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Karen Saxe: “Mathematics & Social Justice”

Professor Karen Saxe, 2016 Moody Lecture Speaker

Professor Karen Saxe of Macalester College presented the eleventh lecture in The Michael E. Moody Lecture Series on “Mathematics & Social Justice”.

Karen Saxe is DeWitt Wallace Professor of Mathematics at Macalester College in St Paul, MN. She has been awarded a Distinguished Teaching Award by the Mathematical Association of America, and the Macalester College Excellence in Teaching Award.

She is active with policy and advocacy activities for both the MAA and the Association for Women in Mathematics, and will assume the position as Director of the Washington DC Office of the American Mathematical Society on January 1, 2017, where she will work to connect the mathematics community with Washington decision makers who impact science and education funding.

Karen has been a resource in Minnesota on redistricting, consulting with city governments, and served on the Minnesota Citizens' Redistricting Commission, created to draw congressional districts following the 2010 census. She also serves on the Advisory Board for Transforming Post-Secondary Education in Mathematics (TPSE Math), an initiative sponsored by Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, aiming to effect constructive change in mathematics education at community colleges, 4-year colleges and research universities.

On her most recent sabbatical she served as the 2013–2014 AMS/AAAS Science and Technology Policy Congressional Fellow, working in Congress for MN Senator Al Franken.

More information about Karen Saxe is available from her website.

The lecture took place on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, at 7:00 PM, in HMC's Shanahan Center Auditorium.


Societal inequalities pose some of the biggest and most intractable challenges facing our nation today. Can mathematical concepts help us understand and analyze social inequality? What is the relationship between various imbalances in the U.S. today such as those we see in income distribution and political polarization? This talk will explore answers to these questions. We will focus on a few quantitative approaches that mathematicians and political scientists use to measure inequalities. The metrics we will look at include the Gini Index for measuring income inequality, and the Roeck measure for detecting gerrymandering. We’ll also discuss how our political environment and policies can reduce or intensify inequalities in society.