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Dartmouth junior and Williston, N.D. native named 2002 Truman Scholar

Posted 03/29/02

Dartmouth junior and Williston, N.D., native Heidi Williams was named a 2002 Truman Scholar by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation on March 22. Along with the Fulbright, the Marshall and the Rhodes, the Truman Scholarship is among the top national awards available to undergraduates. It finances two or three years of graduate study for students interested in government or nonprofit careers. Selected from a field of 590 candidates nominated by professors from 287 colleges, this year's 64 scholars will receive $30,000 each.

"It's such a rush of confidence that the Truman Foundation has put faith in my potential to succeed not only academically--in mathematics--but to succeed in making a real difference in the world of education," said Williams, who based her Truman application on improving women's access to math and science education. "I have more ideas and plans for educational programs I would like to see tried than I know what to do with, and the Truman scholarship offers me support that will allow me to accomplish even more."

Williams grew up in Williston, N.D., and attended Williston Senior High School where, along with taking advanced courses in math, she was active in music and student government and a member of the National Honor Society. As a sixth grader she began volunteering at the Williston Teen Center, which sponsors drug and alcohol-free activities for teens in the community. She was elected to the center's executive board and later went on to serve as secretary. In 1999 Williams placed second in statistics and third in mathematics at the Intel International Science Fair and was named a national Presidential Scholar--one of 140 high school seniors to receive the honor nationwide.

"Now, more than ever, I'm recognizing what I gained from growing up in the Midwest, and in North Dakota in particular," said Williams. "I have a real desire to make a difference in my home state through educational programs, as well as to work to address other problems that need to be faced, such as encouraging young people to stay or return to North Dakota."

At Dartmouth, Williams is a math major interested in algebra and number theory as well as math education. Her work with Professor of Mathematics Dorothy Wallace on the Math Across the Curriculum program, which brings together more than 50 Dartmouth faculty members who integrate mathematics into everything from music to architecture, convinced her to pair her burgeoning interest in math theory and research with teaching.

"Working with Heidi is more like working with a colleague than a student," said Wallace. "She has an amazing ability to synthesize what she learns on her own."

Williams has published a paper in Cryptologia , a national journal on mathematical cryptology, and recently returned from the Semester in Mathematics program in Budapest, Hungry where she "witnessed the beautiful interplay among group theory, field theory, geometry and number theory" which she hopes to study further in graduate school. She co-authored a chapter for a calculus textbook, was chosen as the winner of a national cryptology undergraduate paper competition, and has received several scholarships for her research.

Williams recently organized a "Sister-to-Sister Conference" which brought more than 100 middle-school girls from Vermont and New Hampshire to Dartmouth for a day of discussions and interaction with Dartmouth women. The conference was wholly organized and run by students under Williams' supervision.

Williams also works as a writing tutor at Dartmouth's Composition Center and is active in ballet and modern dance. She serves as a mentor for Dartmouth Women in Science Project (WISP), is a member of Dartmouth's Green Key Honor Society and National Society of Collegiate Scholars and numerous national professional education and mathematics organizations, including the American Association of University Women and the Association of Women in Mathematics.

Williams will pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics, specializing in number theory after graduation. She plans to be involved in both research and teaching at the college level, but may also pursue secondary education certification. She hopes to one day influence issues such as math curricula, national standards, school-to-work transition and women's participation in science and math-oriented careers, possibly through gaining a leadership position with the National Science Foundation.

Truman Scholars must be US citizens, have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills, be in the top quarter of their class, and be committed to careers in government or the not-for-profit sector. Recipients attend a weeklong leadership development conference in the spring held in Liberty, Mo. Many receive special consideration and financial aid from top graduate programs.

Dartmouth is a private, four-year liberal arts institution that has been at the forefront of American higher education since 1769. A member of the Ivy League, Dartmouth is a superb undergraduate residential college with the intellectual character of a university, featuring thriving research and first-rate graduate and professional programs in engineering, business and medicine. This unique combination creates a highly personal learning environment for its exceptional students and faculty.

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