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:

The role of the classroom...
April 15, 2010

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

Forming support networks
February 22, 2010

Bring any advice or questions about building a professional or social support network!

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

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!

  1. Should we set weekly goals? How should we measure our productivity?
  2. What are some characteristically good habits for doing math?
  3. 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

  1. How many hours do you spend working on research during the average week?
  2. 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...

  1. a math grad group focused on issues of diversity in mathematics;
  2. the people who have brought you MathSpace, Critical Points, Career Talks, and many other informative and community-building Math Department activities;
  3. a group of cool individuals with energy and ideas for making the Berkeley math experience even better.
All are invited to come for our end of semester wrap up.

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:

  1. What initiatives help students from under-represented groups succeed at Berkeley? Which factors hinder these students?
  2. What level of institutional buy-in is necessary to achieve your group's goals, and how did you attain it?
  3. 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.

Improving the pipeline to becoming a mathematician
February 11, 2009

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:
Especially of interest are:

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?