Susan Kemalian ’99

JOB TITLE: Mathematics Department chair
ORGANIZATION: Noble and Greenough School
LOCATION: Dedham, Massachusetts
GRADUATE DEGREE: M.S. in mathematics, Northeastern University

What was your first position after college? My first job was at Blair Academy in New Jersey. After interviewing at several places, I realized didn’t want a desk job (at least not right away). So I started interviewing at private schools and took a job at Blair Academy, where I was able to both teach and coach sports. I was a mentor and tutor at Trinity, and I had an internship at a Hartford high school. These experiences helped me realize I was happiest in educational settings where relationships play a key role.           

Has a liberal arts education helped you in shaping your career? I had the opportunity to see firsthand the importance of the student-teacher relationship. My professors always encouraged me and helped me see my strengths and potential. Also, I was able to take the math courses I wanted and needed for the major, but I could also take sociology, economics, and philosophy courses, as well as study abroad for a semester.

My relationships with my professors, especially my adviser, Professor Georges, have been so important in helping me follow my passion in teaching and get my master’s in mathematics. Through my professors, I was connected to teaching, mentoring, and tutoring experiences that helped me gain experience in and exposure to different educational opportunities. My professors’ passion in the courses they taught made me curious and want to learn more. I loved working through challenging problems and the satisfaction of coming to a solution that was clear and justifiable. I also was able to pair my academic experience with athletic commitment by playing a sport every season.           

What advice would you give to Trinity students to prepare for a position in your field? Take advantage of an opportunity to be a teaching assistant, a mentor, or tutor at Trinity. Also, take advantage of the internship opportunities that are available because of the College’s urban location.          

What is the biggest misconception about your field? That math is only for men. I was so fortunate to have amazing professors who encouraged women to continue to pursue mathematics, and I had amazing female role models among my professors. I was shocked and disappointed when I got to graduate school and realized how male-dominated mathematics really is. At Trinity, half of my math professors were female and six out of the seven math majors from my class were female.