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Meet Your MESA Officers

Aida Alibek, President

Aida is a 2nd year doctoral student in Mathematics Education. Her research interest is in RUME (research in undergraduate mathematics education). Aida chose to pursue Mathematics Education because she believes that all people are capable of succeeding in math if they put in the work and if they have the desire. However, the learning environments (broadly defined) that mathematics is taught in are often not conducive to the process. Aida believes that through research in math ed. and building a community of researchers, teacher educators, K-12 teachers, and college instructors we can work to create environments where our students can explore, learn, experience the joy of mathematics, and realize their potential. Aida’s teaching experience includes being at Mathematics Teaching assistant at the University of Illinois Chicago (USA) and Suleyman Demirel University (Kazakhstan) as well as a Mathematics Lecturer at the International IT University (Kazakhstan). Aida’s favorite thing about UGA is the people: “Everyone is very welcoming, supportive, and you instantly feel like you are a part of this Bulldawg community”. A fun fact about Aida is she used to boxing and at one point her coach was persuading her to train for the Olympics. She decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Mathematics instead!

Dru Horne, Vice President

Dru is a 1st year doctoral student in Mathematics Education. His research interest includes the ways that students understand and conceive of mathematics as well as the ways teachers can support students in creating these meanings. Erin chose Mathematics Education because he enjoys thinking about and doing mathematics and believes that all students should have a chance to engage with mathematics in meaningful ways. Dru’s teaching experience includes three years of teaching AP Statistics, AP Calculus AB, Algebra 2, Pre-Calculus, and Accelerate Pre-Calculus in Lexington, GA. He also taught GED classes in Spanish to native Spanish speakers in the local Athens community. Dru’s favorite thing about UGA is the amount of things to do: “There are so many people and so many things going on. You can always find someone somewhere, doing something you’re interested in”. An interesting fact about Dru is he’s a juggler (one of things he learned as a UGA undergrad)–he can juggle 5 balls, he can juggle fire, but he has never juggled chainsaws.

Erin Wood, Treasurer

Erin is a 1st year doctoral student in Mathematics Education. Her research interest includes postsecondary mathematics education. Erin chose Mathematics Education because she has always enjoyed math and found herself looking for a career where she could combine her passion for mathematics with a desire to help people. Erin’s teaching experience includes one year of teaching precalculus at UGA. Erin’s favorite thing about UGA is how active and vibrant the research community is: “There are always talks to go to and workshops to participate in, on an incredibly broad range of topics. Some of Erin’s fun facts are she loves to bake, ride horses, and garden in her free time. She also fosters cats and kittens for a local shelter.

James Drimalla, Co-Colloquium Chair

James is a 3rd year doctoral student in Mathematics Education. His research interests are in the philosophy of mathematics education. James chose to pursue Mathematics Education because he wanted to serve math teachers (particularly high school math teachers) by thoughtfully reflecting on how to better engage students in reasoning mathematically. His teaching experience includes several years of teaching at the middle school and high school level. James’s favorite things about UGA are the UGA Botanical Gardens, the libraries, and the math education community. In his spare time he enjoys reading and playing board games with his wife. 


Mina Gong, Co-Colloquium Chair

Mina is a 2nd year doctoral student in Mathematics Education. His research interests the teaching and learning process in high school mathematics. Mina chose to pursue Mathematics Education because math is fun! She also wants students to enjoy mathematics. Her teaching experience includes 6 years of teaching high school mathematics in South Korea. Mina’s favorite thing about UGA is the friendly people. An interesting fact about Mina is that she loves cats a lot, but she has never had one before.

Year and Program: 3rd year, Undergraduate Mathematics Education Major

Riley McNeill, Undergraduate Representative

Riley is a 3rd year undergraduate student majoring in Mathematics Education. She chose to pursue Mathematics Education because:

“I have always loved math and it is a passion of mine to want to change the way students view math and themselves as learners. When I tell people my major, I often get a response along the lines of “wow, I could never- I’ve always hated math”, and that is exactly what I want to change.”

Riley’s favorite thing about UGA is:

“I love how, the longer I am here at UGA, the smaller it feels. My freshmen year, the school felt so big and overwhelming, but now that I am a junior, I have had the opportunity to meet and become close with so many people, and my cohort has been one of the biggest reasons for this happening. They have become wonderful friends and have been such a blessing over the past year!”

A fun fact about Riley is that she once listened to over 73 hours of Beyonce on Spotify in a year!

Laura Clifford, Undergraduate Representative

Laura is a 3rd year undergraduate student and is in her first year in the Mathematics Education undergraduate program. She chose to pursue Mathematics Education because she loves mathematics and has so much fun navigating different solutions/possibilities. She also wants to give students the best opportunity to discover how practical and fun math can be. Laura’s favorite thing about UGA “is definitely the community”. A fun fact about Laura is that she has a beautiful pet leopard gecko named Noodle.