From Savannah to math master

I AM SAVANNAH SMART

From Savannah to math master

Practice makes perfect. Mathematics major Ayana Tiller ’17 was not a born number cruncher. But once she got a grip on math (after plenty of practice), she didn’t let go. Savannah State helped grow her passion for numbers and research. Now, you could call Ayana a bit of a number perfectionist.

As a freshman, Ayana applied to SSU’s Proactive Recruitment for Introductory Science and Mathematics (PRISM) program and was paired with Dr. Mulatu Lemma, an award-winning mathematics professor. They explored perfect numbers—numbers that equal the sum of their proper factors. Then Ayana presented her research at the Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (PS-LSAMP) symposium—and won first place. Dr. Lemma wasn’t surprised. He’d always seen her potential.

“Dr. Lemma never accepted the bare minimum from me. He believed in me before I believed in myself,” says Ayana.

After that, SSU and math paved the path to experiences Ayana never thought she’d get. She conducted and presented research, took her first plane trip to a conference in Washington D.C., and was offered internships and more research opportunities across the country.

Ayana has her eyes on one particular prize, though: A Ph.D. from Kent State University. That’s where her mentor earned his doctorate, inspiring her to do the same. The first stop on the way? Getting her master's degree in mathematics. And while she's earning hers at North Carolina A&T State University, others are getting their master's in math at SSU.

The M.S. in mathematics is the newest degree in the College of Sciences and Technology (COST). With it, students can do just about anything. They can couple it with other majors, like engineering technology, accounting, or mathematics education. And nab careers as statisticians, financiers, data analysts, university instructors, and software developers.

Ayana, though, will use her master’s (and eventual Ph.D.) to continue to teach others to love math the way she does. At SSU, she volunteered as a math tutor at the Boys and Girls Club to inspire kids in minority communities to become the next generation of STEM experts. Ultimately, Ayana wants to help other historically black colleges and universities establish more mathematics research programs, so that every student can have the kind of opportunities she had at Savannah State. Seriously Impressive


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