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Black History Month
2017 Honoree

Back to Circle of Excellence
Talithia Williams

Talithia Williams

Associate Professor

Department of Mathematics

Harvey Mudd College

Background: Where are you from?

I’m originally from Columbus, Georgia. I graduated from Columbus High School and went to Spelman College where I majored in mathematics and minored in physics. My Spelman professors encouraged me to go to graduate school, so I went to Howard University for a masters in mathematics and then to Rice University for a Ph.D. in statistics.

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

    • In high school, I would take Mathematics Competition exams (mostly because I was allowed to miss class for 2 hours and it wasn’t for a grade!) After a few tries, I was one of a handful of students to actually made it to the next round. I remember being surprised because I’d never thought of myself as a “math person”. But the more math problems I did, the better I got at solving them. That was one of the first times I experienced the satisfaction that comes from solving challenging problems!
    • I spent three summers working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was mentored by the late Dr. Claudia Alexander. As an undergraduate student, she allowed me to imagine myself with a Ph.D. working at NASA. This was a vision I held on to, especially in graduate school when the work became difficult. Claudia’s example made me want to emulate her.

Most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences.

In 2014, I became the first African American woman to ever receive tenure at Harvey Mudd College.

Most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life.

I have an amazingly supportive husband! And, I have three sons that were each delivered without any pain medication! (Not sure if that makes me “proud” or “crazy”!)

Any words of wisdom/inspiration.

Push past the pain. Anything worth having is worth working for.