Talithia Williams, Harvey Mudd College

Statement: I remember the first time I met  a woman with a PhD  in math. I was at Spelman College and had come to campus during  the summer of 1996 for a summer science program.  Dr. Etta Falconer,  who directed the program at the time, was a shining   example  of everything I could one day become. Her presence was warm  and witty, like your favorite grandmother who might give you  a dollar and tell you not to spend it all in one place. She had a way of making  us fall in love with math.  As a student  at Spelman, I later realized  that there  were fewer  than 100 African American women with PhDs in math and that given the rate at which we were getting  math PhD  degrees, if I decided to go to graduate school, I, too, could be in the top 100. I can remember how frustrated I felt when I heard that statistic. Fortunately,  I channeled those emotions  into the driving force that led me to likewise  earn a PhD. Since then,  I have been active  in organizations that seek  to broaden the participation of women in mathe- matics. I have coordinated  the EDGE (Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education)  summer program for women and currently   serve on the board of the Sylvia Bozeman and Rhonda Hughes EDGE Foundation,  a nonprofit  organiza- tion that trains and mentors women for success in graduate school in the mathematical   sciences. I am active on the Board of Governors for the MAA as  the Governor for Minority Interests  and on the board  of SACNAS,  an organization  dedicated  to the success  of Hispanic, Chicano  and Native  Americans  in science.  I  would be delighted  to serve  as a Member-at-Large on the AWM Executive Committee  and further  our mission of motivat- ing, cultivating and promoting  mathematical talent in women and girls. 

Biographical information: Dr. Talithia Williams is an associate professor  of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College. In her present  capacity  as a faculty   member,   she exemplifies the role of teacher and scholar through  outstanding research, with a passion  for integrating and motivating  the educational  process with real world statistical applications. Her  educational background includes a  bachelor’s degree in mathematics (Spelman College), master’s degrees in both mathematics (Howard  University)  and statistics (Rice University),  and a PhD in statistics (Rice University).  Her professional  experiences include  research appointments at the Jet Propulsion   Laboratory  (JPL),  the National Security Agency (NSA), and NASA. Williams  develops statistical models which  emphasize the spatial and temporal  structure of data  with environmental   applications.  She has been recognized for the development of a cataract model  used to predict  the cataract surgical rate for countries in Africa. She recently  gave a TED talk (currently  over 1 million views) titled “Own Your Body’s Data,” which explores how each of us can begin to collect  data about  ourselves that  can provide insight into our personal  health.  She is also active  in her faith community,  serving as a Trustee on the Pomona First Baptist Board of Trustees and with her husband as a Christian marriage mentor  couple. She’s the exhausted mom of three amazing boys, ages 3, 5, and  7 (triple prime!!!).