As the world deals with the fallout of the global pandemic, some things must persist, especially community. Mathematics students have been particularly resilient in the face of this most recent adversity. Activities have been moved online, peers have reached out to one another, perhaps more than usual, and every small gesture is even more appreciated under the circumstances.
The OSU Math Club has been instrumental in keeping the undergraduate student community connected. Josie (Jo) O’Harrow, Math Club Vice President, says “I think the biggest obstacle facing our club right now is that everyone is exhausted from Zoom and just trying to stay caught up with remote classes. In the midst of a global pandemic, political tension, and everything else going on I think people, and rightfully so, do not have attending Math Club at the top of their priorities.” And yet, Math Club continues to provide “space” for members to have support and community during this really challenging time.
In spite of lower than usual attendance, and obvious difficulties with recruiting, students are continuing to join Math Club. “I have no idea where they find us, but I am so happy to see them!” says Jo. One of those new students is freshman Haley Hughes, math and chemistry double major and Honors Scholar.
“Becoming a part of OSU's Math Club as a first year has been an awesome experience! I've met so many great people and love having conversations with everyone whether it be math-related or not. It has allowed me to meet others with similar interests and learn from their experiences as students. Unfortunately, we're unable to meet in-person right now, but the Zoom socials have been so much fun and I'm so glad I joined!” – Haley Hughes
Perhaps not surprising is that students are currently more drawn to those activities which are casual and intimate, compared with the traditionally popular math contests and seminars. Particularly successful has been the weekly tea time where students can decompress and check in with each other. Math Club also hosted a reading group on the theory of computation. Third year math major and Math Club officer, Grace Strid, says “Seeing both regular and new faces for our socials and other activities has been making our efforts well worth it. Discussing math and other topics are engaging, and at a time where my frequency of human interactions have declined, math club socials are what keeps me grounded.”
One of the most successful venues for math student interaction, and not just limited to math majors (or even students!) is the Discord server. Discord is a popular platform based upon a chat room format. Math Club launched their Discord server way back in January of 2019. However, since covid, usage has skyrocketed, with more 500 users from majors all across the College of Science and beyond. According to Math Club President, Riley Skyles, “This server has been used primarily as study space for students to meet virtually and discuss the current mathematics courses they are taking, but has also become a thriving ecosystem of scientifically-minded individuals where anyone can share their passions and contribute to a larger, diverse intellectual community here at OSU.” With its successes comes its own challenges as the club is scrambling to create better guidelines for inclusivity and language on the server in order to accommodate a much larger group than expected and make sure that everyone feels welcome and safe.
Jo sums it up nicely, “Of course going remote was a huge negative surprise, but now the surprises are how our members and our organization are adapting to be successful in this setting and it’s really uplifting to see.”
Math Club intends to expand upon this infrastructure to continue to advertise the varied experiences outside of the classroom that Math Club hosts throughout the academic year.
Some future planned activities are as follows:
Seminars: Seminars are an opportunity to hear from a professor or instructor what research or projects they are working on and for them to engage in a dialogue with the student community.
Integration Bee: Math Club intends on setting up an integration bee like last year, except it will be remote.
Socials: Math Club will continue their regular socials with club members in the evening as a chance to hang out and catch up.
Tea Time: Plans are to continue with at least weekly tea time around lunch time. Tea time is not restricted to tea-drinkers!
Pi Day: It is not known what format yet, but there will be a Pi Day event. Some members have suggested a pi-themed tea time where we eat pie.
Outreach: Math Club intends to coordinate some outreach activities, including possibly visiting with high school math clubs on Zoom, helping to write technology grants for local schools, or working with other clubs like the AWM. They would also like to set up more of an online presence on social media.
Member-led directed reading groups: For example, a member has expressed enthusiasm for leading a logic reading group.
For those who have any further questions about Math Club in general, they may be contacted via the Math Club officers' email firstname.lastname@example.org.