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Section Visitors Program

Every MAA Section is eligible to have one Section Visitor per academic year from the Association leadership to attend and participate in a Section meeting, with all travel expenses borne by the MAA. Sections are not expected to provide the Visitor with an honorarium or stipend; the Section’s only financial obligation is to cover the registration fee and the cost of any associated social events. This popular program is a great way to find a dynamic speaker for your Section meeting, to energize your Section NExT group, to ask questions and share information with the Executive Committee.

Why invite a Section Visitor?

The goals of this program are to:

  • Provide the Association leadership with information about the unique features of the Sections they visit, with a more immediate sense of the concerns and issues facing the membership, and with a sense of the well-being of the Section, including how well it is fulfilling its mission.
  • Provide the Section leadership with a perspective on trends in the Sections of the Association, with perceptions on the effectiveness of the management of the affairs of the Section, and with recognition for noteworthy Section activities and practices.
  • Provide the members of the Section an opportunity to interact directly with the Association leadership though individual conversations and formal Section activities.

What does a Section Visitor do?

To achieve these goals, each Section Visitor will participate in as much of the Section meeting as possible. In particular, the Section Visitor is expected to:

  • Present at least one talk, workshop, or other activity agreed upon with the Section leadership.

These activities, and any other activities that the visitor is requested to lead, should be selected to align the experiences and talents of the Association leadership with the interests and needs of the Section.

  • Attend and participate in any business meetings of the Section, meetings of the Section officers, liaison meetings, chairs’ meetings, and Section NExT activities. (Please make sure the Visitor is placed on the agenda of each of these meetings.)
  • Participate in the social activities associated with the meeting.

After completing the visit, the Section Visitor will prepare a report for the MAA Executive Committee and the Committee on Sections, summarizing the activities that the visitor participated in or observed, noting those that should be shared with other Sections. The report should also reflect on the general health of the Section and areas in which the Section might improve. The Section Visitor will send a similar report to the Section officers and the Section governor.

How to schedule a Section Visitor

Because many Section meetings are scheduled for a short "window" in the spring, Section Visitors are in high demand at that time. Therefore, Section leaders should extend an invitation as early as possible to the Section Visitor whom they want. The MAA Secretary and Chair of the Committee on Sections will assist if a Section has problems in scheduling a Section Visitor, but early planning is essential. When you invite a Visitor to your Section, please make it clear that you are inviting him/her as a Section Visitor. In order to ensure that the reimbursements are processed correctly, please notify Susan Kennedy of your section meeting speaker plans as soon as arrangements are made.

Making your Section Visitor feel at home

Good advice for all invited guests

Each Section is asked to be a thoughtful host. In the crush of meeting details and the distribution of duties among Section officers and local arrangements folks, it is sometimes easy for responsibilities to fall through the cracks.

  • Please be sure to consider your Visitor’s arrangements for travel, lodging, meals, local transportation and registration. If your Visitor arrives the night before, or stays the night after, the Section meeting, it is especially cordial that the Section consider evening dining arrangements. At least give visiting speakers options ("Do you need a ride?" or “Can we arrange for a cab?”) for airport pickups, get-togethers at meals, etc.
  • Be sure to communicate fully about the schedule of events at your meeting.
  • Make sure the Visitor is on the agenda for the Section business meeting, executive committee meeting, and any other appropriate events.
  • Register your Visitor for the meeting! Prepare a name tag, meal tickets, and a program, and have them ready at the registration table.

Section Visitors, Pólya Lecturers, and Section Governors

Finally, it is important to note the distinction between the roles of the Pólya Lecturers, the Section Governors, and the Section Visitors:

  • Pólya Lecturers are leading members of the mathematical community, selected because they are outstanding speakers who are available to deliver an invited address during the Section meeting; they do not represent the leadership of the Association. Each Section may invite a Pólya Lecturer once every five years.
  • The Section Governor is the Section’s official liaison with the Association; he or she reports the official actions of the Board of Governors to the Section and communicates issues from the Section directly to the Board of Governors. Section Governors are provided materials by the Association to assist in this communication.
  • Section Visitors are among the senior leadership of the Association and a primary purpose of their visits is to assist the Section leadership in maintaining healthy Sections by bringing to the

Section leadership ideas of successful activities from other Sections and provide a means of communication between the leadership and the members.

The Association leaders who are currently designated as Section Visitors

Matt Boelkins, Chair of the Congress
Grand Valley State University
Available as speaker: Spring 2016 through Spring 2018

Click here to view topics:

Timothy Chartier, Vice President
Davidson College
Available as speaker: Spring 2016 through Spring 2018

Topics include:

Playing from a Laptop: Sports Analytics
Sports analytics is a growing field. The larger field of data analytics is exploding as a field requiring skills in mathematics and computer science. What sports projects can be tackled as an undergraduate? This talk will discuss a variety of projects Dr. Tim Chartier of Davidson College has directed with his students, who have ranged from first years to seniors and include math and non-math majors. His projects have varied from helping the German National Basketball Team to his own college teams. He’s also aided the NBA, NASCAR, and ESPN. Learn how to play a sport — as a sports analyst!
Putting a Spring in Yoda’s Step
When the character Yoda first appeared on the silver screen, his movements were due to the efforts of famed muppeteer Frank Oz. In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Yoda returned to the movies but this time the character was not a puppet but a digital image within a computer. This talk will discuss the role, or more aptly the force, of mathematics behind a few aspects of movie special effects. Armed with differential equations, animators can create a believable flow to Yoda’s robe or a convincing digital stunt person.
Mathematical Celebrity Look-Alikes
Who is your celebrity look alike? LeBron James? Jackie Chan? Adele? Rihanna? Vectors norms enable us to discern what celebrity looks most like a selected individual. Linear algebra allows us to explore what linear combination of celebrity photos best approximates a selected photo. Would you describe yourself as a cross between Ben Stiller and Hugh Jackman or possibly Marilyn Monroe and Jennifer Aniston? In this talk, we learn how to answer this question using linear algebra and on the way get a sense of how math aids in facial recognition.
March Mathness
Every year, people across the United States predict how the field of 64 teams will play in the Division I NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament by filling out a tournament bracket for the postseason play. This talk discusses two popular rating methods that are also used by the Bowl Championship Series, the organization that determines which college football teams are invited to which bowl games. The two methods are the Colley Method and the Massey Method, each of which computes a ranking by solving a system of linear equations. We also touch on how to adapt the methods to take late season momentum into account. We also see how the methods did in creating mathematically-produced brackets for 2010 March Madness.
Googling Markov
You submit a query to Google and soon the search engine returns an ordered list of pages. The page listed first is considered, loosely speaking, the best web page related to your query. How is this page given such distinction? A web page, call it A, is considered more “important” than another if more web pages link to it. However, Google also considers the importance of the web pages that link to web page A. Links from pages that are themselves “important” are given more weight. In the end, web pages with a high number of weighted links are given higher ranking in terms of the importance of the page. Google uses this ranking of importance combined with text-matching algorithms each time it conducts a search. The web page that has the “best” combination of importance and relevance to a given query is the web page that tops the list returned by Google. This talk introduces the role of Markov Chains in this process.
In Mime-matics, Tim Chartier explores mathematical ideas through the art of mime. Whether creating an illusion of an invisible wall, wearing a mask covered with geometric shapes or pulling on an invisible rope, Dr. Chartier delves into mathematical concepts such as estimation, tiling, and infinity. Through Mime-matics, audiences encounter math through the entertaining style of a performing artist who have performed at local, national and international settings.
Jim Daniel, Treasurer
1515 Shasta Drive, #1516, Davis, CA 95616-6680
Available as speaker: until Spring 2021

Topics include:

How much money do you (or your parents) need for retirement?
This student-oriented talk illustrates both the thinking and basic collegiate math used by actuaries in analyzing how to prepare now for future financial risk and so serves as an elementary introduction to actuarial mathematics.
Actuarial careers: what, where, who, how, and why
This student-oriented talk describes the job of an actuary, a career that has long been of interest to good problem solvers interested in applying their math skills in business.
Barbara Faires, Secretary
Department of Mathematics, Westminster College, PO Box 15, New Wilmington, PA 16172
Available as a speaker: now until Spring 2018

Topics Include:

Mathematics and Architecture in the Baroque Era
Baroque architecture was above all mathematical.  So what did architects such as Bernini, Borromini, Blondel, Guarini, and Wren learn from or have in common with the likes of Descartes, Galileo, Desargues?  Examining writings of the architects as well as their designs on paper and at building sites helps to answer the question as well as provide a look at buildings as “studies in practical mathematics.”
The Scottish Café
The Scottish Café, the favored cafe of mathematicians in Lvov, Poland, is now known by many through the notebook of problems produced by those mathematicians.  The notebook provides insight into problems posed as well as life in Poland at that time.  This talk highlights the history and recent work on some of the problems posed in the Scottish Problem Book.
Deanna Haunsperger, President
Carleton College
Available as speaker: until Spring 2020

Topics include:

Does Your Vote Count?
Are you frustrated that your candidate never wins? Does it seem like your vote doesn’t count? Maybe it doesn’t. Or at least not as much as the voting method with which you choose to tally the votes. Together we’ll take a glimpse into the important, interesting, paradoxical world of the mathematics behind tallying elections.
Halving Your Cake
It is a problem as old as humanity: given a resource to be shared (water, land, cake) how can it be shared fairly between several people? The answer, in the case of two claimants, is simple and ancient and known to every five-year-old with a sibling: I cut,You choose. Things get much more interesting, and challenging, if one has more than one sibling. We are forced to ask ourselves exactly what “fairly” means in the question; “fair” from whose point of view and by what criteria?
Bright Lights on the Horizon
Math Horizons, the MAA undergraduate magazine, is now over twenty years old. In those two decades many fabulous articles have appeared. In this talk we will survey some of the speaker’s favorites, that list includes pieces on square-wheeled bicycles, Egyptian arithmetic, non-transitive dice, magic tricks, jokes, and mathematical paintings, theater and sculpture. An idiosyncratic tour of the best of Math Horizons.
Stephen Kennedy, Senior Acquisitions Editor MAA Books 
Carleton College, Northfield MN

Topics include:

Two Heads Are Better Than None
Every question in probability has seventeen plausible answers.  The sixteen incorrect answers always occur to you before the correct one.  In this talk a very simple question of probability---If I intend to flip a coin until I see two consecutive heads, when, if ever, should I expect to stop?---leads to a morass, a muddle and then one seeming miracle.  We’ll resolve the muddle and explain the miracle and, in true mathematical fashion, leave ourselves with a new unresolved puzzle.
Halving Your Cake
It is a problem as old as humanity: given a resource to be shared (water, land, cake) how can it be shared fairly between several people?  The answer, in the case of two claimants, is simple and ancient and known to every five-year-old with a sibling: I cut,You choose.  Things get much more interesting, and challenging, if one has more than one sibling.  We are forced to ask ourselves exactly what “fairly” means in the question; “fair” from whose point of view and by what criteria? 
Strange Attraction
In 1963 meteorologist Edward Lorenz, trying to understand atmospheric convection, discovered instead chaos and the butterfly effect. (Thus absolving all future meteorologists of the responsibility of accurate weather prediction.) The Lorenz Attractor, the asymptotic end-state of all the trajectories of his system of differential equations, is, from a topological point of view, an extremely bizarre object: a strange attractor. We examine that topological strangeness in order to understand the richness of the possible behaviors of trajectories in the Lorenz system.
God Help the State of Maine
The US constitution guarantees each state a proportional share of the US House of Representatives. The problem is that this proportional share, calculated exactly, is almost never an integer and congresspeople come in indivisible lumps. Thus fractions must be rounded. In the course of US history several different rounding schemes have been proposed and adopted---these schemes were always designed to preserve and extend the political power of their proposers. Bitter disputes arose in the Congress over questions of fractions. The title of the talk comes from such a debate and the conclusion of the sentence is: "...when mathematics reach for her and undertake to strike her down." What is surprising is how subtle and counterintuitive the results of the rounding can be. Which is exactly why the congressional fights were so acrimonious.
Elizabeth Mayfield, Chair, Committee on Sections
Hood College, Department of Mathematics, 401 Rosemont Ave, Frederick, MD 21701
Available as a speaker: now until Spring 2018
Gerbert d'Aurillac and the March of Spain: A Guy in the Right Place at the Right Time
Gerbert was a tenth century scholar and churchman who eventually was named Pope Sylvester II. In the Year 1000, he probably knew more mathematics than anyone else in Europe. We'll explore how that came to be.
Women and Mathematics in the Time of Euler
This talk examines some female contemporaries of Euler, some famous, some not so famous. We will look at mathematics that was written both by and for women in the time of Euler.
A Locally Compact REU in the History of Mathematics
Tips on running a collaborative summer research project for your own students in the history of mathematics.
Michael Pearson, Executive Director

Mathematical Association of America, 1529 18th Street NW, Washington DC 20036

Click here for topics

Hortensia Soto, Officer-at-Large
University of Northern Colorado, School of Mathematical Sciences, 501 20th Street, Campus Box 122, Greely, CO 80639
Available as speaker:  through Spring 2018

Topics include:

Diverse Assessments
Diverse assessments can inform us about students’ understanding of undergraduate mathematics and can shape our teaching. Oral assessments such as classroom presentations and individual student interviews can paint a better picture of students’ conceptions as well as their misconceptions. Reading assignments with structured questions allow students to get a glimpse of new content and their responses can be used to structure the classroom discussion. Perceptuo-motor activities offer opportunities for students to feel, experience, and be the mathematics. In this talk, I will share numerous diverse assessments that I have implemented, the benefits of such assessments, and the challenges in implementing these assessments.
Promoting Mathematics to Young and Diverse Women
Abstract: Las Chicas de Matemáticas: UNC Math Camp for Young Women is a free one-week residential camp for 30 young women from grades 9-12, who have completed algebra I. The goals of the camp are to introduce young women to college-level mathematics, college life, STEM related careers, and other women who are passionate about mathematics. In this presentation, I will discuss the structure and outcomes of the camp and offer suggestions for anyone wishing to take on such an endeavor.
Francis Su, Past-President
Harvey Mudd College
Available as a speaker: now until Spring 2018
Topics include:
Combinatorial Fixed Point Theorems
The Brouwer fixed point theorem and the Borsuk-Ulam theorem are beautiful and well-known theorems of topology that admit combinatorial analogues: Sperner's lemma and Tucker's lemma.  In this talk, I will trace recent connections and generalizations of these combinatorial theorems, including applications to the social sciences.
Voting in Agreeable Societies
When does a majority exist? How does the geometry of the political spectrum influence the outcome? What does mathematics have to say about how people behave? When mathematical objects have a social interpretation, the associated results have social applications.  We will show how math can be used to model people's preferences and how classical results about convex sets can be used in the analysis of voting in "agreeable" societies.
Splitting the Rent, Keeping the Peace
How do you divide the rent among roommates fairly?  My friend's dilemma was a question that mathematics could answer, both elegantly and constructively. We show how it and other "fair division" questions --- the most famous of which is the problem of Steinhaus: how do you cut a cake fairly? --- motivate a host of mathematical ideas. They provide excellent examples of how mathematics can address an old class of problems in new ways, and conversely, how problems in the social sciences can motivate new mathematics--- where topology, geometry, and combinatorics meet social applications, and where research by undergraduates has played a big role.
My Favorite Math Fun Facts
For several years, I have been collecting "Math Fun Facts", which are juicy math tidbits that I have been using to start off my calculus classes, as a warm-up activity.  Math Fun Facts are can be from any area of mathematics (not just calculus), can be presented in less than 5 minutes, and are meant to arouse my students' curiosity and fascination with the subject and to give them a glimpse that mathematics is full of interesting ideas, patterns, and new modes of thinking.  In this talk, I will present my favorite Math Fun Facts.  They're definitely fun, but will they be YOUR favorites?  You decide.
Thinking about Mathematics and Meaning
It is a uniquely human endeavor to reflect on the things of this world and the relationships between them, and to seek meaning in the patterns we encounter. In mathematics, we not only reflect on but we create things and relationships between them by endowing them with meaning.  The most important human pursuits arise from a quest for meaning.  So if we want to teach effective thinking and mathematical thinking, we must show why doing mathematics is meaningful.
Gerard Venema, Associate Secretary, Calvin College
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI 49546
Available as speaker: now through Spring, 2018
Topics include: Dimension, Fractals, and Wild Cantor Sets; Issues in the undergraduate geometry course


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