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Venema Named MAA Associate Secretary
September 12, 2007

A Calvin College professor has been elected as associate secretary of one of the nation's two major mathematics organizations.

Gerard Venema will begin a five-year term with the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) in January 2009 after first serving for a year as associate secretary elect. A 30-year member of the MAA, Venema says he sees these new, upcoming duties as a chance to be of service to the discipline of mathematics, and an opportunity to be involved at the national level in setting the direction of the profession and the professional organization.

His work with the MAA also will benefit Calvin he says.

"It will certainly increase the visibility of Calvin at the national level and increase Calvin's influence in the academic world," he says. "And it will benefit Calvin students in that it will give them more direct access to the national mathematical community. Of course benefit is a two-way street. By allowing me to work in this capacity, Calvin is providing a benefit to the academic community. Part of the mission of the college is to serve various communities, and this is one concrete way in which Calvin can serve the academic community of which it is a part."

Venema notes that there are two major professional organizations in mathematics. The mission of the American Mathematical Society is to promote research mathematics. The mission of the Mathematical Association of America is to promote collegiate mathematics, a term Venema says refers both to the exposition and promotion of mathematics that is accessible to college students and the promotion of good college teaching of mathematics.

Despite their different areas of emphasis, the two organizations see their missions as complementary and they hold a joint meeting each January, which is attended by approximately 5,000 people.

One of the major ways in which the MAA promotes collegiate mathematics is by publishing the American Mathematical Monthly which, Venema says, has the largest circulation of any mathematical publication in the world. Venema has been associate editor of the journal since 2001. He also has served as a member of a subcommittee devoted to mathematics research by undergraduates -- an assignment he says he has always relished because of how it connects to Calvin's focus on undergraduate research opportunities for students.

Venema's new work with the MAA will take up one-third of his time beginning in January 2008 (the MAA will make payments to the college to buy out that teaching time each year). With those hours Venema will work at a number of tasks critical to the work of the MAA, including overseeing the scientific programs of the MAA's two national meetings: the Joint Mathematics Meetings, held in conjunction with the AMS, and the MAA's summer meeting, MathFest.

Interestingly one of the top people at the AMS, its secretary, is Robert Daverman, a Calvin graduate on the faculty at the University of Tennessee. He also is a co-author with Venema of several research papers, including a major research monograph that is to be published by the AMS in 2008. Now he and Venema also will get a chance to work together on the AMS/MAA joint meeting!

Says Venema with a smile: "The unusual thing is that two Calvin College graduates will have a hand in shaping the the character of the national meetings for the entire mathematical community."

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