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Nov. 2, 2006 • Volume 15 Number 5

Elizabeth Rini working with Norwood High School students Charles Stellburger, left, and John Rasla. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

Senior rediscovers an appreciation for math, sets new career path

By Greg Frost
Staff Writer

When Boston College senior Elizabeth Rini became one of only seven students nationwide to receive a special math scholarship, it was - fittingly enough for a discipline that makes good use of variables - the element of chance which played a key role in landing her the award.

The American Mathematical Society's Waldemar J. Trjitzinsky Memorial Award is a $3,000 scholarship presented each year to a number of randomly selected schools in the United States. The gift is named after a Russian emigrant who taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

This year, Boston College was among seven schools selected to receive the honor, the first time BC had been chosen.

Mathematics Department chairman Assoc. Prof. Jerry Keough and other department faculty considered student candidates for the award, eventually choosing Rini based on several considerations, including her dedication to the program, GPA and financial need.

Rini said math was always her favorite subject in high school but when she got to BC she felt "intimidated" by the program and chose to pursue a degree in communication during her freshman year.

"Once I went a year without taking a math class, I really missed it. That absence made me realize I wanted to have a career in math," she said.

Having decided to double-major in math and secondary education, Rini spent the summer after her sophomore year taking extra math classes to catch up with her peers.

Over the past year Rini has worked with other students to revive the BC Mathematics Society, which had been dormant for several years. She now serves as the group's president.

Keough said Rini's commitment to math was a key factor in the decision to give her the Trjitzinsky award.

"For her to go out and get all that extra work in the summer speaks to her dedication. We were really very impressed with her," Keough said. "She's worked extremely hard to be able to finish a demanding, major program in only a few semesters."

Rini plans to teach math at a public high school near her home on Long Island after she graduates next spring.

"I feel like high school students are at a vulnerable age and I think that I can do a lot with students that age, both inside and outside the classroom," she said, adding that she hopes to serve as a soccer or cheerleading coach as well.

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