Ursinus student makes history by being first student to be accepted in major program

Sam Isola


Ursinus first-year student Elisa Rodriguez has made Ursinus history by being the first student to be accepted by Carnegie Mellon’s Summer Undergraduate Applied Mathematics Institute (SUAMI) for the Summer of 2019. This is no small feat for any student, making it even more impressive that she is a first- year. Rodriguez is one of a small but growing number of female STEM majors of color.

The program is for undergraduates who are considering research careers in mathematical sciences. According to the SUAMI website, the program is designed to “help students make a rational decision by giving them a taste of the graduate experience, without excessive cost of time in their careers.”

Rodriguez, a Baltimore native, is a math and French double major. She said that math is difficult for her, and that it didn’t always come easily. It wasn’t until she took AP Calculus AB her junior year of high school that she realized she had a passion for it. “[Suami will] broaden my horizons and help me better appreciate the impact of math on the world,” Rodriguez said.

Her math journey at Ursinus began with Dr. Anisah Nu’man, assistant professor of mathematics and computer science, in Calculus 3. Dr. Nu’man encouraged Rodriguez to apply to the Carnegie Mellon program after reviewing her application to a similar program at Iowa State University.

SUAMI usually prefers upperclassmen applicants, but Rodriguez thought of the process as a “win-win situation.” If she was denied, she still gained valuable experience in applying and if she was accepted, all the better.

The application process was rather straightforward. Outside of her transcripts and recommendation letters, she had to submit a one-page paper on why she should be accepted and what skills she would acquire during the experience. Rodriguez said this was helpful to her in a personal sense, as it forced her to think about her future and what direction she wanted to go.

Rodriguez was on a spring break trip in Ireland when she received the news about her acceptance. She said it, “was surreal news to receive in a surreal location.”

The program spans about a month period, from May 29th to July 4th. Despite being nervous, Rodriguez is excited to get work. She is hoping the experience will help guide her in determining what she wants to do in her field.

Already thinking ahead to her future, Rodriguez plans to try to do research or a similar fellowship each summer to continue to gauge her interests.

Rodriguez will continue her travels and will study in Strasbourg, France next spring. After Ursinus, she plans to pursue a PhD in math. Her dream job would be something in the field of actuarial science assessing risk for insurance companies. She wants to apply her studies to help others while realizing her own personal goals.