Colloquium and Community

This entry is written by Nico Aiello ’09 on behalf of SMASAB 2009.

At Williams, every senior math/stats major has to give a colloquium talk. If you had asked me on the morning of my colloquium how I felt about the colloquium requirement, it’s possible I would have told you it was the worst thing ever and was ruining my life.  However, had you asked me on any other day, I most certainly would have bragged about my perfect attendance and identified senior colloquia as one of my favorite things about the math major here.

Maybe I’m biased, but I believe the math department is the most welcoming, social, and caring department at Williams.  How many other departments have ice cream socials twice a year to help students decide on classes for the following semester?  Or have monthly math dinners so any student on campus can meet or spend time with the professors and their families?  Or have a math banquet at the end of every year to welcome the new math majors to the community and say goodbye to the seniors?

As a regular attendee to these events beginning freshman year, I’ve always been a member of the math community here.  And yet, it wasn’t until this past year that I truly felt a part of it.  What changed for me was the colloquium requirement that came with senior year.  Between the colloquia, the faculty seminars, and math snacks, there was the chance to interact with fellow majors and the professors every single day.  Getting to see the faculty in particular was what was so meaningful for me.  There are professors that I regrettably never had the opportunity to have in class that I got to know really well mainly because we saw each other so often at colloquia.  These interactions quickly developed into relationships outside the classroom.  Since this summer, I’ve gone bowling with Morgan, attempted (and failed) the saltine challenge with Miller, and played mafia with Silva, Frisbee with Adams, and board games with Devadoss.  In addition, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been invited over to a professor’s house (if you’ve ever had Professor Morgan, you’ve had his hamburger soup).  Actually, I can.  Twelve.

So even as the number of math majors continues to grow to new heights year after year, I trust the math community will remain as close-knit and inviting as ever.  I hope the colloquium tradition here never dies and encourage everyone to take advantage of it as early as you can.  I’m starting grad school at UMass next year and can only hope their math department is a fraction as cohesive and supportive as the math community here.  If it isn’t, I may have to drive over here once or twice a week to get my fix.