Jillian McLeod

Born: ; place: Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (in the West Indies)

Ph.D. (2001) Mathematics Howard University
thesis: Notions of Size in Adequate Partial Semigroups; advisor: Neil Hindman

: Hope College

Dr. Jillian McLeod often reminiscences about her childhood in Trinidad, a childhood, she says, that fostered her love of math from the very beginning.

"As long as I can remember, I loved math," McLeod says. "I would come home from school and give lessons in whatever we did in school that day. No one expected for girls to be less capable in Trinidad. I had good teachers."

McLeod, 31, explains that people viewed her math skills differently only when she moved to the United States in 1990.

"In Trinidad, math and English were basics. It was when I came to the U.S. that me knowing math was considered a skill," McLeod says.

And although McLeod was taking advanced math courses in high school and during her undergraduate years at Hunter College in New York, she says she had different plans for her future.

"All the way up until my junior year at Hunter College I intended on going to medical school," McLeod says.

Then a strange turn of events occurred. A math professor who never even had McLeod as a student nominated her for a fellowship that would change her career path.

"Dr. Jane Matthews, a math professor at Hunter College, nominated me for the Mellon Fellowship. The fellowship helped to mold and navigate me toward graduate school. Even though she was never my professor, I consider her as my support system," McLeod says.

Matthews believes Jillian's focus and determination helped her obtain a doctorate in mathematics.

"When I first met her she was in pre-med. She loved math. She had goals and aspirations. She had an advantage of sticking to it. Jillian was focused; her first love was math. She was determined through her background, and she was able to network," Matthew says.

When McLeod applied to graduate school, she reflected on her undergraduate years, remembering that she was often the only Black female in her classes and often felt as though she did not have the same access to professors that other students had.

McLeod chose Howard University for her graduate studies because of its warm environment.

"Dr. Adeboye, a math professor, was looking over my grades and encouraged me to take one of his classes," McLeod says. "It was his friendliness that helped. I needed an inviting and welcoming environment."

This fall, McLeod will be teaching two sections of Calculus I at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass.

references: Author/s: Gabrielle Finley, Issue: August 29, 2002


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