**Critical Points** discussions provide a space for ongoing, informal
conversation among students, staff, and faculty about issues of diversity
in our department and in the larger mathematics community. We meet
approximately every 2-3 weeks. Though the main participants have been
grad students, the series is open to all in the math community.

Typically we meet in 1015 Evans over pizza and soda, or snacks and tea.

Critical Points is funded by the Graduate Assembly through the Julia Robinson Society and generous help from the Physical Sciences Diversity Office.

## Topics of past discussions have been:

**Reflections on GSI-ing**

*May 6, 2010*

We will examine:

- Conceptions and misconceptions on self-esteem.
- How to gauge if your teaching is working or not.
- How to find good tools to help with teaching (and a chance to swap them with peers).

**The role of the classroom...**

*April 15, 2010*

- When we teach, what things other than math go on in our classrooms, and how do they impact learning?
- How does a student's self-conception affect how they learn, and can we as instructors do anything about it?
- How do these themes manifest in graduate courses?

**Forming support networks**

*February 22, 2010*

- How do we build networks of support within our field? Within our year? Among other peers?
- What are the benefits to our lives as grad students and our career?

**Adjusting to the life of a grad student**

*A discussion on the ups and downs of graduate school and the resources available to help*

*February 3, 2010*

- Feeling homesick or flustered by grad school?
- Still trying to get used to the "Berkeley" way of doing things?
- How do you balance grad school with other things outside of math?
- What advice would you give to younger students who are trying to adjust to life in Berkeley?

**What are the benchmarks of research...?**

*A discussion with faculty about research in mathematics featuring
Richard Borcherds, Ted Slaman, and Vera Serganova.
December 2, 2009*

Here are some sample questions, but you should bring your own!

- Should we set weekly goals? How should we measure our productivity?
- What are some characteristically good habits for doing math?
- What should we do when we feel unproductive?

**What are the secret (research) lives of math grad students?**

*Results of an anonymous grad survey on the following questions:*

*November 18th, 2009*

- How many hours do you spend working on research during the average week?
- Do you think you work more or less than the average student here?

**Special Workshop for Graduate Students in Math**

*An invited workshop led by counselors from Counseling and Psychological
Services on how to defeat the spiral of unproductivity and low self-esteem*

*October 14, 2009*

Does getting stuck academically get you into an unproductive loop?
Do you spend more time questioning your academic fitness than working on your thesis?
Come learn strategies to help focus your energies where you want them.

**Graduate school and mental health**

*A discussion on the ups and downs of graduate school and the resources available to help*

*September 9, 2009*

Is graduate school driving you crazy? Are you losing sleep over your qual? What advice would you give
to younger students who are passing through the same hurdles you did years ago?

Some websites of interest:

**End of semester wrap up**

*May 8, 2009*

Unbounded Representation is...

- a math grad group focused on issues of diversity in mathematics;
- the people who have brought you MathSpace, Critical Points, Career Talks, and many other informative and community-building Math Department activities;
- a group of cool individuals with energy and ideas for making the Berkeley math experience even better.

- Are you curious about what we're about?
- Seen things we've done that you liked?
- Seen stuff that needs improvement?
- Got ideas for activities or issues to tackle in the future?
- Wanna JOIN us?

**Berkeley grad student groups for diversity in the STEM fields**

*This week we have special guests!*

*April 29, 2009*

Mostly this is a chance to meet and network with representatives from other groups on campus.
Here are some questions to stimulate discussion:

- What initiatives help students from under-represented groups succeed at Berkeley? Which factors hinder these students?
- What level of institutional buy-in is necessary to achieve your group's goals, and how did you attain it?
- How do you ensure that your work leaves a legacy and doesn't evaporate with your graduating class?

**April 15, 2009**: Can the performance of women and
under-represented minorities in mathematics be undercut by societal expectations
and stereotypes?

We'll view a presentation on "stereotype threat" given by Stanford Psychologist
Claude Steele, with open discussion following.

**Being a mathematician and having a family...**

*A discussion on balancing work life and family life*

(Are you a caregiver, parent, partner, spouse...?)

*March 11, 2009*

How can you balance a mathematical career with having a family? What are the
factors that make this balance difficult? Are there any that are specific to
an academic profession? Is the mathematics field less family-friendly than other
fields?

**Improving the pipeline for mathematicians...**

*From ideas to action!*

*February 25, 2009*

Based on our previous conversations, we have come up with some easy to
implement strategies to make math at Berkeley more encouraging for
students in general and for under-represented groups in particular.
Here's where we turn ideas into action. We will spell out the details
and get the ball rolling on 2 key action plans. Time permitting, we
will discuss other ideas.

*Beer, Pizza, and Mathematics*

Math study hall every Friday afternoon, staffed by a dozen or so grad student volunteers who tutor, advise, and mentor any and all undergrads who come. Afterwards, the grad students get treated to pizza and beer.*Campus-wide Online Math Community*

An online discussion forum for any and all Berkeley math lovers and learners to ask questions or share ideas about mathematics. Staff, faculty, grads, and undergrads build an online community of learning.

**Improving the pipeline to becoming a mathematician**

*February 11, 2009*

- Are under-represented minorities at Berkeley even more underrepresented among math majors?
- How does the math department compare to other sciences in terms of attracting women majors?
- Is grading harsher for math majors than it is for physics majors? Is time to complete the degree longer?
- Do programs like PDP help less prepared students succeed in math? What else works?
- Can we get funding for upper-division GSI positions? Summer enrichment for undergrads? What roles can grad students play as mentors and teachers?
- How does Berkeley math compare to similar schools in terms of percentage of majors who go on to grad school?

**Improving the pipeline to becoming a mathematician...**

*January 27, 2009*

How do we get more math majors in general and under-represented students
in particular to consider going on to grad school? What is being done?
What could be done? Or is this even an issue? What are experiences and best
practices from Berkeley and other schools?

From perceptions to data...

How does the percentage of female math majors compare to the percentage of
female math grads? Are Black students in general less likely to study math
and science than Whites? Are Asian science students more drawn to math
than other science students?

For data answering these and many other questions we invite you to see:

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/start.htm

Especially of interest are:

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/pdf/tabc-7.pdf

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/pdf/tabd-5.pdf

**November 12, 2008**: What *are* you? Do you ever get this question?
How do you respond? How do you ask others? Where are you from? What is
your national identity? Your ethnic background? Your racial ancestry?
nationality...culture...ethnicity...race...

**October 21, 2008**: What are obstacles or challenges math grads face
that you wish there was wider recognition of or help in dealing with? What
is one way that you have felt like an outsider in your academic career?

**October 7, 2008**: Do you think success in mathematics is more a result
of nature or nurture? What pre-graduate experience was most formative in
developing your interest in math?