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BISO Home > USNC/IMU Homepage > About the Volunteer Lecturer Program


The Volunteer Lecturer Program (VLP) was established by the Commission for Developing Countries (CDC) of the International Mathematical Union out of the paradigm created by the Centre International de Mathématiques Pures et Appliquées (CIMPA) program in Cambodia, the London Mathematical Society's Mentoring African Research in Mathematics (MARM) program, and the Norwegian Programme for Development, Research and Education (NUFU) with southern African universities. 

VLP Participants at the Royal University of Phnom Penh in CambodiaThe IMU identifies mathematicians interested in contributing to the formation of young mathematicians in the developing world, and maintains a VLP database in which it lists each mathematician's curriculum vitae, the areas of mathematics in which he or she is prepared to teach courses, language abilities, typical dates of availability, and previous experience.  IMU also identifies universities and mathematics degree programs in the developing world that are in need of, and can provide the necessary conditions for productive collaboration in the teaching of advanced mathematics. 

Program Objectives
Two main objectives of the Volunteer Lecturer Program are:

  1. to build capacity in mathematics and mathematics education in developing countries, and
  2. to increase mathematical interaction between the mathematical community in the developed world and the vast, mostly untapped reservoir of mathematical talent in the developing world.

The program draws on a large pool of research mathematicians who have already indicated their willingness to participate, essentially pro bono, in the VLP in the coming years.  They stand ready to offer 3-4 week math lecture courses in topics at the advanced undergraduate level, such as statistics, differential equations, numerical analysis, etc., the capacity for which is lacking at many universities in developing nations. 

Program Outcomes
Three long-term goals of the VLP involve: 1)  establishment of a critical mass of successful students of advanced mathematics in individual developing countries, 2) establishment of contacts between the research mathematics profession and the brightest young mathematical talent in developing countries, and 3) increased collaboration between the mathematics research communities of countries in the developed world and the IMU, their international professional organization.


History of U.S. Connection to the VLP

At the invitation of the Cambodian Mathematical Society, USNC/Math Chair Herbert Clemens traveled to Cambodia in early 2007.  Dr. Clemens was asked by French and Cambodian mathematicians for United States’ assistance and guidance in teaching short intensive courses at the advanced undergraduate level in a Masters degree program organized by the Centre International de Mathématiques Pures et Appliquées (CIMPA) with input from the French government at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP).

In the summer of 2007, the American Mathematical Society disseminated a USNC/Math appeal to U.S. mathematics department chairs that detailed the purpose of the program and invited U.S. mathematicians to participate as volunteers.  The appeal immediately yielded 50 viable responses.  The context of this work was described to potential volunteers as follows:

We seek lecturers for intensive 3-4 week courses at universities in the developing world, at the advanced undergraduate level.  The lecturer would be assisted by a local mathematics professor who prepares the students beforehand, assists when necessary during the course, and takes care of any necessary follow-up. These courses should have a student audience of 20 or more, be controlled, with examinations, and be part of a regular degree program at the university at which they are offered.  Past experience in the developing world is desirable but not necessary.  However, what is required is tolerance for working in circumstances of modest resources, unexplained inefficiencies, and limited physical comforts.

The U.S. National Committee for Mathematics will raise funds for all expenses, including travel; however, we request that the mathematician's home institution offer leave with pay during his/her 3-4 week absence.  We believe that a strong case can be made that cooperation with this program will not only bring personal and professional benefit to the lecturer, but will also redound to the credit of the lecturer's institution.

Five U.S lecturers participated in the Cambodian program in 2009:

  • William Murray (California State University) taught Partial Differential Equations on January 12 to 30, 2009.
  • Eduardo Cattani (University of Massachusetts) taught Introduction to Real Analysis on March 23 to April 12, 2009.
  • Jan Hannig (University of North Carolina) taught Introduction to Statistics on May 7 to 29, 2009 (2008 lecturer).
  • Angel Pineda (California State University) taught Numerical Analysis on May 25-June 12, 2009.
  • Helene Tyler (Manhattan College) will teach Differential Equations on November 30-December 18, 2009.

 The Board on International Scientific Organizations received a grant from NSF (Grant # DMS-0937225) to establish an on-going VLP and support 10 lecturers per year for the next three years (2010-2012). 

Volunteer Lecturer Eduardo Cattani and VLP students in CambodiaWilliam Murray joins 2009 VLP students in Cambodia

Eduardo Cattani (University of Massachusetts), lectured on "Introduction to Real Analysis," and William Murray (California State University), led a course on "Partial Differential Equations," as 2009 Volunteer Lecturers in Cambodia.
The following three lecturers participated in 2008:

  • John Lamperti (Dartmouth College), "Real Analysis"
  • Jan Hannig (Colorado State University), "Statistics"
  • Yontha Ath (Aerospace Corporation), "Numerical Analysis"

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