Keynote – 2023

Transitions: The Peril of Preparation but the Promise of Potential

Dr. Michael Wolf, Chair of the School of Mathematics, Georgia Institute of Technology

Mike Wolf

Some of the leakiest parts of the STEM educational pipeline occur at the junctures. Freshmen from the full range of the nation’s high schools — urban to rural, affluent to under-resourced — crowd together into the same gateway classes, with a curriculum set almost purposely independently of the audience.  Too often, both in the classroom and in the national dialogue, preparation is confused with potential.  The pattern repeats at the graduate school level.  What can be done?  What should be done? We reflect on our idiosyncratic experiences confronting these issues.

The article regarding diversity that Dr. Wolf referenced is available here: Keynote Reference Article


Mike Wolf is Professor of Mathematics and Chair of the School of Mathematics at Georgia Tech, positions he only just assumed in July. Prior to that, he was at Rice University for 34 years, eventually becoming the Milton B. Porter Professor of Mathematics. His research is in geometric analysis, and his studies have led to his being named a Sloan Fellow, a Simons Fellow, several terms as a Research Professor at MSRI and a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

In the years 2006-11, Wolf and his family lived on campus as head of a residential college of 350 undergraduates. He became frustrated with university support for students who arrived on campus from less well-resourced high schools and he co-founded the Rice Emerging Scholars Program in response. STEM students in that program now remain in STEM majors at comparable rates to their better-prepared peers, and many have gone on to the most prominent graduate schools and corporations in the country. The university extended a number of the RESP initiatives to the entire student population, and the resulting programs have left the institution far more equitable and supportive for low-income, minority and first generation students.