On the Campus
October 10, 2007:
camp' for math; new role for grad students
While incoming freshmen are off
hiking in the Catskills Mountains or working at a soup kitchen in
Trenton, something slightly different is happening at the Woodrow
Wilson School. Incoming public policy and public affairs graduate
students are completing math camp, a three-week summer program that
provides rigorous training in preparation for the complex economics
and statistics they will encounter through the master's and doctoral
Math camp began 25 years ago, said program director
Melissa Lee, in response to the need for a "refresher"
course by students who had not studied math for from five to 12
"We want students, obviously, who are committed
to public service, who have worked in the field," said Lee.
"So they have this wonderful background and great skills in
the public service, but their math skills might not be where we
want them to be."
One such case is Clare Sierawski. The MPA student
received her bachelor's degree in environmental studies from the
University of Pittsburgh before moving to Washington, D.C., to work
with the U.S. Department of Transportation. She then worked on reforestation
projects in India and Australia and conservation projects in Beijing.
"So it's like Beijing to math camp," said
Sierawski. "I definitely was doing no calculus in Beijing."
Sierawski, who had not done any math courses since
her senior year of high school, was placed into the "C"
track covering calculus, into which most students are placed. The
program has three other levels that range from basic algebra to
multi-variable calculus to match the diversity of the students'
backgrounds. Last year one student had passed the general examination
for a doctorate in mathematics, but instead decided to move to public
service. Among this year's "recruits" is a student who
worked in the military and hadn't studied math in 10 years.
Math camp coursework includes three and a half hours
a day of mathematics, five days a week for three weeks, with at
least four hours of homework a day, Sierawski said. The school also
offers classes in resumé building, diversity awareness, public
speaking, and leadership that help the program create students who
are not only mathematically literate, but equipped to relate these
skills to the real world. "That made it all much more bearable,"
"Students ask really down-to-earth questions,"
said Yanliang Miao, a former nath camp student and now instructor.
"You have to convey complex math concepts in plain language."
That's especially challenging, he said, when in one day a class
might cover as much material as would normally be taught in one
or two weeks in a typical academic course.
students found the camp a good way to get to know each other before
their graduate classes began, forming study groups and visiting
the local ice cream shop for a homework break. "Misery loves
company," Sierawski said, adding: "not that math camp
– By Folasade John '09
With the addition of Whitman College
and the new four-year residential college system, undergrads are
in for a great variety of new living options. Thanks to one new
program, however, graduate students can also look forward to new
Each of the six residential colleges will play host
to 10 Resident Graduate Students (RSGs) for the first time this
year. These grad students live alongside undergrads in regular residential
college dorms, refurbished with kitchenettes to turn them into apartments.
The RSGs also have meals plan giving them 125 meals per semester
in the residential college dining hall.
The program is intended to bring graduate students
and undergrads together, Mathey College Dean Steven Lestition explained.
"One of the distinctive features of Princeton is having a very
high-power, reputable graduate program, but for many years I think
there's been a sense that there's not been a great connection with
undergrads," he said. "We invited these particular grad
students to live in the dorms because they seemed interested in
getting to know the undergrads and revolving interests together."
Graduate students were given the opportunity to apply
to be RSGs in January, and a pool of 120-odd candidates expressed
interest – an impressive result for the first year of a new
Scott Breunig, a second-year grad student in molecular
biology, was one of the candidates who made it through two rounds
of interviews to be selected as an RSG in Butler College. Breunig
said that he was attracted to living in a residential college because
it reminded him of the sense of community he felt in his dorm halls
as an undergrad at Notre Dame. "It's nice to have a neighborhood
to come home to, full of people not necessarily in your department
or year or from your geographic region," he said.
Another Butler RSG, Yun Kyung "Sophia"
Kwon, already had a chance to acquaint herself with Butler College
because she served as a graduate fellow for the college last year.
Graduate fellows are similar to RSGs in that they participate in
the residential college's special events, but unlike RSGs, they
do not live in the college and do not have a meal plan there.
who is a third-year grad student in chemistry, said that she is
excited to build upon her connection with the undergraduate community.
"People always talk about the huge gap between grads and undergrads,"
she said, "and the whole point of RSGs is to integrate the
two student bodies together to realize that we … have a lot
to learn from each other."
– By Isia Jasiewicz '10
Photos by Hyunseok