Meet Professor Yewande Olubummo, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Spelman College

August 4, 2019


Professor Yewande Olubummo’s bio

Yewande Olubummo was born and raised in Ibadan, Nigeria. She is the oldest of three children born to parents Adegoke and Edak Olubummo. After completing secondary school at the International School, Ibadan, Dr. Olubummo studied mathematics at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree. She left Nigeria in 1981 for the United States to attend graduate school at Yale University. She received an M.S. degree in 1983 from Yale University and a Ph.D. degree in 1991 from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, both in pure mathematics. Dr. Olubummo taught for two years as Lecturer of Mathematics at Smith College, Massachusetts, before joining the faculty as Lecturer of Mathematics at Spelman College, Atlanta, in 1991. She became Associate Professor of Mathematics at Spelman College in 2000 and served as the department chairperson from 2006 to 2010. 

Dr. Olubummo’s research interests and publications are in the area of functional analysis. Currently, her interests are in methods to improve the pipeline of underrepresented women from the undergraduate to the graduate level in the mathematical sciences. Dr. Olubummo has mentored numerous Spelman students working on undergraduate research projects in mathematics, and several of her students earned graduate degrees in mathematics after graduating from Spelman. She currently serves as a faculty mentor for the National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences, a program focused on increasing the representation of minority students and professionals in mathematics at all levels. Dr. Olubummo received the Spelman College Presidential Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009, and in 2018, she was awarded a Carnegie Foundation Africa Diaspora Fellowship which provided her the opportunity to develop and teach a graduate level functional analysis course at Kwara State University, Ilorin, Nigeria.

Dr. Olubummo is a member of the National Association of Mathematicians and the Mathematical Association of America. When not teaching and mentoring students, she loves to swim, read novels, and watch television. She lives in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Why did you get into STEM?

I got into STEM mainly because I always performed better in science and mathematics than in non-science subjects. Mathematics, in particular, came naturally to me, probably because my father was a mathematician. He was the second Nigerian to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics, and was one of my professors at the University of Ibadan, where I got my undergraduate degree. Also, my mother studied sciences and worked as a hospital health administrator. Both my parents encouraged and inspired me, and were a major influence in my getting into STEM.

What do you consider your greatest achievements?

My first greatest achievement is getting a Ph.D. in mathematics. Although it was a long and difficult process for me, it is an achievement I am proud of, and one that made my father proud.

My second greatest achievement would be the number of mathematics majors at Spelman College that I have mentored. Three of those students went on to receive Ph.D. degrees in mathematics and several more received master’s degrees.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?

The challenges I have faced as a woman in STEM occurred mostly at the graduate level and at the early stages of my career. I experienced scholarly isolation as well as a lack of mentorship. As a black woman in a white male dominated field, I always felt like an outsider, and felt excluded from scholarly interactions and opportunities. There were also very few role models or mentors that I could learn from. This led to a lot of self-doubt and a lack of confidence in my ability to complete the Ph.D. However, I could not disappoint my father and everyone back home in Nigeria who were looking up to me. Not succeeding was not an option! I made up my mind not to let the challenges I faced prevent me from accomplishing my goals, and that is how I overcame them.

What is your advice to budding women in STEM?

My advice to budding women in STEM is don’t be afraid to work hard and to ask for help when you need it. Find mentors who can help guide you along your journey in STEM, and always keep your eyes and focus on your goals.

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