Mathematics Professor Nancy Neudauer Named Fulbright Global Scholar Recipient for 2023-2024

Nancy Neudauer, Pacific University’s Thomas and Joyce Holce Professor of Science, will be connecting women in mathematics while researching matroid theory as part of a 2023-2024 Fulbright Global Scholar Award. The prestigious award is the latest nod in a long list of academic accomplishments.

The comprehensive project, Connecting Far Corners of the World Through Matroids and Creating a Network of Women in Mathematics,

Math Professor nancy Neudauer Fulbright Global ScholarGlobal scholars are required to travel to two regions and this award will take her to Stellenbosch University in South Africa and the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

“We need to increase the visibility of women mathematicians in Africa. We need to increase the opportunities for women mathematicians in Africa,” she said.

The global scholars project is a continuum of work that Neudauer began a decade ago. She’s traveled more than 15 times to six countries in Africa in her quest to expand and develop mathematics education abroad. Her travels have revealed cultural differences, which tend to hold back women mathematicians.

In some African cultures, husbands forbid their wives from collaborating with male mathematicians and these women are unable to travel to conferences without their husbands. Students have told her that there are no woman lecturers in their country and there are no women at the highest ranks in academia in many countries that do have women mathematicians.

Together with mathematician Karin-Therese Howell, Neudauer hopes to shake up the status quo in order for more women in Africa to advance in mathematical careers.

“We want to create a space where women can work together, present research in a supportive environment, get ideas for extending their research, collaborate on new problems, and discuss challenges faced by women in mathematics, and women in Africa,” she said.

“We want to welcome them just as our teachers and others have welcomed us, just as so many mathematicians have let us know that we belong.”

In addition to her international research, Neudauer helped lead the effort for a $1.6 million National Science Foundation grant to support faculty and students with minigrants at universities and 2-year colleges throughout the United States. In December, she’ll give a plenary talk at the annual South African Mathematical Society Congress on the five-year grant awarded to the Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics, a consortium based at Occidental College in Los Angeles. She also will participate in the Women in Mathematics lunch at the conference.

Since 2013, Neudauer has earned four Fulbright Specialist awards conducting master’s-level math education and research in South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana and Cameroon through the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences’ Next Einstein initiative as well as teaching undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs for researchers in mathematics education in Bogotá, Colombia.

Between conferences and her specialist assignments, she has worked with students in some 40 countries in Africa and supervised 22 master’s projects.

“I've learned that people are incredibly adaptable and resilient and can manage incredible things with far fewer resources than we have,” she said.

“Students are incredibly grateful that you're there. They're so appreciative to have an outside voice and expertise.”

Reflecting on her various outreach trips, she says the compressed schedule abroad has helped sharpen her skills as a math professor back home at Pacific University. As a Fulbright specialist, she only had three weeks to lecture about research-level topics in discrete mathematics to students, many for whom, English is a second or third language.

“I’ve learned to be more direct and deliberate about what students need. When I read my students' work, I can guide them a lot better,” she said.

“I’ve gotten better at reading, writing and editing mathematics, which has been a help to the students there, but perhaps the more profound impact is on me.”

Conference at African Institute for Mathematical SciencesA faculty member in Pacific University’s Mathematics program since 2001,  Neudauer’s outreach work also has had an impact on students who visited abroad. In March, Maya Gibson ’23 (front row, tan pants) gave a presentation in Africa on her Capstone research “The Mathematics of Facial Recognition,” which was supported by an Elise Elliott Grant and published in the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences newsletter.

Former students Brenna Calmer ’18 and Aubrey Kimmel ’20 have pursed careers in mathematics. Calmer is a math instructor at Portland Community College and Kimmel is a graduate teaching and research assistant in the department of Mathematical Sciences at  Montana State University.

Learn more about Neudauer’s work in “Mathematicians Without Borders” published in the December/January 2020 edition of  Mathematical Association of America.

Learn more about how Fulbright Scholars are actively working to foster mutual understanding between the United States and partner nations, sharing knowledge across communities and improving lives around the world.

Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023