Inside USD

Woman of Impact Q&A: Jane Friedman

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jane Friedman (pictured below, far right) is a veteran math professor at the University of San Diego, but in many respects, her job is the foundation for so much more. She mentors students on their research; program director for the “Change” Living-Learning Community; part of a National Science Foundation-funded project for USD’s Advancement of Female Faculty: Institutional climate, Recruitment and Mentoring program (AFFIRM); another NSF-funded project to support and attract students majoring in mathematics, computer science or physics; and she coordinates the approved subject matter program in mathematics to prepare future high school math teachers. All of this adds up to her winning the 2013 Faculty Woman of Impact Award as selected by the USD Women’s Center. Friedman answered questions posed by Inside USD.

Q: What’s your definition of a USD Woman of Impact?

A USD Woman of Impact is engaged in our campus community, working with others to improve USD. A Woman of Impact is a good campus citizen, relating to others on our campus with respect and compassion.

Q: Thoughts on being named the 2013 USD Faculty Woman of Impact Award winner?

I feel incredibly moved. I am amazed that I was nominated and even more so that I was selected. The other faculty members who have been Women of Impact are truly impressive people, so it’s an honor to be included in that group. Anything I have accomplished, I’ve done so with the help of others, in my department and beyond. I’m grateful for everyone I’ve worked with across the campus. I’m also grateful to wonderful students I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years. I’ve learned so much from them.

Q: You do so much more than just serve as a faculty member. Can you talk about the role you play to create opportunities for USD students?

I understand USD as a student-centered institution, therefore I feel that an important part of my job here is creating on-campus opportunities for students and helping students find and apply for opportunities off campus. I’m working with others to make USD a more family-friendly institution. This would create more opportunities for all members of our community by making it easier for faculty, staff and students to simultaneously meet their work and their family responsibilities. I hope that USD can someday be the model for other campuses in this regard.

Q: What have been the most rewarding aspects of your time as a USD faculty member?

Working with students is deeply rewarding for me. There are students who I have advised who have struggled with personal issues, or health issues or academic issues and when those students succeed and graduate, I feel so proud of them for what they have accomplished. It is also fantastic to work on collaborative research projects. There is sometimes a misperception that mathematics is a solitary pursuit, but much important mathematical research is collaborative. I’ve very much enjoyed working with my colleagues Dwight Bean, John Glick, Jennifer Gorsky, Lynn McGrath, and Cameron Parker on mathematical research. I’ve also had a great deal of fun mentoring students doing undergraduate research projects. Last summer I had one of the best experiences of my career working with two students on a statistical research project. One student, Theresa Chadwick, was supported by USD’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) and the other, Kevin Pelaez, was a McNair Scholar. Their collaboration enabled each of them to accomplish more than either could have alone.

Q: What do you do outside of teaching that gives you work-life balance?

I love the ocean. Although I’m not a strong swimmer, I love swimming in the ocean. But on days when the conditions aren’t good for swimming or I don’t have enough time, I’ll take a few minutes to walk on the beach. It makes such a difference in how I feel all day. This morning, for example, I spent about 20 minutes walking along the beach before work. There are flocks of sandpipers, which are just amazing to watch, they run as the waves come in and their little legs move so quickly. It’s quite comical actually, and then they may take off in a flock and as they fly and turn their wings catch the sun in different ways. It’s lovely. Right now the ocean temperature is 57-59 degrees, which isn’t warm, but it’s still amazing to get out there and swim. Iyengar yoga is important to me as well. Yoga is a powerful practice and it has helped bring me emotional stability and contentment.

Q: What advice would you give to young women entering college or prospective students about their academic pursuits?

Study what excites and interests you. Work as hard as you possibly can and then balance that hard work with friendships and other interests.

Ocean photo courtesy of Jane Friedman

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