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Meet Amber Smith ’21PHD: ‘I Was Raised to Believe Education Is Very Important and Can Open the Door to Many Opportunities’

Amber Smith

This is part of a series of profiles of students who are graduating from the NC State College of Education in May 2021.

Amber Smith ’21PHD has had a passion for math for as long as she can remember — earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in applied mathematics. Discovering her love for teaching and wanting to help fellow math instructors support underrepresented students, Smith decided to pursue a Ph.D. in learning and teaching in STEM mathematics and statistics education program area of study from the NC State College of Education, which she will earn in May. 

Learn more about Amber Smith

Hometown: Durham, North Carolina

Major/Area of Study: Mathematics Education

Activities (Research or Extracurricular): New Visions United Christian Church (NVUCC) Mass Choir member and volunteer math tutor 

Why did you choose the NC State College of Education?

I selected the NC State College of Education because it has the best Ph.D. program in the state. Also, a few of my undergraduate professors went through the program.

Why did you choose your area of study?

I selected mathematics education because my passion is education and I really enjoy mathematics. All of my previous degrees were in applied mathematics, so I decided to finally obtain a degree in education since I see myself being a teacher in the long run.

What do you hope to accomplish in your field after graduation? 

After graduation, I hope to influence and encourage fellow math instructors to closely examine their classroom practices and how to best support their underrepresented students.

What’s your next step? What do you have planned after graduation?

I plan to continue to teach at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM), where I currently am. I would also like to continue research on successful underrepresented minorities in mathematics.

How has the College of Education prepared you for that next step?

I believe the College of Education has prepared me for the next step. I have learned so much in the field of mathematics education and I am confident I will be able to go and contribute my knowledge to the field as a whole.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the College of Education?

My favorite memory from my time in the College of Education is being able to come to class early (seminar) and have a lively discussion with like-minded individuals. We all had a similar desire of doing what was best for our students and seeing everyone succeed, yet, there were so many different views of how this could be accomplished.

Tell us about an experience you had with the College of Education that had the biggest impact on you or your career. 

One experience that I had with the College of Education that had the biggest impact on me was in EMS 711 with Dr. [Karen] Hollebrands. This was the first time I had a clue what I really wanted to do research on. I loved the fact that I could help change the narrative of what people read when it came to how African American students perform in mathematics. I had read so many negative articles and this was the first time I felt that I could bring a positive perspective to the conversation.

Why did you choose education?

I selected education because I was raised to believe education is very important and can open the door to many opportunities. I have been passionate about teaching others and education in general since I was in middle school.

What are your research interests? What inspired those interests?

My research interests are African American success in mathematics and Critical Race Theory in education. My experiences in education compared to the research I have found inspired my interest in these topics. I find it fascinating that my experiences and those of my peers are vastly different than what is expected according to other studies.