Getting Ready for the Semester!

As the semester approaches, here are some things you can do to prepare!

  1. GLOW Some professors use GLOW to learn students’ names before classes begin or during the first couple weeks of classes.  You can make it easier for your professors to learn the name and pronouns you use by changing your GLOW settings.
    1. You can add pronouns and name pronunciation.  Click on “Account,” then go to “Profile.”  On the right side of the screen, you should see “Edit Profile.”  In the “Biography” box, you can add the pronouns you use or the correct pronunciation of your name so your professors will know ahead of time.
    2. You can change your photo.  If your picture does not represent your current gender identity/expression (or even just aesthetic), you can change your picture by going to Account → Profile → Edit Profile.  Click on the photo next to your name and replace it with one of your choice.
  2. WSO: You can change your WSO settings as well!  Go to WSO, then click Facebook → Edit.
    1. Add pronouns.  You can include your pronouns if you wish!
    2. Change your photo.  As with GLOW, you can change your photo for any reason.
    3. Indicate whether or not you are off cycle.  If you check the off-cycle box, WSO will subtract .5 from your class year.  (If you are incorrectly listed, you can contact them.)
    4. Choose whether your profile, dorm address, and hometown will be visible.  Note that WSO Facebook is only accessible to people logged in to Williams accounts, so your profile will not be public no matter what.  Still, if you don’t want people to be able to find you on WSO, you can make yourself unsearchable.  Similarly, you can choose whether your dorm address and hometown are visible or not.
  3. Name Change:  If you want to change your campus name, now might be a good time.  (You can also change your name legally, though the timing with this does not matter as much.)
    1. If your campus name no longer matches up with the name you prefer, you can change it by going to PeopleSoft Self Service → Campus Personal Information → Campus Name Change Form.  To read more about the details of this process and where your name will be changed vs. where it will remain the same, check out this guide from the Registrar.
    2. If you are looking to change your legal name, the Davis Center has some resources but be warned that they were last updated in 2012.  All the relevant forms are available at
  4. Accommodations: If you anticipate needing accommodations of any kind (or just want to see what is offered), email G.L. Wallace or Jean Grant.  You can also reach them by calling (413) 597-4672 or going to the Office of Accessible Education in Paresky 203.
  5. Counseling: Counseling spots can fill up quickly, so once you know your schedule, you might want to book a spot to avoid the waitlist!  Call the Health Center at (413) 597-2353.
  6. Resources: Now’s a good time to review the resources available to you at Williams and think about which ones you might use this semester!  It can pay off to be proactive now and build a relationship with a counselor/chaplain/writing tutor/etc. while you still have the time to do so.

Joint Statistics Meetings: A Petite Undergrad Enters the World’s Biggest Stat Conference – Kiran Kumar ’18

Kiran Kumar ’18 is a senior math major with a mind towards diversity & inclusion in STEM (& life!). She plans to go to statistics grad school after she graduates—but first she wants to explore the real world!


The Baltimore Convention Center is a mammoth of a building with mildly revolting green and yellow wallpaper and soundproofing that makes you feel back in a high school band class. There is something decidedly superficial about the cavernous place. The carpets scream hotel ballroom, and all around you are a sea of people with lanyards, greeting each other. You catch snippets of conversations–“big data,” “machine learning” . . . “thesis advisor” and “defense” from the younger un-liver spotted ones.

Talks are filled with crusty professors to fresh-faced grad students—and of course us, the rare species: the undergrad. We are, as Yolanda Zhao ’18, my fellow attendee, call us “unicorns.” Statisticians are often on their computers or iPhones, reviewing their upcoming talk’s PowerPoint, tweeting presentation slides, or taking selfies (yes, statisticians are hip too).  At first, to us fresh faced babes, it seemed oddly fragmented, distracting, and utterly overwhelming.

However, first impressions do not always last forever.  The first day was a mini-disaster of talks from monotone paper presentations to an implicit bias panel where a white male faculty member lamented reverse racism (a LONG story I am happy to tell those interested). However, arriving at the mega conventional center the second morning, I felt my mojo kick into swing. Walking through the conference hall with my name bag perched at top my shirt, inside my heart & brain stirred a strange sense of professionalism.

There was one event that particularly stood out to me and would be insightful to you, dear reader of AWM blog!  It was a talk entitled “Essential Research Tips for Junior Researchers.” It was our first major non-technical talk, and it actually provided us with useful information that you do not get in the classroom. Topics covered included: how to write a successful grant proposal, how to collaborate with scientists, and how to use existing statistical associations (e.g. American Statistical Association, Caucus for Women in Statistics) to advance your career. (If you’re interested in the notes from the talk, feel free to email me.)  It was an unusually informative talk, and what was most remarkable about it was that all of the marquee speakers (except for one) were senior female statisticians. As Yolanda found out later and relayed to me, the chairs of Biostatistics at Harvard and Johns Hopkins (the two top departments) numbered among the female speakers. Coming from a pure mathematics background, this was such a welcome change!

Yolanda and I mustered our nerve and went to talk to the speakers afterwards. It was definitely not my first instinct to do so, but going together bolstered our shaky inclinations. The speakers were gracious and happy to talk to us! They gave us advice and offered their time if we wanted to email them with questions. I emailed one of them after the talk, and she connected me with some very helpful young female professors who gave me job searching advice. The biggest lesson that I learned was that ultimately statisticians are human beings too! No matter how successful or famous, they are people, and people love to be talked to at JSM (in a general setting, of course this principle may not hold!). After all, I would argue JSM is more about people getting together and “networking” than it is about the talks themselves.

As the conference passes from lived experience to memory, I encourage you all to go to a conference in your field of interest! I found it highly motivational in terms of discovering cool new topics and hobnobbing with researchers (& actually talking to them!) I was hesitant about going at first, but I am so glad that I went, and I wish you all the best of luck in your first (or nth!) conferences!

Math Conferences

Here are some upcoming math conferences!

Here are some descriptions of conferences that AWM members have gone to in the past:

If you’re interested in getting funding to attend a conference, contact us!

A Guide to Applying to Math Graduate School 4 – Megumi Asada ’17

Megumi Asada ’17, a former AWM officer, wrote the following short guide to applying to graduate school in math from Williams. They are currently teaching high school math through a teaching nonprofit called Blue Engine. The following year, they will be studying math at Cambridge on a Herchel Smith Fellowship. Feel free to contact them with questions!

I’ve found that a lot of information about applying has been word-of-mouth and can often feel like privileged information among those already in math circles or those who have “an in” at prestigious graduate departments. I thought that it might be helpful to share my experience of navigating the application process as a complete beginner.

  1. Creating a list & getting motivated
  2. Preparing for & taking the exams
  3. Applying & writing applications
  4. Costs & financing
  5. Visiting grad schools


Funding Opportunities:

Within Williams

  • Allison Davis/Mellon Mays:
    • Can get various application fees waived (check individual school websites)
    • Typically Williams funds a van for each cohort to take the GRE
  • The Career Center’s Graduate School Grant
    • Max $500 in funding; need to submit quick form with cost estimates

Big Academic Alliance: very quick application for fee waivers for U.S. citizens to a decent number of schools; may have priority application deadline:

Participating Schools as of Spring 2017:

  • University of Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Indiana University
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Michigan
  • Michigan State University
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Northwestern University
  • Ohio State (otherwise $5 app fee)
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Purdue University
  • Rutgers University

Some of the schools above will ask you to individually apply to a fee waiver at their school. Some will waive based on participation in certain groups or scholarships including but by no means limited to: Gates Millennium Scholars, SACNAS, ADRF/MMURF, SMALL, MARC, McNair, Howard Hughes, COR Program; as well as students with demonstrated need on Pell Grants or via FAFSA/CSS profile.


  • GRE General Exam: $205
  • GRE Math Subject Exam: $150 ($300 if you take it twice)
  • Application Costs to Individual Schools: $70-90/school

Less Obvious Costs:

  • Transport to and from exam sites
  • Sending scores to schools

Visiting Grad Schools – Megumi Asada ’17

Megumi Asada ’17, a former AWM officer, wrote the following post while visiting graduate schools in spring of 2017. They are currently teaching high school math through a teaching nonprofit called Blue Engine. The following year, they will be studying math at Cambridge on a Herchel Smith Fellowship. Feel free to contact them with questions!

While traveling for a grad school visit it dawned on me that most of what I’ve learned about the application/admission process for math PhD programs has been by word of mouth. It’s a stressful process with many components. Another senior from Williams mentioned how it’s a shame that those of us struggling through this mostly kept to ourselves when we could’ve suffered together.

I hope this can serve as a first (baby) step in demystifying this process for anyone who’s considering math grad school and for those who are just curious.

Sitting at the airport the day before the visiting students day was really bizarre. My imposter syndrome was on overdrive to the point where it was kind of funny. It felt as though my name would one day rise in the ranks of infamy among the other renowned large-scale con artists. There’s an art, I guess, to being a sleepy, unprepared twenty-something on your way to visit a school where you may one day get a PhD.

I was pretty nervous about my meetings with faculty. It had taken me long enough to be convinced that I could go to my Williams professors for advice. Something about being in a new space with people who work with PhD students made me feel especially unworthy of these peoples’ time. Thankfully, none of them had expected me to understand their research beforehand. Despite my efforts, reading lists of cryptic publication titles more frightened than excited me.

For most of the day I wasn’t in the best mood, as I wasn’t feeling particularly drawn to any specific research topic from my first few faculty meetings.  When asked, I called myself a geometry/topology person, but this started to feel like an elaborate lie, as there’s definitely some geometry and topology out there that I don’t care for.

I got lucky with my third faculty meeting where I was introduced to a really cool problem in random matrix theory. This was weird for me because typically the word “matrix” elicits a deep visceral cringe. It was a kind reminder of what it feels like when something new just clicks and captivates you.

Afterwards I had a really nice conversation with another student from another small liberal arts college about feeling intimidated by students from large universities with accredited graduate programs. Some exchanged inside jokes amongst themselves about famous mathematicians they’ve met. For me, it served as a reminder that I’m but a potential guest in this elite, old boys club. Still, it was really nice to hear from other people who felt like they didn’t belong among the scary people.

I wish I could say that the visiting day I went to was the best thing ever, that the gods bestowed upon me all the rays of light and confidence I could wish for, but that wasn’t how things went. It was mostly stressful and overwhelming, but there were good bits and moments when friends and complete strangers took the time to affirm me and my concerns.

For now, I’ll have to remain undecided on how I’ll be spending the next few years. Wishing the best of luck to other seniors scrambling to figure out their post-graduate plans.

A Note About Sexual Harassment – Megumi Asada ’17

The following letter was written by Megumi Asada ’17 and distributed to all math/stat majors who graduated in 2017 during senior week. They wrote this letter to remind students of the sexual harassment that goes on in the math community that no one talks about.

Dear Math & Stat Majors in the Class of ’17,

Some of you are about to graduate completely ignorant of how toxic Williams students, particularly math students, have been towards me and many others here. Some of you might go on to careers in math, in academia, or other roles of leadership and that frightens me. It frightens me that you’ll leave here never having learned about some of the discrimination that your peers face on a regular basis.

A classmate in the math department once told me that I should contact him if I ever became homeless and ended up in sex work. I’m not making that up. This also wasn’t the most egregious of comments I received from him. Some were even more humiliating. I’ve received sexual comments from multiple math students in Bronfman and Paresky, in crowded rooms in the middle of the day. I was worried about speaking out for a while because I was worried that some of you would make excuses for my harassers or try to assassinate my character. I’ve even been too embarrassed to tell most of my friends about some of these comments. Quite frankly, I don’t care anymore. If you don’t believe me, that’s on you.

For those of you who are shocked, I have many, many other stories I’d be glad to share. I could honestly go on all day. If you’ve not heard any critical experiences of our department directly from students of color, from femme students, you have been shielded by a veil of positivity and ignorance. I’m not saying it’s wrong to have enjoyed your time here, but I hope it worries you that there are gaping holes in your perspective, in what you have seen and heard.

I’ll probably be sexually harassed again. Actually, if I continue in math, I know it will happen again. That’s something I’ve had to think about constantly when considering where to study, who to study with, and what I want to do with my future. There’s really nothing I can do about it. But there’s something you can do. If your friends start talking about other people in sexual or predatory ways, call them out on it. Yeah, it’s kind of awkward doing that. But I promise you that it’s 1,000 times more awkward to be asked for your measurements in the student center at dinnertime. You can also stop blaming people (mainly POCs) for what you might consider to be divisive rhetoric. It’s not our rhetoric that’s divisive; it’s the reality that is. This reality makes it harder for many of us to fully thrive in math communities. I hope that wherever you end up you actively combat actions that belittle and ostracize gender and racial minorities. Otherwise you will be a passive player to the harm done around you.

I hope this letter starts some much-needed conversations.


Megumi Asada ’17

A Guide to Applying to Math Graduate School 2 – Megumi Asada ’17

Megumi Asada ’17, a former AWM officer, wrote the following short guide to applying to graduate school in math from Williams. They are currently teaching high school math through a teaching nonprofit called Blue Engine. The following year, they will be studying math at Cambridge on a Herchel Smith Fellowship. Feel free to contact them with questions!

I’ve found that a lot of information about applying has been word-of-mouth and can often feel like privileged information among those already in math circles or those who have “an in” at prestigious graduate departments. I thought that it might be helpful to share my experience of navigating the application process as a complete beginner.

  1. Creating a list & getting motivated
  2. Preparing for & taking the exams
  3. Applying & writing applications
  4. Costs & financing
  5. Visiting grad schools


 PART A: Exams are fun if you can effectively fool yourself

There are a lot of practice exams available online!  Note that the mGRE gets harder each year (-___-), so don’t count on doing as well on the current exam as you might do on the ones from the 1980s.

ETS provides a free practice booklet online.  Here is the counterpart to this booklet from 1997-1999.  Here are some old exams:

If you want a systematic review of topics, here is a GRE course by a professor at UCSB.  There is also usually a Princeton Review GRE book lying around Bronfman (I guess Bascom now?).

PART B: The not-so-exciting logistical details

 Right from the Horse’s Mouth: Test Centers and Dates:

Centers near Williams:

  • RPI, Troy, NY: about an hour away
  • SUNY Albany: also about an hour away
    • NB: The location of the testing room is kind of obscure. Look for a large courtyard with a fountain in the middle. Go down the stairs to the lower level where the fountain originates and the room is in that area. If it’s your first time testing here, recommend giving yourself at least 30min extra to find the testing center.

How to get there:

  • College van: if you sign up very early in advance (read: months ahead), you can get a college van for free. Ask the math department about sponsoring this. You cannot get a college van as an individual
  • Zip Car: moderately pricey for one person; sometimes unreliable; make sure to sign up for your rental a few weeks in advance and schedule your rental so that you can check to see if there are any issues with the car. The great thing about zipcar is that car insurance is included should anything go wrong.
    • Some have had experiences with stolen keys, malfunctioning lock system, etc.
  • Borrow a friend’s car: great and cost-effective as long as you don’t get into an accident. Insurance is NOT covered should anything go wrong.

Make sure to bring:

  1. Suitable identification (driver’s license or passport, though if you are an international student you need to bring your passport)
  2. Testing details
  3. A #2 pencil for the scantron sheets (this is for the subject test and for the general paper tests; most general GRE exams are on the computer)
  4. A water bottle
  5. Snacks
  6. All relevant information and/or meds if you will receive accommodations

Disability Accommodations:

If you receive accommodations of any sort at Williams, you can get them for the GRE as well!  For a basic overview, check out ETS’s page on disability accommodations.

There is a large range of accommodations. For those with testing anxiety or chronic illness, you may request extra time (double time, time and a half, etc.) and/or testing breaks.  If the only accommodations you request are 50% extra time and/or extra breaks, you will only need to submit a form from G.L. Wallace certifying that you receive these accommodations at Williams; otherwise, you also need to provide medical documentation.

Be sure to apply for disability accommodations far in advance (i.e. potentially weeks to months in advance of the sign up deadline).  It generally takes ETS 6 weeks to process applications, and it can take longer if you need additional documentation. You’ll need to give a form to G.L. Wallace in the Office of Accessible Education. The application is entirely online. Feel free to call and haggle them if they’re taking a long time to get back to you. This may speed up the process.

Feel free to email Megumi Asada (they/them, Williams ’17) with any questions about this process.