Young students in Wichita visit university for Sonia Kovalevsky Day

From practicing fractal equations and building tetrahedrons to juggling and 3D printing, young girls and women came to campus to celebrate Sonia Kovalevsky Day last weekend. 

The event, held in honor of Sonia Kovalevsky, a Russian mathematician and pioneer for women in mathematics, celebrated young women interested in a career in STEM. 

“It’s great to reach out to women or girls and get them involved with mathematics and excited about math,” Aubrey Wolfe, an event volunteer and mathematics and statistics lecturer at WSU, said. 

Now on its second annual celebration at Wichita State, the day welcomed Pamela Harris, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, for a lecture about her journey as a Mexican-American female and the mathematics of juggling. 

“For me, I never knew there were Latinas in math as I was getting my Ph.D.,” Harris said. “ And I think about how important it is to come and break that down for other people.”

Harris’s advice to young students aspiring for a STEM career is to “find your own people” because while they might not be in your own school, “putting yourself in a situation that you meet them” is crucial. 

Catherine Searle, planning chair for the event and WSU mathematics professor, said that generating interest in math for young women, especially women of diverse ethnic backgrounds, is essential, as only 25% of all mathematical doctorates are granted to women. 

Attendees as young as second grade participated in the mathematics festivities. 

“I was really pleased we were able to get so many kids who come from under-represented groups because these are the people that face more obstacles to get into college in the first place, which is not good,” Searle said. 

Other institutions celebrating Sonia Kovalevsky Days inspire Searle and the planning committee to continue to bring the event to campus and explore other possible workshop options.

“I think this is something we want to continue doing every year,” Wolfe said. “I think that as we continue doing it, the girls that come and enjoy it and have fun will then be looking forward to it next year.”


*A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Searle’s name. This version has been corrected.