A new initiative involving two sister institutions in The University of Texas System aims to prepare students better for graduate studies and careers in mathematics while enhancing diversity among applicants.
UT Dallas received a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a program with UT Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) to encourage more students from underrepresented groups to pursue PhDs in math.
The partnership created Increasing Mathematics Potential across Texas (IMPacT), which combines innovative educational practices with industry connections.
“If we want to increase the pool of applicants for graduate school, we first need to enhance upper-level undergraduate classes so students are better prepared to pursue graduate studies,” said Dr. Vladimir Dragovic, professor and head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at UT Dallas who leads the collaboration with Dr. Timothy Huber, director of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at UTRGV.
With six locations across the Rio Grande Valley, UTRGV is classified as a minority-serving institution, with more than 87% of its student body being Hispanic. While UT Dallas has a PhD program in mathematics, UTRGV does not.
“Mathematics is a vibrant profession, with many diverse opportunities, but that knowledge has not reached the wider community, even among university students, so we want to showcase the many career possibilities.”
– Dr. Vladimir Dragovic, professor and head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at UT Dallas
As part of IMPacT, Dragovic and his colleagues developed hybrid versions of five of the most advanced undergraduate math courses—Abstract Algebra 2, Mathematical Analysis 2, numerical analysis, problem solving and mathematical statistics—blending online instruction with in-person interaction.
Good performance in these courses indicates to PhD admission committees that a student is well-prepared for the rigors of a doctoral program, Dragovic said.
In January both campuses began teaching the first two classes—Abstract Algebra 2 and Mathematical Analysis 2—with 65 students at UT Dallas and 12 at UTRGV. The format involves synchronous teaching, where students at each institution—some 550 miles apart—attend at the same time and are linked via videoconferencing.
Another component of IMPacT involves leveraging UT Dallas’ ties with companies and government agencies in North Texas to identify opportunities for students of both universities to get involved in industry-related research.
“Mathematics is a vibrant profession, with many diverse opportunities, but that knowledge has not reached the wider community, even among university students, so we want to showcase the many career possibilities,” Dragovic said.
In addition, UT Dallas will offer students from both universities summer boot camps to enhance problem-solving and communication skills, cultivate research aptitude and assist in navigating the application process to a PhD program.
“We have built this joint infrastructure between two geographically distant universities with distinct student populations and resources, and we hope it will serve as a national model,” Dragovic said.