aBa Mbirika's math journey and diversity in Iowa

January 27, 2023 - 12:00am
Department of Mathematics

"When I got into Iowa and took the little tour, funnily enough, I saw people like me. Not a lot, but there were three others. This was in 2010, which at that time was the world record year for the number of African Americans that got PhDs in math. That year, that number was 19, and many of them were coming from Iowa.

People are confused because they think Iowa is so homogeneous, like, ‘Why are there black people in the math department of Iowa?’ The answer is because there have been black people in the math department of Iowa! Originally it was due to the foresight of this mathematics professor, Phil Kutzko, to intentionally bring in more people of color. He recruited many Latino students, and I heard that he’d go down south, meet the best black students, and just talk to them about Iowa. A lot of them had never even seen snow. I mean, who’d have thought Iowa? My whole six years there, my mom didn’t even know if it was Ohio, Iowa, or Idaho. Nobody I knew from New York understood." - aBa Mbirika

Link to full article