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Section Visitors Program

Every MAA section is eligible to have one person, per academic year, from the Association leadership to attend and participate in a section meeting, with all travel expenses borne by the MAA. Sections are not expected to provide the visitor with an honorarium or stipend. The purpose of this program is to maintain close links between the MAA leadership and the sections. Specifically, the goals of this program are to:

  • Provide the Association leadership with information about the unique features of the sections they visit, with a more immediate sense of the concerns and issues facing the membership, and with a sense of the well-being of the section, including how well it is fulfilling its mission.
  • Provide the section leadership with a perspective on trends in the sections of the Association, with perceptions on the effectiveness of the management of the affairs of the section, and with recognition for noteworthy section activities and practices.
  • Provide the members of the section an opportunity to interact directly with the Association leadership though individual conversations and formal section activities.

To achieve these goals, each Section Visitor will participate in as much of the section meeting as is possible. In particular, the Section Visitor is expected to:

  • Present at least one talk, workshop, or other activity agreed upon with the section leadership. These activities, and any other activities that the visitor is requested to lead, should be selected to align the experiences and talents of the Association leadership with the interests and needs of the section.
  • Attend and participate in any business meetings of the section, meetings of the section officers, liaison meetings, chairs meetings, and Section NExT activities.
  • Participate in the social activities associated with the meeting.

After completing the visit, the Section Visitor will prepare a report for the MAA Executive Committee summarizing the activities that the visitor participated in or observed, noting those that should be shared with other sections. The report should also reflect on healthy management practices within the section and areas in which the section leadership might improve. These reports will be sent to the Secretary of the MAA for circulation to the Executive Committee. The section visitor will prepare a similar report to send to the section chair person and the section governor.

Because many section meetings are scheduled for a short "window" in the spring, Section Visitors are in high demand at that time. Therefore section leaders should extend an invitation as early as possible to the Section Visitor who they want. The MAA Secretary and Chair of the Committee on Sections will assist if a section has problems in scheduling a Section Visitor, but early planning is essential.

It is customary for the section leadership to waive any registration, banquet and social fees for the Section Visitor. The Section Visitor will pay his/her own travel expenses and will be reimbursed by the Association directly (please use this form to request reimbursement, and send it to the attention of Susan Kennedy). The section leadership should designate someone to assist in making arrangements for the Section Visitor’s travel, lodging, meals, local transportation and registration.

Finally, it is important to note the distinction between the roles of the Polya Lecturers, the section Governors, and the Section Visitors. The Polya Lecturers are leading members of the mathematical community, selected because they are outstanding speakers, who are available to deliver an invited address during the section meeting; they do not represent the leadership of the Association. The section Governor is the section’s official liaison with the Association; he or she reports the official actions of Board of Governors to the section and communicates issues from the section directly to the Board of Governors. Section Governors are provided materials by the Association to assist in this communication. In contrast, the Section Visitors are among the senior leadership of the Association and a primary purpose of their visits is to assist the section leadership in maintaining healthy sections by bringing to the section leadership ideas of successful activities from other sections and provide a means of communication between the leadership and the members.

PLEASE NOTE: In order to ensure that the reimbursements are processed correctly, please notify Susan Kennedy of your section meeting speaker plans as soon as arrangements are made.

The Association leaders who are currently designated as Section Visitors

Linda Braddy, MAA Deputy Executive Director
1529 18th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036
Topics coming soon.
Jenna Carpenter, 1st Vice President
Louisiana Tech University
Available as speaker: Spring 2014 through Spring 2016

Topics include:

Undergraduate Mathematics for Life Sciences Majors
In 2003, the National Academies published the BIO2010 Report, highlighting the changing mathematical needs of life sciences majors.  Since that time, the MAA published a subsequent volume, Math and BIO 2010, edited by Lynn Arthur Stein, which contained a number of suggestions for reform.  The MAA BIO SIGMAA was founded in 2006, reflecting the growing interest in and need for examples of successful alternatives to calculus, interdisciplinary courses, advanced undergraduate courses, and even complete curricula.  One of the strategies employed by BIO SIGMA was to sponsor contributed paper sessions as MAA meetings to spur dissemination and discussion of these issues.  A new MAA Notes volume, Undergraduate Mathematics for the Life Sciences:  Models, Processes, and Directions (edited by Glenn Ledder, Jenna Carpenter and Tim Comar) presents examples of these curricular models, discussions of the process of curricular change, and suggestions for future efforts.  Representing institutions from large research universities to community colleges, these examples provide a rich source of information.  This talk will highlight a variety of examples from the volume, as well as lessons learned, and thoughts about the emerging needs of life sciences students.
Mathematical Notation:  Friend or Foe?
Chances are, your students view mathematical notation as a nuisance at best and a roadblock to their understanding at worst.  This talk looks back at the historical development of some of our most common mathematical notation, why we need it, how bad notation can be a stumbling block, why incorrectly written notation contains a wealth of information, and ends with some suggestions for helping both faculty and students view mathematical notation as an ally, not an opponent.
Mentoring Women and Underrepresented Minorities in Mathematics
While mathematics fairs better than some STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields in attracting women and underrepresented minorities, there are still many issues which can negatively affect their success.  Research has repeatedly shown that a diverse community of learners and scholars benefits everyone.  So what can the mathematical community do to improve our recruiting and retention of these students?  This talk will review some of the common roadblocks, look at what research says about those roadblocks, and present some practical strategies for addressing them which will help all students be more successful in their pursuit of mathematics.
Landing That First Job:  Tips on Making the Most of Your Job Search
This talk, aimed at undergraduate or graduate students, provides an overview of the job search process (for industry, academia, or both), with tips and best practices on resumes, applications and interviewing.  Participants will receive a robust list of online resources related to careers and jobs in the mathematical sciences.  Interspersed throughout the talk will opportunities to practice various aspects of the process, including introductions and a mock interview.
Jim Daniel, Treasurer
1515 Shasta Drive, #1516, Davis, CA 95616-6680
Available as speaker: until Spring 2018

Topics include:

How much money do you (or your parents) need for retirement?
This student-oriented talk illustrates both the thinking and basic collegiate math used by actuaries in analyzing how to prepare now for future financial risk and so serves as an elementary introduction to actuarial mathematics.
Actuarial careers: what, where, who, how, and why
This student-oriented talk describes the job of an actuary, a career that has long been of interest to good problem solvers interested in applying their math skills in business.
Bob Devaney, Past President
Department of Mathematics & Statistics - 111 Cummington St. Boston University, Boston, MA 02215
Available as speaker: until Spring 2016

Topics include:

The Fractal Geometry of the Mandelbrot Set
In this lecture we describe several folk theorems concerning the Mandelbrot set. While this set is extremely complicated from a geometric point of view, we will show that, as long as you know how to add and how to count, you can understand this geometry completely. We will encounter many famous mathematical objects in the Mandelbrot set, like the Farey tree and the Fibonacci sequence. And we will find many soon-to-be-famous objects as well, like the "Devaney" sequence. There might even be a joke or two in the talk. This talk only supposes a knowledge of complex numbers and is accessible to undergraduates.
Chaos Games and Fractal Images
In this lecture we will describe some of the beautiful images that arise from the "Chaos Game." We will show how the simple steps of this game produce, when iterated millions of times, the intricate images known as fractals. We will describe some of the applications of this technique used in data compression as well as in Hollywood. We will also challenge students present to "Beat the Professor" at the chaos game and maybe win his computer. This talk is accessible even to high school students.
Spreadsheets: An amazing tool to enliven and animate mathematics
In this talk we will give a number of examples of how spreadsheets may be used to animate all sorts of different graphs that arise in the secondary school and college mathematics curriculum. Such a tool is extremely valuable since almost all students have access to and are familiar with spreadsheets. Furthermore, a spreadsheet allows the user to view both the data and the graph of the data, and when animated, this becomes ane even more valuable tool in mathematics. At the end of the talk, we will show participants how to incorporate scrollbars into spreadsheets to activate these animations.
Cantor and Sierpinski, Julia and Fatou: Crazy Topology in Complex Dynamics
In this talk, we shall describe some of the incredibly beautiful and interesting topological structures that arise as Julia sets of certain complex functions including the exponential and rational maps. These objects include Cantor bouquets, indecomposable continua, and Sierpinski curves, each which we will describe completely. This talk is appropriate for advanced undergrads who are familiar with the complex exponential function.
Barbara Faires, Secretary
Department of Mathematics, Westminster College, PO Box 15, New Wilmington, PA 16172
Available as a speaker: now until Spring 2020

Topics Include:

Mathematics and Architecture in the Baroque Era
Baroque architecture was above all mathematical.  So what did architects such as Bernini, Borromini, Blondel, Guarini, and Wren learn from or have in common with the likes of Descartes, Galileo, Desargues?  Examining writings of the architects as well as their designs on paper and at building sites helps to answer the question as well as provide a look at buildings as “studies in practical mathematics.”
The Scottish Café
The Scottish Café, the favored cafe of mathematicians in Lvov, Poland, is now known by many through the notebook of problems produced by those mathematicians.  The notebook provides insight into problems posed as well as life in Poland at that time.  This talk highlights the history and recent work on some of the problems posed in the Scottish Problem Book.
Stephen Kennedy, Senior Acquisitions Editor MAA Books 
Carleton College, Northfield MN

Topics include:

Two Heads Are Better Than None
Every question in probability has seventeen plausible answers.  The sixteen incorrect answers always occur to you before the correct one.  In this talk a very simple question of probability---If I intend to flip a coin until I see two consecutive heads, when, if ever, should I expect to stop?---leads to a morass, a muddle and then one seeming miracle.  We’ll resolve the muddle and explain the miracle and, in true mathematical fashion, leave ourselves with a new unresolved puzzle.
Halving Your Cake
It is a problem as old as humanity: given a resource to be shared (water, land, cake) how can it be shared fairly between several people?  The answer, in the case of two claimants, is simple and ancient and known to every five-year-old with a sibling: I cut,You choose.  Things get much more interesting, and challenging, if one has more than one sibling.  We are forced to ask ourselves exactly what “fairly” means in the question; “fair” from whose point of view and by what criteria? 
Bright Lights on the Horizon
Math Horizons, the MAA undergraduate magazine, is now twenty years old.  In those two decades many fabulous articles have appeared.  In this talk we will survey some of the speaker’s favorites, that list includes pieces on square-wheeled bicycles, Egyptian arithmetic,  non-transitive dice, magic tricks, jokes, and mathematical paintings, theater and sculpture. An idiosyncratic tour of the best of Math Horizons.
Elizabeth Mayfield, Chair, Committee on Sections
Hood College, Department of Mathematics, 401 Rosemont Ave, Frederick, MD 21701
Available as a speaker: now until Spring 2018
Gerbert d'Aurillac and the March of Spain: A Guy in the Right Place at the Right Time
Gerbert was a tenth century scholar and churchman who eventually was named Pope Sylvester II. In the Year 1000, he probably knew more mathematics than anyone else in Europe. We'll explore how that came to be.
Women and Mathematics in the Time of Euler
This talk examines some female contemporaries of Euler, some famous, some not so famous. We will look at mathematics that was written both by and for women in the time of Euler.
A Locally Compact REU in the History of Mathematics
Tips on running a collaborative summer research project for your own students in the history of mathematics.
Jennifer Quinn, Chair, Council on Publications
University of Washington Tacoma, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, Campus Box 358436, 1900 Commerce St, Tacoma, WA 98402-3100
Available as a speaker: now until Spring 2019
Michael Pearson, Executive Director

Mathematical Association of America, 1529 18th Street NW, Washington DC 20036

Click here for topics

Karen Saxe, 2nd Vice President
Macalester College
Available as speaker: Spring 2014 through Spring 2016

Topics include:

A Mathematical Adventure through the Census, Reapportionment, and Redistricting
Abstract: Every four years, we go to the polls to vote for a president, but how are our votes tallied to give the winner? In 1787, the Constitutional Convention established our rather unusual electoral college which necessitates an assignment of representatives to the states; how is this allocation done? After giving an introduction to congressional reapportionment and redistricting, I will explain how mathematics is currently used by the states to prevent and detect gerrymandering. Good for all audiences; no college-level math needed. [Could modify this talk and focus on any one of apportionment, weighted voting, or electoral systems]
Writing for the MAA
Abstract: This talk, aimed at faculty members, gives an overview of the di fferent journals and book series published by the MAA and how to get involved writing, or serving on an editorial board.
Measuring Inequality
Abstract: Whether a resource - such as income - is distributed evenly among members of a population is often an important political or economic question. The Occupy Movement has recently drawn more attention to the fact that income inequality in the United States is increasing. How can we measure this inequality? How can we decide whether the distribution of wealth in this country is becoming more or less equitable over time? How can we decide which country has the most equitable income distribution? This talk describes one tool, the Gini index, used to answer these questions. Aimed at students, will use integral calculus.
Approximation of Functions
Abstract: Function approximation pervades much of mathematics and applied mathematics. In our first calculus course we discuss Taylor polynomials; in our fi rst statistics course we talk about least squares approximations. These are just two examples from a long list that also includes functions you may have heard of, like Bezier curves and Fourier series. This talk will give an introduction and overview of various types of approximations, how and when they can be constructed and used, all in historical context.
Preparing and Giving a Good Talk about Mathematics
Abstract: It is hard work to give a good talk. In this talk, I will share advice about how to develop a great talk. We will discuss audience, expository style, slide production. [Can modify for audience, but probably best for advanced undergraduates and graduate students]
Hortensia Soto-Johnson, Associate Treasurer
University of Northern Colorado, School of Mathematical Sciences, 501 20th Street, Campus Box 122, Greely, CO 80639
Available as speaker: Spring 2014 through Spring 2018

Topics include:

Diverse Assessments
Diverse assessments can inform us about students’ understanding of undergraduate mathematics and can shape our teaching. Oral assessments such as classroom presentations and individual student interviews can paint a better picture of students’ conceptions as well as their misconceptions. Reading assignments with structured questions allow students to get a glimpse of new content and their responses can be used to structure the classroom discussion. Perceptuo-motor activities offer opportunities for students to feel, experience, and be the mathematics. In this talk, I will share numerous diverse assessments that I have implemented, the benefits of such assessments, and the challenges in implementing these assessments.
Promoting Mathematics to Young and Diverse Women
Abstract: Las Chicas de Matemáticas: UNC Math Camp for Young Women is a free one-week residential camp for 30 young women from grades 9-12, who have completed algebra I. The goals of the camp are to introduce young women to college-level mathematics, college life, STEM related careers, and other women who are passionate about mathematics. In this presentation, I will discuss the structure and outcomes of the camp and offer suggestions for anyone wishing to take on such an endeavor.
Francis Su, President
Harvey Mudd College
Available as a speaker: now until Spring 2018
Topics include:
Combinatorial Fixed Point Theorems
The Brouwer fixed point theorem and the Borsuk-Ulam theorem are beautiful and well-known theorems of topology that admit combinatorial analogues: Sperner's lemma and Tucker's lemma.  In this talk, I will trace recent connections and generalizations of these combinatorial theorems, including applications to the social sciences.
Voting in Agreeable Societies
When does a majority exist? How does the geometry of the political spectrum influence the outcome? What does mathematics have to say about how people behave? When mathematical objects have a social interpretation, the associated results have social applications.  We will show how math can be used to model people's preferences and how classical results about convex sets can be used in the analysis of voting in "agreeable" societies.
Splitting the Rent, Keeping the Peace
How do you divide the rent among roommates fairly?  My friend's dilemma was a question that mathematics could answer, both elegantly and constructively. We show how it and other "fair division" questions --- the most famous of which is the problem of Steinhaus: how do you cut a cake fairly? --- motivate a host of mathematical ideas. They provide excellent examples of how mathematics can address an old class of problems in new ways, and conversely, how problems in the social sciences can motivate new mathematics--- where topology, geometry, and combinatorics meet social applications, and where research by undergraduates has played a big role.
My Favorite Math Fun Facts
For several years, I have been collecting "Math Fun Facts", which are juicy math tidbits that I have been using to start off my calculus classes, as a warm-up activity.  Math Fun Facts are can be from any area of mathematics (not just calculus), can be presented in less than 5 minutes, and are meant to arouse my students' curiosity and fascination with the subject and to give them a glimpse that mathematics is full of interesting ideas, patterns, and new modes of thinking.  In this talk, I will present my favorite Math Fun Facts.  They're definitely fun, but will they be YOUR favorites?  You decide.
Thinking about Mathematics and Meaning
It is a uniquely human endeavor to reflect on the things of this world and the relationships between them, and to seek meaning in the patterns we encounter. In mathematics, we not only reflect on but we create things and relationships between them by endowing them with meaning.  The most important human pursuits arise from a quest for meaning.  So if we want to teach effective thinking and mathematical thinking, we must show why doing mathematics is meaningful.
Gerard Venema, Associate Secretary, Calvin College
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI 49546
Available as speaker: now through Spring, 2019
Topics include: Dimension, Fractals, and Wild Cantor Sets; Issues in the undergraduate geometry course


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