Plenary Speaker Profile (2019-20)
Vilma Mesa
Professor of Mathematics Education
University of Michigan
Algebra Instruction at Community Colleges: Investigating the Relationship with Student Outcomes

Community colleges play an important role in the preparation of the next generation of STEM majors. The number of students taking courses at community colleges to complete requirements for their undergraduate majors has been on the rise in part due to increasing costs of higher education as well as states offering free tuition at community colleges. Yet the rates of success in mathematics courses taught at community colleges, especially in courses needed for a STEM degree, are low. In this talk I will describe work in progress in a project that sought to assess the connection between quality instruction in community college algebra courses and students' outcomes in these courses. I will describe the context of the project, the research questions, and our findings, and derive some implications for the teaching of mathematics in post-secondary settings.

Vilma Mesa is Professor of Education and Mathematics at the University of Michigan, and Faculty Associate at the Center for the Study of Higher and Post-secondary Education at the University of Michigan. She investigates the role that resources play in developing teaching expertise in undergraduate mathematics, specifically at community colleges and in inquiry-based learning classrooms. She has conducted several analyses of instruction and of textbooks and collaborated in evaluation projects on the impact of innovative mathematics teaching practices for students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. She served as Associate Editor for the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education from 2000-2004 and is currently serving as associate editor for Educational Studies in Mathematics. She was a research associate at "una empresa docente" a research center in Mathematics Education at the University of Los Andes, in Bogotá, Colombia where she co-authored university textbooks for pre-calculus for engineering and probability and statistics for social science majors. She has published over 60 articles and book chapters in mathematics education and raised over $2M in federal funding to support her work. Prior to her career in education, Mesa was a systems programmer for the ministry of finances in Colombia and for the district of Bogotá, and a computing systems advisor for a large construction and hospitality firm in Colombia. She has a B.S. in computer sciences and a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, and a master’s of arts and a Ph.D. in mathematics education from the University of Georgia.