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Black History Month
2023 Honoree

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Jana Talley

Jana Talley

Associate Professor of Mathematics

Jackson State University


Where are you from?

I am from Kansas City, Missouri.


Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.

To the surprise of most people, I have never been a “math whiz”. When it came to the subject of mathematics, my junior high and high school years were honestly met with quite a bit of struggle. However, the household I was raised in did not allow that as an excuse for poor grades. In efforts to succeed, I dedicated most of my study time to mathematics. Through collaborating with classmates to understand the material, I often found myself taking the lead in thinking through concepts and procedures. Even when I was intimidated by the content, I was determined to master the material. These experiences influenced me to major in secondary mathematics education at Alcorn State University with the goal of returning as a high school mathematics teacher. At the undergraduate and graduate school levels I often found myself cycling through struggle and triumph with my coursework. When I was intimidated by the material I sought to not only collaborate with my peers as I had done in the past, but also think independently, utilize a variety of educational resources, and take direction from my mentors.  At each level I further developed my skills as a learner of mathematics; which in turn sharpened by ability to be an effective teacher as well. While I didn’t return to my high school to teach mathematics, sharing my experiences with the students that I engage with as a professor is the best part of the work I do everyday. I find fulfillment in relating to their struggles and serving as an example that intimidation is not a barrier to excelling in and enjoying the field of mathematics.



What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences?

I am extremely honored and proud to have played a role in implementing and facilitating the Jackson State University Girls Engaging in the Mathematical Sciences (JSU GEMS) summer program for middle school girls. As the director I am most proud of this work for two reasons. First because of the impact we had on our participants. The feedback from parents and interest shown from stakeholders each year made it clear that the young women had an experience unlike any other summer or after-school program. After just one week with JSU GEMS almost all of them reported that they became more confident in their ability to learn and explore mathematics and related subjects. They also identified academic spaces and peer groups that will further cultivate their interests in mathematics-based careers. Secondly, this was a project that my colleagues and I built from scratch. We had the idea for several years and were finally able to see it through from start to finish. The most satisfying aspect of the project was turning a dream into a reality. This dream was accomplished by a team of Black women dedicated to enhancing the opportunities of young girls in the mathematical sciences.


What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?

I’ve had the privilege of serving as a mentor to young women throughout every facet of my life. Whether it be through my role as a program director, a girl scout volunteer, an academic advisor, or most importantly an aunt; I’m honored to have the opportunity to motivate, encourage, and uplift the next generation of scholars. The best reward is seeing so many of my mentees excel in their personal, professional, and educational endeavors.


Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.

Success is not dependent on strength nor speed. It’s dependent on perseverance. So no matter how intimidating or challenging the task, the only thing you have to do is KEEP RUNNING!