February 20 Day 349: Florida Celebration

I want to give a shout out to all of the executive officers in the MAA Florida section meeting. They were the test subjects for all the virtual spring MAA section meetings to come.

As roles changed after the FLMAA section meeting, I won’t give titles. But active executive committee members both past and present from left to right and top to bottom are: Anthony Okafor, Lubomir Markov, Milé Krajčevski, Monika Kiss, Kevin Murphy, Daniela Genova, Sidra Van De Car, Sean Murphy, Jacob Aguilar, C. Altay Özgener, Ryan Kasha, me as section visitor, and Keshav Acharya.

The background. The pandemic has stressed everyone. Several members of the FL MAA executive committee resigned this year because they did not have the capacity to engage in the work. While this threw a wrench into the planning of the meeting, I think self-compassion and self-care is important. Know your limitations. And if you realize you have promised more than your capacity, get out. Some folks did just that.

That being said, several members of the Florida section stepped up to make this meeting happen. You see them pictured above. Heroes that took on multiple roles and committed more of themselves than we have any right to ask. And it was a good meeting—albeit with some growing pains.

The meeting. Everything officially started at 2:45 pm eastern time on Friday, February 19 and continued through Saturday, February 20 until 1:30 pm. It was beautifully planned with a main plenary space, contributed session rooms, and social areas: one for students only and one for everyone. There was a beautiful webpage with links to join a session of your choice (very similar to how the JMM was managed this January.) The problem was that the set-up required more rooms than the Zoom license allowed. And we didn’t figure it out until the meeting was underway.

There were 3 plenary sessions, 4 contributed paper sessions with parallel sessions, three student activities, business meetings, and executive committee meetings. All the components of a face-to-face meeting existed.

My plenary talk was first. It was not the best one I’ve ever given. True to remote presentation experience, everything took longer than planned and I needed more time. Sure, I could have gotten through the material if I just lectured. But that is not my style. I insisted on concept checks, breakout rooms, and Google slides. Good thing too. Several people wrote afterwards saying they had never experienced breakout rooms before. It really drove home that I must always practice active engagement in any presentation–whether virtual or in person—because there are still people to convince that lecturing is not a best practice in the classroom. Then just 30 minutes later, breakout rooms became the solution to the zoom hosting problem for meeting management.

What went right?

  • Coming together to enjoy mathematics.
  • And working on a growth mindset when plans don’t match reality.

I had two favorite moments. The first when Section Representative Monika Kiss celebrated people with 50 years of MAA membership: Robert Agnew, Steven Bellenot, and Robert Brigham. Steven was in attendance and I love his reaction:

Monika Kiss and Steven Bellenot.

The second was the closing plenary by Donal O’Shea. Don is currently president of New College of Florida but I remember him from my first year teaching at Occidental College in 1993. He was one of five authors of Calculus in Context (James Callahan, Smith College; David Cox, Amherst College; Kenneth Hoffman, Hampshire College; Donal O’Shea, Mount Holyoke College; Harriet Pollatsek, Mount Holyoke College; Lester Senechal, Mount Holyoke College), which we were using in our Calculus classes. Then-chair of the Oxy Mathematics Department Donald Goldberg invited those of us teaching from the materials to attend the 1994 Joint Mathematics Meeting in Cincinnati, OH to talk with the publishers and authors. It was my first JMM and I will never forget it. Don G. introduced me to Don O.

Donal O’Shea speaking on Polynomial Knots at the FLMAA section meeting.

I felt a bit like a fan girl at this meeting. Donal’s talk also drove home that administrators do not truly understand what remote teaching requires, as this was the first time he had shared his screen during a Zoom meeting from his computer.

I am so impressed by the volunteers that give their heart and soul to our organization. #ILoveTheMAA.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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