Ranthony Edmonds

Apply to be part of the 2022–2023 Graduate Teaching Fellows cohort. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12.

In 2016, Ranthony A.C. Edmonds was a member of the inaugural Graduate Teaching Fellows cohort. Recently, we caught up with her to learn how she’s leveraged her time as a fellow throughout her career.

Tell us about your current position?   

I’m a National Science Foundation (NSF) Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate (MPS) Ascending Postdoctoral Research Fellow. My host institution is The Ohio State University. I currently manage this and another grant project.

The NSF grant “Persistent Homology, Metrics, and Applications on the Collection of Enriched Metric Measure Spaces” reflects a recent shift in my research agenda, where I wanted to work in an area that would allow me to use mathematics to study societal issues. In particular, I will be studying applied algebraic topology and its applications to electoral redistricting. Topology is a branch of mathematics that allows us to study shape, and topological data analysis, a subset of applied algebraic topology, provides tools to study the shape of data. I am excited to study data related to redistricting in order to develop mathematical techniques to help combat gerrymandering. As the research continues, we’ll create lesson plans related to data science, redistricting, and democracy and work with K–12 instructors to incorporate those lesson plans into their curriculum.  

The other grant supports the racial justice project, Hidden Figures Revealed: Dynamic Narratives and History of Black Mathematicians from The Ohio State University. This project aims to conduct the first comprehensive historical study of Black mathematicians at a single U.S. institution. Nearly 200 mathematicians that identify as Black have earned degrees from the Department of Mathematics at The Ohio State University, and yet their stories and legacies have remained ‘hidden.’ Our goal is to address racial justice in mathematics by shifting the narratives about who can be a mathematicians by highlighting Black scholars, and by shifting focus from individual resilience to institutional and historical barriers for success in math.   

Can you describe the course you designed?

We created Intersections of Mathematics and Society: Hidden Figures in response to a few factors. First, math isn’t always viewed as the most accessible discipline, and we wanted our course to humanize mathematics. Second, there’s a knowledge gap as to what professions can be pursued by people with quantitative math skills. Inspired by the book Hidden Figures, the course centered on discussions about community, belonging, and diversity, equity, and inclusion in mathematics. We talked about the intersections of race, gender, and socioeconomic status and how they interplay with mentorship, sponsorship, and community in math. We also discussed the math used in the Space Race, the tools they used, and what a typical day looked like for the women who worked in the early days of the U.S. space program.

It’s a service-learning course, so we paired our students with individuals in the Central Ohio area who were underrepresented leaders in STEM and were using mathematical training in their profession. Students spoke with them to learn about their career path and how they connected to organizations and communities along the way. It dispelled the myth that you must be a lone genius to succeed in the field. Students then shared this information with K-12 students for their service-learning project with our course community partners. In fact, we’re preparing to launch a public information poster campaign soon.

I’m incredibly proud of this course. It began as a pilot in the math department, and three iterations later, it’s a general elective that fits three categories.

Many of the skills necessary for this work, from learning how to design something, to designing content using an interdisciplinary lens, to identifying learning objectives, started with the graduate teaching fellowship.

What did you enjoy most about being a fellow?     

The space the program created meant a lot to me because I felt supported in my teaching pursuits. We had opportunities to brainstorm and sharpen each other’s skills in a kind environment. It was the first time I’d emerged from my math-centric lens to participate in intentional, organic conversations about teaching from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Those conversations were impactful for many reasons. I discussed teaching with people in the same career phase as me and learned how different disciplines interpreted teaching strategies and identified transferable strategies. They were also valuable for framing how to design content for non-math majors, developing programming and activities that encouraged understanding and participation.

What was the most beneficial aspect of developing a workshop?    

The pedagogical workshop was the first time I designed and facilitated a professional development workshop. It became a proof-of-concept moment for me. I’m the type of person who can tackle a new task and reflect on it to say, ‘I was able to do this. Now how can I improve upon that?’ It served as a foundation for future professional workshops and presentations at national conferences. 

How have you leveraged your experience in the fellowship?     

Participating in the fellowship set the stage for me and signaled to others that I was intentional about teaching. My pedagogical training at the UI opened doors to other opportunities and networks, allowed me to gain skills, and helped generate a pipeline that has resulted in my current grant-funded work.

The skills I developed were also incredibly valuable on the job market. Explaining that I’d done an intentional professional development opportunity where I not only gave back to the campus via a workshop, but also thought deeply about teaching in my discipline was beneficial.  

Another benefit of the fellowship was related to the Hidden Figures course. I had knowledge of curriculum development and course design, which enabled me to hit the ground running to create a new class for the department with the support of two internal course design grants my first year as a postdoc at The Ohio State University.

In the application for my NSF MPS Ascending grant, I had to demonstrate the broader impacts of my proposed research. This meant I needed to demonstrate how my work has contributed to society and helped broaden participation in mathematics for underrepresented minorities. I was able to note the pedagogical work I had done previously to help support diverse groups of learners in mathematics. This part of my proposal was regarded highly by the panel. 

What advice would you give to individuals considering applying?   

I’m a proponent of investing in yourself via professional development as often as possible. Future academic positions will contain many components: research, teaching, service, and administrative work. Professional development will prepare you for that work and will benefit you personally and professionally, inside and outside academia.

Consider it an investment in yourself, your future students, and the future of your discipline. These opportunities help make your discipline more accessible to others; one way that happens is by encouraging younger scholars to participate, and that’s more likely to occur if students are taught by instructors who’ve cultivated a pedagogical skillset.  

The fellowship is a wonderful opportunity that will allow you to meet people from other disciplines, understand holistically what teaching can look like, and help you become a better instructor in your discipline.

Apply to be part of the 2022–2023 Graduate Teaching Fellows cohort. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12.