is important for our students' success beyond the classroom. Mathematics, with its inherent ties to the natural and social sciences, is an ideal field for students to develop collaborative critical thinking and problem solving skills.
A program in undergraduate research at St. Norbert serves our students. Its benefits lie within the tradition of the college's mission, which insists we provide an educational environment that is intellectually, spiritually, and personally challenging. The National Council on Undergraduate Research outlines that a student research experience.
- Enhances student learning through mentor relationships with faculty.
- Increases retention in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pipeline.
- Increases enrollment in graduate education and provides effective career preparation.
- Develops critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and intellectual independence.
- Promotes an innovation-oriented culture.
Projects can also serve community interests, in addition to offering an engaging preparation for our students that plan to be future teachers of mathematics. St. Norbert College continually maintains a reputation as a leader with a unique tradition of academic excellence. A summer research program at the college provides an opportunity to showcase that spirit in a partnership with faculty, students, scientific inquiry, and mathematics.
The summer research program consists of 10 weeks of full-time work beginning with an application process in the spring semester open to St. Norbert mathematics students. During that time, the program is advertised in our courses, the Sigma Nu Delta math club newsletter, and on our website. It is strongly encouraged that interested students meet with a member of the mathematics discipline before putting together an application.
In the application, students are asked to provide a list of their mathematics and other relevant course work, their research interests, and how a research experience would contribute to their professional goals. Students do not need to propose a project. Faculty members may already have projects in mind. Applications are then reviewed by the Mathematics Discipline and students are chosen by the faculty mentor.
In August, the research students are expected to present their work at the national Mathfest meeting.
Since Fall 2006, the mathematics discipline has been working hard to generate momentum and get a research program started. In Spring 2008, Terry Jo Leiterman managed to find funding ($8000) to support two St. Norbert students to do research in the summer. Both students presented their results at that summer's Mathfest.
The cost per undergraduate student includes a modest stipend, on-campus housing, and FICA. Leiterman worked with the students for no pay and members of the math faculty have agreed to continue mentoring future summer research projects without compensation.
Affording students an opportunity to pursue their academic curiosities in math at St. Norbert College cannot be realized without the support of our alumni. We need an income of at least $8000 per year to ensure that future students can have the same experience. Under the direction of a faculty mentor, this amount pays two students to work full time for 10 weeks on a research project. The income minimally offsets the loss of summer employment, which is often necessary to cover our students' educational expenses during the semesters.
We are modifying the current Math Club Travel and Travel Endowment funds to include the use of these funds to support student research. The first money that is received each year will be set aside to fund student research in the current summer. After the immediate needs are met, money will then go into the endowment fund. Supporting two students each year through this program leaves us with a goal to meet of $160,000 in the endowment.
Update on the Challenge
To motivate donor support, Rick Poss set up a challenge in 2008. Poss agreed to match any gifts on a 1-for-2 basis up to $50,000 on his part. That is, for every $2 you give, he pledged $1. We are pleased to announce early support from alumni at a total of $16,000. Thank you!
To give us more time to reach our endowment goal of $160,000, Poss has pledged to personally support the Summer Research Program at $8000 per year for six years, which he started in 2010.
The mathematics discipline is hoping you will also offer your support.
Our target for this year is $30,000. That's a large sum of money, but there are thousands of SNC mathematics alumnus out there! Each $10 you give will support one hour of student research, which includes student wages and housing.
Make a Gift
We need your support. Please consider offering a gift. There are several ways to do so.
- Make a gift by mail.
Please send your gift of support to:
Terry Jo Leiterman
St. Norbert College
100 Grant St.
De Pere, WI 54115
- Make a gift online.
You can offer support online at through the college advancement website. Apply your gift to this program by typing "Math Research."
- Make a pledge.
Fill out the gift intention form and mail it to Terry Jo Leiterman.