BS (with honors), Mathematics, University of Michigan, 1990
MS, Mathematics, University of Illinois, 1992
PhD, Mathematics, University of Illinois, 1996
Current employer and job title:
University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Aaron Douglas Professor of Mathematics and Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty and Academic Affairs
Dr. Judy Leavitt Walker of Lincoln, Neb., has been named a recipient of the 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award for her outstanding professional career and her leadership and contributions to the advancement of mathematics and inclusion.
Walker currently serves as the Aaron Douglas Professor of Mathematics and associate vice chancellor for faculty and academic aﬀairs at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL). On the national level, Walker serves as a trustee of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) and is currently serving as chair of the AMS Board of Trustees.
Additionally, Walker co-founded the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics (NCUWM), a national conference for undergraduate students in mathematics with a focus on women. The NWCUM won the AMS Programs that Make a Difference Award in 2013.
Walker holds professional memberships in AMS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), and it was noted by one of her nominators that she is one of the few individuals that could be called up to serve in leadership roles in each of the AMS, MAA, and AWM. She was named a fellow of AMS in 2012, and in 2019, she was named a fellow of AWM.
Among her numerous recognitions and honors, Walker received the MAA Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics in 2006, the AWM Louise Hay Award for Contributions to Mathematics Education in 2016 and the UNL Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award in 2014. She was also selected as MAA George Pólya Lecturer from 2009-2011 and has been awarded more than 20 grants, including a National Science Foundation (NSF) INCLUDES grant which conducted research to study and document the effectiveness of several long-running programs that enabled and encouraged women to participate in mathematics. She has published more than 30 publications and has served as an invited lecturer nearly 100 times.
Walker completed both a master’s degree and a PhD from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She received the department’s Irving Reiner Memorial Award in 1996. Before attending UIUC, she graduated with honors from University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1990. She and her husband, Mark Walker (PhD ’96, mathematics), Willa Cather Professor of Mathematics at UNL, have two children: Madeline, 18, and Becca, 16.
Why did you choose to attend the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign?
I visited several graduate programs, and found UIUC's math department to be the most welcoming.
Why did you choose mathematics as your field of study?
As an undergraduate, I thought I would be a "math and" major, but I never found a second subject that I found as fun, interesting, and satisfying as my math courses. So I ended up as just a math major. I didn't know what I'd do after college until after my junior year when I did an REU and discovered mathematics research. I was hooked, and knew I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics.
What activities did you participate in while a student in the Department of Mathematics?
I was a TA and spent several semesters teaching in the Calculus & Mathematica program.
What is your most memorable UIUC/Department of Mathematics experience?
What I remember most is my fellow graduate students, some of whom are still among my closest friends.
What UIUC/Department of Mathematics professor or staff member made the greatest impact on you, and why?
My advisor was Nigel Boston, who was fantastic. I also want to mention Lori Dick, who ran the graduate program office when I was there. She was such a steady constant for me and for so many of my fellow graduate students.
What are some of your accomplishments since graduating?
- Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics, 2006. (MAA)
- George Pólya Lecturer, 2009-2011. (MAA)
- Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, 2012-present
- Fellow of the Association for Women in Mathematics, 2019-present
- AMS Board of Trustees, 2018-2023. (Currently serving as chair.)
Apart from supporting UIUC, what is your favorite pastimes?
Hiking, swimming, golf, and spending time with family
What is one concept you learned from the University of Illinois and/or Department of Mathematics that you use regularly?
I got a great foundation in algebra, combinatorics, and graph theory during my time as a graduate student.
What advice would you give to current Department of Mathematics students about preparing for life after graduation?
Take advantage of opportunities to go to seminars, and learn everything you can while you're in graduate school. Don't specialize too early, and push yourself to learn some mathematics that is not directly related to your dissertation.