Talea L. Mayo
Groups historically underrepresented in the sciences include women and Black Americans. I am a member of both of these groups, and this greatly influenced my graduate school experience at UT Austin. The absence of brown faces was particularly isolating at the beginning of my graduate studies, and has been the primary factor in my decision to enter academia. It is my hope that my presence and position at a university can serve as a silent reminder to young, black science students that they should be there too.
I have often thought about why these groups are underrepresented, and while I don't have an answer to that question, I do believe that primary and secondary education play a large role. While in college, I worked for the NCAA Academic Enhancement as a math tutor. It was then that I first learned the importance of building strong mathematical foundations, as most of my peers struggled in their classes, not because of the higher level math concepts, but the elementary ones. I have worked to conteract this widespread issue by teaching extracurricular math to high school girls in the central New Jersey and central Florida regions. I believe that this additional attention predisposes them to success in math and science. It is my hope to provide these benefits to disadvantaged students at a larger scale through the implementation of informal learning programs in underperforming school districts across the nation, modeled after that of Emeritus Professor Steve Cox of Rice University.
I have also worked to repair cracks in educational foundations retroactively. Upon moving to New Jersey, I became heavily involved in Princeton's Prison Teaching Initiative. Through this program, I (and many others) provided incarcerated individuals with an opportunity to earn college credits. This greatly increases their chances of success upon their return to society. A similar program, the Florida Prison Education Project, is run at the University of Central Florida under the direction of Professor Keri Watson. It is my hope to continue supporting and engaging in such work throughout my life and career.