|UW Mathematics||Autumn 2007|
Message from the Chair
The Graduate Program
The Mathematics Departmentís graduate program has undergone a remarkable renaissance in the past decade. The number of doctoral degrees awarded by the Department has increased in each of the past three years to a thirty-year record number of fourteen in 2007, and job prospects for our graduates are better than ever. Many recent graduates have accepted positions at top research universities such as Columbia, Cornell, Michigan, Stanford, Purdue, Rice, and Wisconsin; others are working at leading companies such as Chevron and Samsung; and still others are teaching at local colleges and universities including Seattle University, UW Bothell, and Green River Community College.
It wasnít always this way. The current state of our graduate program is the result of a comprehensive recruitment and retention plan that we began to formulate in 1997 when it became apparent that our old approach was not working well. From the late 1990s up to the present, we have instituted a number of changes to our program which, together with other factors, are responsible for our success.
To improve the quality of our entering classes, we have revised our evaluation procedure for applicants and enhanced our recruitment efforts. Each application is carefully evaluated by three members of the Admissions Committee. We use funds from the Graduate School together with internal departmental funds to support visits of our top candidates. Our own students are the best publicity for our program, so each visiting applicant is chaperoned by an advanced graduate student.
Developing a comprehensive support package guaranteeing adequate financial support to our top students has been a central component of our recruitment strategy. Most of our top applicants receive offers from leading universities such as Michigan and Berkeley that include financial incentives beyond their base TA salary, which in turn is often significantly greater than ours. Beginning in the 2001-02 admissions season, we have been able to promise an attractive 11-month salary for a minimum of five years, subject to making satisfactory progress toward the Ph.D. To fund this plan we have to call upon all sources of funding available to us: outside sources such as the National Science Foundation, the ARCS Foundation, and the Microsoft Corporation, as well as internal funds. The majority of these sources are temporary, and our long-term goal is to stabilize the plan with permanent funding.
Our recruitment strategy has been a dramatic success. The number of applicants to our program has steadily increased from a low of a little over 110 applicants in 1998 to over 270 applicants last year, allowing us to be increasingly selective in our admissions policy. We typically admit fifteen doctoral students and five masterís students. Our graduate enrollment has increased to 90 students, the maximum number we can fully support with our current resources.
Strengthening our advising and mentoring program has also been a multi-year effort. We have designed a three-day orientation program for new students and teaching assistants. Each new student meets individually with the Graduate Program Coordinator and with a faculty advisor to map out a course of study. In addition, new students participate in a TA training program, and they are mentored by an experienced TAs during their first quarter of teaching. Advising and mentoring of students (by multiple faculty members in numerous roles) continues throughout our program.
The Department sponsors numerous courses and activities designed to acquaint students with current research in mathematics, as well as with current topics related to the profession. The Department organizes regular colloquia and both formal and informal seminars and reading groups, and graduate students organize the Current Problems Seminar where faculty and advanced graduate students discuss their own research. In addition to formal talks, the Department sponsors lunches with colloquium speakers and "brown-bag lunches" to discuss issues related to the teaching of mathematics. Approximately twice each quarter the Department sponsors an informal dinner where a small group of students and faculty meets to explore ways to improve our graduate program.
We are proud of the success of our graduate program and students over the past few years, and we confidently expect not only to continue operating at the high level we have achieved, but to build further upon it.