April 22, 2021
Ethno-mathematician and Professor of Mathematics Nkechi Madonna Agwu has been honored with inclusion as one of 64 mathematicians featured on the deck of EvenQuads, a Notable Women in Math Playing Cards game created by the Association for Women in Mathematics and commemorating the national organization’s 50th anniversary.
Professor Agwu’s passion for inspiring BMCC students to pursue their love of STEM comes from her own experience of feeling underrepresented in the field she loves.
“I was the only female and the only Black person in my master’s in mathematics program at the University of Connecticut,” she says. “Then at Syracuse University, I was the only Black person in the Ph.D. in mathematics education program.”
That imbalance didn’t dissuade Professor Agwu from accomplishing her goal of earning a doctoral degree and teaching students in a college setting.
“Once you’ve been a refugee of war—I grew up in refugee camps in Equatorial Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone—you can survive anything,” she says.
A member of the groups Nigerian Women in Mathematics and Nigerian Women for Agricultural Research for Development, Professor Agwu has received three Carnegie Foundation African Diaspora Fellowships and numerous PSC CUNY grants.
In part, these grants supported Professor Agwu’s ethnomathematical trips to Nigeria and the Republic of Benin to research indigenous mathematics and bring back to her students at BMCC, activities in which they identify math concepts in women’s agricultural work.
She has also mentored students through C-STEP, STEP, the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) and Honors program at BMCC.
“I know the importance of trying to get women and underrepresented minorities into mathematics,” she says. “Women of African heritage comprise less than one percent of the women who make up 30 percent of students in Ph.D. math programs.”
“Dr. Agwu serves as an exceptional role model for all students; including women, underrepresented students and math-challenged students who find themselves inspired by Dr. Agwu’s passion and engaged by her pedagogy,” says Mathematics Department Chair Fred Peskoff.
Professor Peskoff points out that while women and minority participation in STEM fields remains disproportionately low, BMCC has many programs designed to welcome underrepresented students into STEM research and majors at the College, and the work of individual professors supports that commitment.
“Dr. Agwu has developed curricular activities that raise awareness of Black women mathematicians and highlight mathematical concepts in contexts from dance to architecture to textiles, across many cultures,” says Professor Peskoff. “Students gain skills and comprehension, as well as an even stronger belief that they belong—and can excel—in the STEM college classroom and workplace. We are extremely proud to have Dr. Agwu as a faculty member in our department and our college.”
Addressing the diversity of STEM programs and expanding opportunities for minority students is a priority shared across CUNY.
“The efforts of BMCC Professor Nkechi Agwu and her CUNY colleagues to include and elevate women and underrepresented students in STEM—from the higher education classroom to careers driving the economy of tomorrow—aren’t just inspiring,” said Andrea Shapiro Davis, CUNY interim vice chancellor for advancement. “They are part of what has to happen if equity is to become a reality, and the strength of diversity realized in New York City and beyond.”
- Professor of Mathematics Nkechi Madonna Agwu honored with inclusion as one of 64 mathematicians featured in a Notable Women in Math Playing Cards game created by the Association for Women in Mathematics to commemorate their 50th anniversary
- Having grown up in refugee in camps in Equatorial Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Professor Agwu was the only woman student in her graduate and doctoral programs and is committed to increasing underrepresented students’ participation in math
- “The efforts of BMCC Professor Nkechi Agwu and her CUNY colleagues to include and elevate women and underrepresented students in STEM—from the higher education classroom to careers driving the economy of tomorrow—aren’t just inspiring,” said Andrea Shapiro Davis, CUNY interim vice chancellor for advancement. “They are part of what has to happen if equity is to become a reality, and the strength of diversity realized in New York City and beyond.”