Manhattan College Math Professor Volunteers During Winter Break To Educate Graduate Students in Cambodia

With 35 percent of its people living below the poverty line and an adult population that is only 75 percent literate, Cambodia continues to experience economic and academic hardship as a result of the Khmer Rouge reign in the late 1970s.

With 35 percent of its people living below the poverty line and an adult population that is only 75 percent literate, Cambodia continues to experience economic and academic hardship as a result of the Khmer Rouge reign in the late 1970s. Currently, the country has only four resident citizens who hold doctorate degrees in mathematics. Several international organizations are working to enhance the educational offerings in Cambodia through the Volunteer Visiting Lecturer Program at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP). RUPP is Cambodia’s largest public university and the only one that offers a master’s degree in mathematics, thanks to the efforts of the volunteer lecturers.

One of those lecturers is Helene Tyler, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics and computer science at Manhattan College. Tyler just returned from teaching an intensive four-week master’s course in Ordinary Differential Equations at RUPP during her holiday break from Manhattan College. She became the first U.S. woman to take part in the visiting scholar program in 2009 and was so inspired by the program’s cause that she signed up for a second trip this year.

“There is a great pool of talent at the university, and the students are among the most dedicated I have ever met,” said Tyler. “After completing the master’s program at RUPP, many of the students would be prepared to enter graduate programs abroad.”

The United States’ involvement with the visiting lecture program began in 2007, when the Cambodian Mathematical Society requested assistance from the United States National Committee for Mathematics. The master’s program at RUPP is coordinated by Centre International de Mathématiques Pures et Appliquées (CIMPA) and is funded in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), and the American Mathematical Society (AMS).

“Nothing would make me happier than to find someday that my work in Cambodia is no longer necessary, that the mathematical community there has grown large enough to sustain itself,” added Tyler.

To learn more about Tyler’s work in Cambodia, please contact Liz Connolly, assistant director of communications, via e-mail liz.bauman@manhattan.edu or by phone at (718) 862-7232.