Suzie Pizano: A Mathematics Major in Nicaragua

photo of smiling UC Davis student Suzie Pizano holding a potted jade plant

Suzie Pizano wants to apply math’s problem-solving techniques to real world worries.

May 13, 2016 — In June, Susan (Suzie) Pizano will leave the relative comfort of life as a UC Davis undergraduate and undertake the longest trip of her life. Pizano’s journey will deliver her to La Calle Real, a small town in northern Nicaragua where the majority of residents live in extreme poverty.

Pizano is a 20-year-old rising senior from Ontario, California, who plans to pursue a humanitarian career after graduation. She arrived at UC Davis intending to major in psychology, but instead fell in love with mathematics, especially calculus. Traditionally, math degrees do not lead to humanitarian careers, but Pizano wants to apply math’s problem-solving techniques to real world worries. “My professors have encouraged me to explore outside interests and use my major in a way that makes me fulfilled and happy,” she said.

Working with volunteers from the nonprofit World Wide Child Relief Foundation, this summer Pizano will partner with La Calle Real community members, identifying their needs and what obstacles they face. The trip is funded by the Blum Center’s Poverty Alleviation Through Action (PATA) grant program. “It’s really awesome to receive the grant. I’m still excited,” Pizano said.

In La Calle Real, most people support themselves and their families through subsistence farming or small pottery businesses. Few families have running water, stoves or refrigeration. The public schools have excellent teachers but lack supplies and equipment.

The World Wide Child Relief Foundation provides education, services and community infrastructure in La Calle Real in hopes of reducing poverty. A native Spanish speaker, Pizano will engage with residents to promote services at a new community center. She will also teach English classes and folklorico dance. At UC Davis, Pizano is a member of Danzantes del Alma, a student dance troupe that performs traditional and contemporary Chicano/Latino dances. “Wherever they need me is where I’ll be working,” Pizano said. 

— Becky Oskin writes for the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, UC Davis College of Letters and Science. Follow her on Twitter @beckyoskin.

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