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Black History Month
2021 Honoree

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Shanise Walker

Shanise Walker

Assistant Professor of Mathematics

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

 

Where are you from?

I am from Columbus, Georgia (southwest of Atlanta, Georgia), where I am a graduate of George Washington Carver High School. I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Georgia where I earned a BS in Mathematics before earning a PhD in Mathematics at Iowa State University. 

 

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

My discovery of the love I have for mathematics started when I was in eighth grade and my math teacher Mrs. Rutledge identified my math strengths and changed my schedule to the advanced eighth grade algebra class. I remember for the first time not quite grasping the concepts as fast since I hadn’t taken pre-algebra as a prerequisite. However, I loved the challenge and loved doing math so it was an immediate win for me. I spent a great deal of my eighth-grade year doing math. I would spend Saturday mornings either practicing for math competitions or competing in math competitions. It was at the competitions where I learned a lot about which areas in math I did well and the areas in math I didn’t know that well. Having this knowledge was all that I needed to keep me interested in math. 

 

As a student in high school, I enjoyed all of my math courses, but the calculus course that I took in high school led me to my journey of wanting to teach mathematics. My calculus teacher Ms. Lee taught the course in a manner that I really liked. As students, we spent a lot of time in class doing hands-on work from writing problems and solutions on the blackboard to explaining to our classmates our solutions. Homework was assigned but never collected for grading. However, pop quizzes happened often and one must always be prepared for pop quizzes. In that class, I learned to be independent and responsible for my own studies. Ms. Lee’s approach to teaching calculus made my transition to college easier. From there, my love for mathematics evolved to where I am now as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics.

 

 

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

I am most proud to have earned a PhD in Mathematics. As a first-generation college student, completing a PhD in Mathematics is something that I hold with high regard. When I earned my PhD from Iowa State University in 2018, Chassidy Bozeman, Michael Dairyko and I were the first three African American students to complete a PhD in Mathematics. It was a joyous moment to celebrate with them and an experience I will cherish forever. 

 

I am also very proud to have the opportunity to mentor and collaborate with students from underrepresented groups in mathematics. Growing up, many of my math teachers were African American and/or women, so I never thought about being underrepresented in mathematics until I attended college and I only had one woman math professor during my entire time as a student at the University of Georgia. I also didn’t meet a Black math professor until I participated in the REU program at Iowa State University. As a mentor and educator, I understand the power of representation and engagement with students and commit myself to servicing and mentoring all students, especially students from underrepresented groups. 

 

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

A proud accomplishment in my personal life is becoming an aunt. When I became an aunt, I became an aunt of three in a year as all of my siblings had a child within one year. I am so overjoyed to be an aunt and I cannot wait to teach my love of mathematics to my niece and nephews. 

 

 

Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.

“Don’t start something you can’t keep up.” -Josephine Barnum

 

Josephine Barnum is my maternal grandmother who passed away in February 2020. She meant the world to me and taught me many things that I will hold dear to my heart. The phrase “don’t start something you can’t keep up” is just one of the things she taught me. The phrase has taught me so much more than accountability, it has led me in decision making when taking on new projects and endeavors in my career and in other aspects of my life. I always reflect and think, there is no way I can finish something if I cannot keep up the tasks required to complete it. This reflection has allowed me to say my best “yes” and accomplish many things.