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February 3rd

Tasha Inniss
Associate Professor of Mathematics
Spelman College

Acting Deputy Division Director
Division of Human Resource Development
National Science Foundation

Dr. Inniss was born in the amazing city of New Orleans, Louisiana. She grew up in a house that her great grandfather built in the Lower 9th Ward. In this house, she lived with her mother, brother, grandparents, aunt, and uncle. Her home of extended family was filled with lots of love and quality family time! Sunday dinners, which included in-depth discussions about various topics, were the norm. Christianity and the Catholic Church were a major part of her upbringing. Education was also very important…her mother was pursuing a Master’s degree, her aunt a law school degree, her uncle was a math professor, and her grandfather was a 6th grade teacher. All played a part in raising her and nurturing her love and talent for mathematics. Numbers and solving problems were always exciting for her. She marveled at the fact that it seemed math was part of almost everything around her in the world. One of her earliest memories was of her grandfather helping her to memorize her “times” (multiplication) tables. She got great joy out of providing answers in the quickest amount of time…she was a whiz at calculations! She also remembers the excitement of being called to the board to “expand numbers” or to do long division. In 4th grade, she recalls being a finalist at a mathematics’ competition at the local college. Talk about a confidence booster! She enjoyed the challenge of being presented a math problem and tackling it as if it were a puzzle or game. This perception of fun and the sense of accomplishment she felt after solving a problem correctly sustained her interest in the mathematical sciences through all the years of her schooling. It was in college at Xavier University of Louisiana that she decided to pursue a Ph.D. in the mathematical sciences due to the urging of her professors. Her proudest accomplishment was earning the Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics. She feels she owes this accomplishment to her family, friends, teachers, mentors, and professors that encouraged, supported and believed in her! Pursuing a doctoral degree is not easy for anyone, but doing so while combating perceptions of the abilities of African Americans made it extra challenging. Because there are so few African American women mathematicians, it is extra special for her “to be in the number” (no pun intended ☺). She feels really good knowing that her accomplishment may help other women of color to know that they can do it too! That is why she was especially proud to become a math professor at Spelman College, where she could mentor and encourage other Black women. If she were to give any words of advice, it would be these:

"Have faith! Work Hard! Be courageous and persevere! Be open to opportunities and pursue them! Live a “whole” (balanced) life! Cherish and value family, friends and loved ones (they are your support system)! Ultimately, do what you love and what brings you the most joy."

This is how she lives her life.

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