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Black History Month
2023 Honoree

Back to Circle of Excellence
Marissa Kawehi Loving

Marissa Kawehi Loving

Assistant Professor of Mathematics

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Where are you from?

I was born in Honolulu on the Island of O’ahu and grew up in Honomū on Hawai’i Island. My mom, Theresa Loving (née Prowell), was born and raised in Pennsylvania and my dad, Floyd Carleton Loving III, was born and raised on O’ahu (as was his father while his mother was from Hawai’i Island). No matter where I am located physically, my home and heart will always be in Hawai’i Island with the ‘ike and iwi of my kūpuna.


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

My dad is a middle school math teacher and I was homeschooled by my mom who also has a knack for mathematics, so math was always one of my favorite subjects growing up. However, I was much more interested in writing as a career than anything in STEM and dreamed of being a journalist or playwright. By the time I started college, I had decided that being a writer was too competitive and impractical career-wise and enrolled at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo as a computer science major. After taking point set topology in my second semester, I officially added a math major and decided that I wanted to go to grad school in math and become a mathematician (little did I know how competitive and impractical a career decision this was!).


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

One of my favorite academic flexes is that I have received every NSF grant I have ever applied for and have been continuously funded by the NSF from the beginning of grad school till now through an NSF grad fellowship, an NSF postdoc fellowship, and an NSF standard grant. However, I think what makes me the most proud professionally is watching the students I mentor flourishing in their own mathematical careers as well as being agents of change within their departments and larger mathematical communities. As a specific example of this, in March one of my former undergraduate mentees, Brandis Whitfield, who is now a math PhD student at Temple will deliver the introductory talk to a minicourse I’m giving on some of my recent work. This feels like a dream come true in and of itself!


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

My husband and I just bought our first house and are slowly turning it into a home. After spending the first 5 years of our relationship long distance, it feels extra special to be able to create this space together to reflect each of us individually as well as our life together. I also feel very grateful to be the big sister to 11 sisters and brothers. I’m proud of the ways that I have been able to love and take care of them over the years.


Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.

I had a wonderful mathematical experience in undergrad. I was surrounded by faculty and classmates who cared about me and pushed me to my best. Unfortunately, my time in the math community since then has been much less idyllic. There have been times so dark that I couldn’t see a path forward for myself in mathematics. It was during those challenges that my community came alongside me to provide encouragement, support, and a space to be fully me. These are my words of wisdom, “Show up for your people and let them show up for you.”