Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Black Firsts, November 2008: Mary Hopkins

November 30th, 2008 by Ajuan Mance

Mary Hopkins, FAU doctoral student in mathematics.

The Palm Beach Post recently reported that Florida Atlanta University doctoral student Mary Hopkins is set to become the University’s first African American woman to graduate with a PhD in mathematics.

The 36 year-old grad student attributes much of her success to having “very encouraging teachers,” andexperience which she acknowledges is not what she’d been told to expect. Says Hopkins, “I’ve heard of math teachers not encouraging females, especially minorities, but all of my professors are so great, and they’re all old white men.”

FAU is also drawing attention this year for the sheer number of women who are completing doctorates in math. Palm Beach Post reporter Kimberly Miller explains why at the end of this school year FAU will break all of the University’s previous records for graduating women with PhDs in mathematics:

FAU awarded its first doctorate in math in 1992. Since then it has given out 15 math doctorates – only three of them to women.

“In 2009, it’s going to be five female students to graduate, which is very good news, I think, for the department,” said Bashak Ay, a 29-year-old from Turkey who expects to be one of the graduates.

“Women are getting more involved in math. Times are changing.”

The other women slated to earn math Ph.D.s this school year from FAU are Marcela Chiorescu, Zhihua Liu and Viktoria Villanyi.

FAU math administrators said they didn’t do anything special to recruit more women into their doctoral program and believe there’s a natural increase of women studying math as traditional stereotypes fall away.

Like the other women in her cohort, Hopkins has always been good at math. When she was a child, she always believed that her talent in this area would lead her to a career in medicine. When, as a college student, she found herself taking advanced classes in mathematics she realized that this was her true calling. Says Hopkins, “Math is the right thing. It’s what I’m supposed to be studying […] I just found my niche.”

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in Black History, Black Students, Current Events, Higher Education, race

2 Responses

  1. Clnmike

    Thats great for her!

  2. Ajuan Mance

    What I love is how humble she is. In an interview she said that she doesn’t consider herself particularly smart.