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Sylvia Bozeman

Mathematician Sylvia Bozeman was born in Camp Hill, Alabama in 1947. She was the third of five children to Horace T., Sr. and Robbie Jones. Although her father worked with numbers daily in his profession as an insurance agent, it was her mother, a housewife, who first cultivated Bozeman’s love for mathematics. In 1964, Bozeman graduated valedictorian of Edward Bell High School in Camp Hill, and in the fall enrolled at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, AL. Bozeman graduated from Alabama A&M University 1968 with her B.S. degree in mathematics. She went on to earn her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in mathematics, from Vanderbilt University in 1971 and Emory University (Atlanta) in 1980, respectively. The areas of her research and publications have included operator theory in functional analysis, projects in image processing, and efforts to enhance the success of groups currently underrepresented in mathematics.

Upon graduation, Bozeman worked for one year as an instructor of mathematics at Tennessee State University, and then joined the faculty in the Mathematics Department at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She began as an instructor in 1972, became assistant professor in 1980, an associate in 1984, and full professor in 1991. Moreover, Bozeman served as chair of the Mathematics Department from 1982 to 1993, as adjunct faculty in the Math Department at Atlanta University from 1983 to 1985. In 1993, Bozeman established the Center for the Scientific Applications of Mathematics at Spelman College, and served as director. In a special partnership between the mathematics departments of Spelman College and Bryn-Mawr College, Bozeman co-directs Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE), a national program that assists women in mathematics in making the transition from college to graduate school. In 2007 the EDGE Program was given special recognition by the American Mathematics Society for its effectiveness.

Her noted scholarly activities include several publications, funded research (by NASA, the US Office of Army Research and the Kellogg Foundation); and her recognitions, contributions, and services as a gifted teacher and presenter. Bozeman is a member of the Mathematical Association of American, and, in 1997, she became the first African-American elected as an MAA Section Governor in the association’s eighty-two year history.

Bozeman and her husband, Dr. Robert Bozeman, live in Alabama with their two children, Robert, Jr. and Kizzie.

Sylvia Trimble Bozeman was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 18, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.209

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/18/2012

Last Name

Bozeman

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Trimble

Occupation
Schools

Emory University

Vanderbilt University

Alabama A&M University

Edward Bell High School

Agreeable Hill Elementary

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Sylvia

HM ID

BOZ02

Favorite Season

Christmas, Summer

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Near Water

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/1/1947

Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Favorite Food

Vegetables, Desserts

Short Description

Mathematician Sylvia Bozeman (1947 - ) was the founder and director of The Center for the Scientific Applications of Mathematics at Spelman College.

Employment

Spelman College

Favorite Color

Cranberry

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sylvia Bozeman's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sylvia Bozeman lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sylvia Bozeman describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sylvia Bozeman describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her father's education and career aspirations

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her mother's career

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sylvia Bozeman describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her father's career

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her family

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sylvia Bozeman describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sylvia Bozeman describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her elementary school experience

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her family's involvement in the church

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her memories of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her high school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about how black schools were named

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her high school experience

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her decision to attend Alabama A&M University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about meeting her husband

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about Alabama A&M University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her introduction to mathematical research

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about the political climate at Alabama A&M University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sylvia Bozeman remembers her career aspirations during her college years

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her female math instructors

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her decision to attend Vanderbilt University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about integration at Vanderbilt University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her experience at Vanderbilt University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about teaching at Tennessee State University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her decision to attend Emory University for her Ph.D.

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sylvia Bozeman describes her dissertation on operator theory

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her involvement with the black math community

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about black women mathematicians

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her post-doctoral employment prospects

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her career at Spelman College

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about the STEM initiatives at Spelman College

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her professional memberships and awards

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her work at Spelman College

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about the evolution of Spelman's STEM programs under the leadership of Dr. Etta Faulkner

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her professional affiliations

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about the renovation of Tapley Hall

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about the EDGE Program

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her presentation at the Congressional Diversity and Innovation Caucus

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about the government's inadequate support of STEM initiatives for HBCUs

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about black mathematicians

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about the future of the EDGE Program

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about Bob Moses' Algebra Project

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Sylvia Bozeman reflects upon her life choices

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Sylvia Bozeman reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her husband, a fellow mathematician

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Sylvia Bozeman talks about her children

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Sylvia Bozeman reflects upon how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sylvia Bozeman describes her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

6$9

DATitle
Sylvia Bozeman talks about her introduction to mathematical research
Sylvia Bozeman talks about her career at Spelman College
Transcript
Now Huntsville is now the sight of a, is a NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] center in Huntsville.$$Right. So Redstone Arsenal turned into Marshall Space Flight Center. And so that's one of the NASA sites. It was originally named Redstone Arsenal. But it is still the same NASA facility, evolved.$$Okay, so now it's the Marshall Space Center. So--$$Um-hmm. Robert worked out there when he, as a, you know sophomore, junior in college math major. He actually worked out there in the evenings as a, in an engineering position. That's what they called them, engineer.$$Okay. So this is, you really--did you follow the space program closely when you were growing up?$$I don't know that I followed it more close than anybody else but you know I was aware and I went out to, onto Redstone Arsenal. Actually my department chair, Dr. Howard Foster was a physicist and he had some connections out there and he hired me as a student research assistant to help him with some calculations and he took me out there and had them to give me access to a computer, a small computer, small meaning probably the size of that file cabinet over there but at that point it probably could do about as much as a little hand (unclear). But you know, but it was my first introduction to the idea of computing.$$Okay. So you learned how to--was the computer basically a big calculator or something that--?$$Yes, really. And I don't, I can't even remember how much I learned from being out there you know working on that because I didn't really have a lot of help. But I, you know I did help him with his calculations there and back in, back on campus using desk calculators to the point that he did acknowledge me in his paper when he published his results. And so you know that probably gave me my first introduction to research and then the next summer I can't--I would, and it must have been due to his influence but I ended up spending a summer at Harvard [University] in a summer program for students that came from minority institutions, mostly across the south. There was a summer program in Harvard in math. Well I guess it wasn't just in math. I was in math and some of the other students but some of the students were in other areas. So I spent a summer there and after that you know I was primed for graduate school. So I have to think that Dr. Foster influenced me to do these things. I can't imagine how else I would have ended up at Harvard in a summer program.$$Now what's his first name?$$Howard Foster.$$Okay, oh Dr. Howard Foster.$$Uh-huh.$$And he was, he taught physics and math at--?$$He was chair of the math and physics department. It was one department but he was a physicist and he taught physics.$$Now did he teach you calculus?$$No, just physics. He only taught physics but he was the chair of the--it was a combined department.$$So, but you had calculus I guess for the first time in--?$$I had calculus at Alabama A & M with Dr., I'll think of that in a minute. His name just slipped right out of my head. I had a Cuban calculus professor, Castillo, Dr. Castillo. He was one of my favorite teachers too, C-A-S-T-I-L-L-O.$$Okay.$$Dr. Castillo, so he taught all of us calculus, my husband, taught my husband calculus too.$Okay. Now I have this on the outline in 1977, is this when you founded the Center for Scientific Application of Mathematics?$$No, that happened in 1993 so I'm not sure.$$Okay, all right. I think I got it in the wrong place.$$'77 [1977], I'm trying to see what--$$Well lets not worry about that now and--$$Okay. I don't know what happened in '77 [1977]. I was trying to remember what that would have been.$$But I know that after, it sys here--$$I probably went back to graduate school in '77 [1977], I guess.$$Yeah, you had been working on your Ph.D.?$$Uh-huh, I went back in '76 [1976].$$Okay, but in '82 [1982], this is two years after your Ph.D., you became the chair of the math department here.$$Right, like I said more responsibilities, right? So it's unusual to, I thought it was unusual for somebody to be, have two, be two years out of graduate school and then become chair of the math department but that's what happened.$$Well in a time when you know technology and the science and technology are leaping forward, what--did you have--I mean what were your priorities as chairman of the math department at Spelman [College] in '82 [1982]?$$In--so I guess it was 1980 when I was finishing up. I think that--I guess I have my dates right. I had a student named Daphne Smith and she went, left Spelman and went to MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, private research university] in math and she got a Ph.D. in math and probability. And it was a realization, it was--she was the first student out of this department, math department to get a Ph.D. in math. And I think it made us start to think more about our--the need for more of our students to go on to get Ph.D.s in math and it was a realization all across the sciences here, that not just math but in all of the sciences, we needed to put more emphasis on having students to go on to graduate school and to get Ph.D.s. And so we started an all out effort to do that and that was one of my priorities during the time I was chair to get more of our students into graduate school and more of them to earn Ph.D.s.$$Okay. All right, now was the department in pretty good shape when you inherited the chair, chairmanship?$$In terms of good shape you mean in terms of the number of faculty and number of students or--?$$I guess in terms of the--you had just come out of a Ph.D. program. Were they up to, you know was it up to speed the way you would like it to be when you came out?$$In terms of the curriculum?$$Right.$$I think, we had a pretty strong curriculum because see when I was taking over as chair I was taking over from Dr. Etta Faulkner who had been chair and she was top notch.$$Right, now I've heard of her before.$$Oh yes.$$Yeah.$$So she--$$Tell us something about her. Now what's her background and--$$She, I can't remember what year she came to Spelman, maybe it's '69 [1969] but she finished her Ph.D. at Emory [University] and she was, came here and became chair of the math department and Dr. Shirley McBay was also here, another black woman mathematician and Shirley became associate dean or something like that. She was you know, one step up. No, and chair of the science division. That's what Shirley was and the dean. And so the two of them had already, when I came they had already started looking at the fact that only 10 percent of our students were in math and science at Spelman and they thought that there needed to be more, that we needed to really put more effort into getting women into science. So--and some of what I'm about to say I'm thinking, I'm taking from an article that Dr. Faulkner wrote about the history of the sciences at Spelman and she talks there about how the science building was dark and dreary and there was no talk about women being in science and math on campus, nothing appeared in our literature about it. And they talked the president into starting a new era to try to change that. And they started a summer science program to try to bring, get these women who were coming into the school into the sciences at the very beginning and they did all kinds of things to try to improve the sciences and they did. And so they got the whole faculty on board so whatever we did it was not in the math department it was all across the sciences. We worked together to try to increase the number of students that were going on to, that were coming into the sciences in the first place and graduating with a BS and then by the time I came along as chair in the 80s [1980s], it was now okay, how many of these students can we get to go on to graduate school and to get Ph.D.s in math and science?