Preety Tripathi
Tripathi wants to clear the way for more women in math

This week’s Spotlight shines on Preety Tripathi, assistant professor of mathematics, who is co-principal investigator for the college’s Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) study.

Preety Tripathi.Q. What is your hometown?
A.
New Delhi, India. I was born and grew up there.

Q. How long have you been at SUNY Oswego?
A.
Since fall 2006.

Q. What is your educational background?
A.
I did a master’s degree in math and a post-graduate research degree (M. Phil.), at the University of Delhi. In 1997, I received my Ph.D. in math education at Syracuse University. After my Ph.D., I went back to India and taught for nine years. In 2005, I met a visiting professor from here in India, Jack Narayan. I attended a talk and decided to respond to an opening in the math department here at SUNY Oswego.

Q. How did you become interested in math and math education?
A.
I realized that I didn’t like to memorize things. Math seemed like the only discipline where you could try to work things out for yourself. At the master’s level, I was motivated by one of my teachers, Dinesh Singh, who had a passion for the subject. Later, as I became interested in teaching, the same teacher guided me into mathematics education.

Q. What did you focus on for your dissertation?
A.
I was interested in visual strategies that instructors use to teach mathematics. For example, a lot of teachers like to use geometrical strategies. I had one professor who liked to bring in manipulatives, and I remember him bringing in a balloon and slowly letting out the air and saying, ‘Can you see some change here?” and discussing rates of change.

Q. What courses do you teach?
A.
I’ve taught a variety of courses—gen ed, college algebra, math content courses for teachers, calculus. A course that I love teaching is the history of math.

Q. How did you get interested in the issue of women in math?
A.
I taught at two undergraduate all-women colleges in Delhi. So I saw firsthand the kind of obstacles that young women face in making study and career choices. And then teaching here, I have seen women face hurdles, too. In India, it’s still hard for a woman to take off and devote herself to her studies, even though there are pioneering women who have been doing that for a long time. And in the United States, there are other issues, like the attitude, “Can girls/women even succeed at math?” It makes it imperative to do something that may make things better for the next generation.

Q. What do you like most about working at Oswego?
A.
Not the weather (laughs). The math department has been a great place to work. I have found the college and the department very supportive. I like working with students, and it’s wonderful when I can motivate or inspire students to look deeper at math and teaching-related issues.

Q. What other interests do you have on campus?
A.
I am the faculty adviser to the math club. I work with the department of education and programs with schoolteachers, with international organizations and the international education office here. I’ve been a member of Oswego Reading Initiative. Then there is Faculty and Staff of Color, and I am a member.

Q. What do you enjoy outside work?
A.
I like to read and do yoga, and I love long, quiet walks. I have a 10-year-old son, Neel, and he keeps me pretty busy. We try to do things together. My husband, Amitabha, teaches in India. I interact with the community here when I can and feel very appreciative of the people here.

(Posted: Jan 31, 2011)