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Zweng Endowed Fellowship Awardees

Sarah Castle, Jihye Hwang, and Merve Kursav, PRIME mathematics education doctoral students, have been awarded the Dr. Marilyn Zweng Endowed Graduate Student Award in Mathematics Education. All three students are at the dissertation stage, with Merve graduating this year, and Sarah and Jihye next year.

Marilyn Zweng PhotoDr. Marilyn Zweng, a mathematics educator who completed her undergraduate work at Michigan State University, generously contributed funds establishing an endowment to provide fellowships to PRIME students. She earned her PhD from the University of Wisconsin. She was a professor of mathematics and head of the mathematics department at the University of Iowa. In Iowa, she created a TV show called “Mathematics with Marilyn.” Dr. Zweng passed away in August 2019 and will be remembered as a philanthropist and an incredibly intellectual woman.

Zweng fellowship recipients are selected based on how they have been active ambassadors of mathematics education and what the student plans to do to extend, deepen, or change their ambassador work.

Ambassadors of mathematics education exhibit active involvement in improving mathematics teaching and learning (pre-K-16+), publications and/or presentations that reach out to a broad community such as K-12 teachers, policymakers, etc., and/or service to mathematics education at MSU (e.g., mentoring) or nationally (e.g. organizing conferences).

Sarah Castle PhotoSarah Castle is a fourth-year student in the mathematics education doctoral program. During her graduate work at MSU, she has been involved in work through the SEISMIC research project that has been advocating for systemic transformation of introductory STEM courses and the Transitions to Proof research project, in addition to teaching mathematics courses. She has presented at several national conferences. Additionally, she has served as a community chair for PRIME Graduate Student Organization, GSO. 

Sarah noted, “In order to deepen my ambassador work with regards to improving mathematics teaching and learning, my goal would be to use this fellowship as a way of funding my dissertation work. This fellowship would enable me to recruit students and aid in the analysis of these materials”

She continued that she would use the remaining fellowship funds for transcription services, which would free up her time to delve into the analysis portion. “Finally,” she stated, “my hope would be that this not only develops into publications targeted at the research community, but even more for practitioner journals such as PRIMUS, and also into scalable modules for other practitioners to actually implement within their classrooms.”


JIhye Hwang PhotoJihye Hwang is officially in her third year in the mathematics education doctoral program, but she also completed her master’s degree in mathematics earlier at MSU, where she was able to begin some of her mathematics education coursework.

As a lead teaching assistant (TA), Jihye mentored mathematics graduate TAs and undergraduate learning assistants. She observed their classes and gave feedback as well as led discussion sessions related to their teaching. She has taught a number of math courses, and math ed content courses for future teachers. Jihye has several conference presentations and publications. In particular, she wrote a book chapter with another math ed doctoral student, Valentin Küchle, sharing their teaching experiences and tips to TAs, that was published this year.

Jihye stated, “I do research in undergraduate mathematics education with the hope that I can contribute to improving mathematics education at the collegiate level, and I believe, for that purpose, mathematics faculty and graduate students, who teach a majority of mathematics courses in college should be aware of the existence of mathematics education and what it is. In the future, I intend to keep communicating with mathematics TAs, who possibly will become mathematics faculty, and have a conversation about mathematics education with them.”

She continued, “I will use the funding to support my dissertation work. I intend to use the fellowship money to compensate participants and to transcribe the data.”


Merve Kursav PhotoMerve Kursav is a fifth-year mathematics education doctoral student who will be graduating this summer. Merve has taught mathematics to a wide range of students, as she notes, “from middle schoolers to college undergraduates, from an international baccalaureate preparatory school attended by some of the wealthiest students to schools in Turkey teaching Syrian refugees and a school in the United States teaching refugees and immigrants from all around the world; from some of the most well-prepared students to students with special needs (such as students with dyscalculia).”

Merve commented, “I have and will continue to strive to cultivate effective learning environments by promoting student success and engagement and creating inclusive learning spaces. Another way that I have been an active ambassador of mathematics education is through a sustained commitment to research projects in that field.”  Merve has been involved in several different  research projects throughout her graduate career at MSU. As a result, she has numerous conference papers and manuscripts.

She remarked, “My main research is about the experience of English Learners (ELs) in the mathematics classroom and essentially fits the definition of ambassadorship: I am investigating the best ways to promote the language of mathematics to students who might be foreign to that language and might have barriers and prejudices against learning it. A side research project that I have promotes the teaching of mathematics to middle school students.”

Merve said the award money would be helpful for data collection, to replace her old laptop, to purchase licensed software programs for her data analysis, and to add to her library collection of EL books in mathematics education and research methods.

Congratulations to Sarah Castle, Jihye Hwang, and Merve Kursav on receiving the prestigious Zweng Award!