Rice University Computational and Applied Mathematics Program
The American Mathematical Society (AMS) presented Rice University’s Computational and Applied Mathematics (CAAM) Department its 2010 “Mathematics Programs That Make a Difference” award in acknowledgment of “the department’s unwavering commitment to students through individual guidance and support” that “has created an exceptionally welcoming community in which students thrive.” For 25 years, the Rice University Computational and Applied Mathematics Department has worked to increase participation of underrepresented minority (URM) students at the PhD level. Over those 25 years, 34 URM PhDs (6 African American, 15 domestic Hispanics, and 13 Latin American Hispanics) have been produced. An additional 33 women have received CAAM PhDs over this period.
CAAM URM graduates have distinguished themselves across the country in government labs, industry, and university faculties, many in positions of leadership. Also, the CAAM department program has served as a model for first a university-wide, then a Houston-wide program across all science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, and for an engineering-wide program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M).
Program Vision: Admitting a full spectrum of underrepresented minority students, some of which would be rejected using traditional admissions criteria, and then creating a community that provides academic, social, and personal support are the cornerstones of the CAAM program. The goal was to find the “diamonds in the rough” so as to increase participation nationally, not just to compete with other good schools for the few stellar students that would be accepted at any elite school in the country.
Admissions: CAAM admissions decisions are made by the CAAM Graduate Admissions Committee, with input from a central committee that is part of Rice’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program, that advises on minority graduate admissions across all science and engineering departments. The AGEP committee controls approximately 16 graduate minority fellowships and tuition waivers funded by Rice each year, and the CAAM department, as well as all other STEM departments, sends applications to this committee for consideration. Since department graduate admissions committees tend to be rotating, and new committee members may not understand or share the goal of diversity, this standing committee provides continuity of purpose and understanding on diversity matters.
The committee takes a holistic approach to evaluating students for admissions; standardized test scores, undergraduate grades, quality of undergraduate institution, and letters of recommendation are all reviewed as a whole. For GRE