ORIE Graduates Choose to Teach, for America
While next fall many of their classmates will be working in manufacturing, consulting or finance, two recent ORIE graduates will be teaching in high schools. Both attended the same high school in Hawai'i before coming to Cornell.
Megan Akamine '10 has been selected for the Teach for America Corps. After training at a Teach for America summer institute in Georgia, she will teach math at a school in her home state of Hawai'i. Megan's mother is a public school teacher on Oahu, where Megan attended Punahou, the elite alma mater of President Barack Obama.
At Cornell, Megan plays club basketball, is active in the philanthropic activities of her sorority, and works as a teaching assistant and statistics tutor. She has interned with Hawaiian Airlines and Blackrock. Teach for America entails a two-year commitment.
"I am very excited to be a part of Teach for America," Megan says. "I hope to somehow utilize all that I've learned through Operations Research in the near future, sive I've really enjoyed the past four years."
Vivi Nguyen '04 M.Eng. '05 is a Math for America Fellow, one of about 40 individuals selected for the five year program for 'talented individuals who are new to teaching." Through Math for America, Vivi has a full tuition scholarship and stipend to obtain a master's degree at NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. With the fellowship, she made a five year commitment under which she will teach for four years at a New York City public secondary school math teacher and receive supplement to her New York City teacher's salary.
Like Megan, Vivi is a graduate of Punahou on Oahu. Since her M.Eng. graduation Vivi has been working for a large engineering consultancy, AECOM, on transit and utilities projects. Her role is risk management. "I've been making good use of my statistics and simulation education," she says, working on high level projects like the World Trade Center and the Second Avenue Subway in New York.
Vivi notes that her time at both Punahou and Cornell provided opportunities beyond classroom work. "While completing my M. Eng. in ORIE, I worked extensively with a small group on a real-life telecommunications sales project for a consulting firm and gained leadership experience via my role as class co-president. I am excited to be part of the 2010 Math for America fellowship group and look forward to providing a similar range of opportunities to my students."
Teach for America
Teach for America is an outcome of the Princeton senior thesis of Wendy Kopp, who founded it as a the national service corps she proposed as an undergraduate. A pioneering social entrepreneur, Kopp tells the story in One Day, All Children..., published in 2001. According to a recent article in The Atlantic magazine, Teach for America has become a highly data-driven organization, particularly in the teacher selection process. About 1 applicant in 10 is accepted for the program. Remarkably, in the 2008-9 school year, 11 percent of Ivy League seniors applied.
Megan recalls that after passing a series of Teach for America interviews she was asked to teach a selected subject to other applicants for exactly five minutes. She chose subtraction. The Atlantic article details the criteria for a successful 'sample teach,' as the process is called by Teach for America.
The article notes that preparation and the accomplishment of the teaching objective within the five minute period are even more important than charisma and extroversion. But according to ORIE's undergraduate director Professor Robert Bland, Megan is unusually strong in those dimensions as well. "The phrase may be hackneyed," he says, "but Megan truly does 'light up the room' with her enthusiasm".
Math for America
Math for America is the brainchild of Dr. James H. Simons, who is chairman of the board of Renaissance Technologies LLC, a highly quantitiative investment firm from which he retired in 2009 after many years as CEO. Simons, who had been chairman of the math department at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, has made major contributions to geometry and topology.
Like Teach for America, Math for America is a highly selective, taking about 1 applicant in 10. The program does not have a set size, accepting only candidates who meet their strict criteria.