I met Grace Mabie ’19 during my first year at the College when I had the pleasure of being entrymates with her. She is one of the funniest and most optimistic people I’ve ever met. A passionate mathematics major with unique aspirations towards becoming a cowgirl, Grace never fails to make the most of any and every situation.
You like math the most out of any person I know.
I’m so obsessed with math. I really frickin’ love math. It’s weird because I never thought that I was good at math, and my parents and teachers always told me that I was, but I never processed that. And then I got to college and did [multivariable calculus] and stuff and really liked it but also didn’t realize that I was good at it. And then, Colin Adams, my professor, told me to be a math major in office hours, so I did. I still didn’t really get that I was actually good at it, and I kind of just kept doing math classes, and people kept telling me to do others, and I just did what they said. And then I ended up at a math conference, and now I’m publishing research, which is weird.
Tell me about the math conference.
The math conference was hilarious. I went to a math conference over spring break at Amherst College. It was a conference for underrepresented minorities in math research, so it was a lot of women and people of color, which was really cool to see. But also, I thought it was supposed to be undergraduates, and then everyone there was a Ph.D. or in the process of getting a Ph.D., and they all thought that I was in grad school, and I was just really freaked out and intimidated. I went to probably 12 hours of math talks and didn’t understand anything and that rocked.
Didn’t you consider going to engineering school?
I don’t think I’d want to be an engineer. I want one of those careers where you talk to people and interact with people, and I haven’t quite figured out how to do that with math.
Could you see yourself being a math teacher?
I don’t really know. I like kids, so if I were a teacher, I’d be at the elementary school level probably, where you can’t really specialize in math. But, I think it’s important to have elementary school teachers that are also familiar with and comfortable with math because that makes more students become more comfortable with math. If you have an elementary school teacher who’s not great with math, they kind of avoid it, and then that’s the part of your education that gets pushed to the side or becomes less important, and that’s how people get less comfortable with math, or less good at it, or anxious about it.
What are your plans for this summer?
I actually just got an internship, so I’m going to move to Bozeman, Mont. and be interning for an environmental conservation consulting company. So they basically try to fix environmental problems by using weird problem solving strategies. The reason that I looked into them and thought they were interesting is that they have a project that they’ve been doing the last year or so. They map the migration patterns of herds of animals and project those forward and see where those animals are most likely to cross major roads. And then from that they petition the government to build bridges for the animals to walk over so that there are fewer collisions. So they use math to end road kill, which is pretty sick. That’s the goal. I like math and the planet, so…
But you considered doing something a bit more off the map this summer.
I just knew that I wanted to live in Montana and wanted to see what it was like to be a cowgirl, so I applied to a bunch of dude ranches to work as – they call it a wrangler – but basically you get up, and you round up all the horses, and you take people out on horseback rides, and you basically do that for the entire summer, and it sounded awesome. Anything on the application that said, “you must wear a cowboy hat,” I was like, “sold.” The other job that I was considering was being a zip line tour guide for the summer. That was actually a funny interview because I got the call for that interview when I was at the airport on my way to the math conference … Then I had to get into a shared ride to the math conference, and so I had to explain to all of these people that I was midway through a phone interview to be a zip line tour guide. And then I did the rest of the interview in front of all of them, and it started getting into weird questions … They asked me about this rodeo event that I won that I put on my resume.
You won a rodeo event?
Yeah, so that’s another thing. I entered with my family into a hog-wrestling tournament at a county fair. This was 2012 – good year. And we won! Basically the premise of that is you get into a gigantic pit of mud, and you have to pick up a hog and put it into a bucket. You have four people on your team, and you’re racing against the clock, so whoever gets the hog into the bucket the fastest wins. And before it starts the whole crowd at the rodeo bids on who’s going to win. No one bet on us because we were totally random not well known hog-wrestlers in the area, and then we actually ended up winning, and we got the hog into the bucket in 29 seconds, which was the fastest that day. So we got $500 to split between the four of us.
So that’s on your resume?
That’s on my resume, yes, to the funny jobs I apply to, but also to every job – that’s on my real resume. All of the things that I’ve interviewed for, they bring that up. And I think that’s a good thing because it’s funny, and then people are like, “Huh. This girl’s kind of interesting. She does math, but also she wrestled a hog.”
Is there anything else odd on your resume?
Well, another thing that came up in that zip line interview was that I worked as an elevator attendant in high school. That was pretty hilarious. I was just constantly put into an uncomfortable social situation. I didn’t even realize how weird elevators are until then, but people will walk into the elevator having a conversation and go dead silent the second they get there, and then they turn around, face forward and wait until they get to their floor, and then they start talking again. I found ways to entertain myself and came up with a bunch of elevator jokes. So, when people would ask if the job was terrible and boring, because it seems like it is, I’d be like, “Oh you know, it has its ups and downs.”
If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
Hyped. I get pretty psyched all the time about stuff. Like I’m always psyched about math – that I just love it. Also in general, with social things, I’m always excited no matter what. Some people say it’s always the same at the College, some people think it gets old – I do not think that. I’m so excited for every possible thing that we can do here, and I just love the opportunity to make friends.
How do you find ways to make everything at the College so exciting and fun?
I feel like the way that you experience everything is based on your attitude and outlook toward it. So if people expect to be disappointed, they’re going to be disappointed. I just think that if you’re smiling, everything is better, so I just like to smile all the time. If you go into any event here and you’re like, “this is awesome. I love the people that I’m with. I’m happy with my friends. I would like the opportunity to meet other people,” then your night is going to be interesting and fun, and if it’s not then you can find funny stuff to do to make it interesting and fun.
Is there anything about you that people might not know?
I’m dyslexic. I just don’t really do classes where I have to read – I take at least two math classes a semester. I don’t read any textbooks – I have to get every single book of mine on tape. All my textbooks and books I get on tape through the College, which is really nice. Basically I wouldn’t have been able to go to this school without that. A big reason that I put so much effort into math is that, no matter how hard it is, it’s so much easier than reading. There’s the whole thing that girls are supposed to be really good at reading and boys are supposed to be really good at math – that’s the stereotype. But because I just could not get the reading thing, I was like, “Fine! Whatever. I’ll do the opposite.”