Profile: Chawne Monique Kimber (1971-)

Professor Chawne Monique Kimber is an African-American mathematician and quilter, known for expressing her political activism in her quilts. She is a professor at Lafayette College, where she heads the department of mathematics.

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Education and career

Kimber comes from a family of cotton farmers and quilters in Alabama. Although she writes that she “always loved math”, she began her undergraduate studies at the University of Florida by studying engineering before switching to mathematics because she found it more fulfilling. She earned a master’s degree at the University of North Carolina in 1995, as a student of Idris Assani. She returned to the University of Florida for doctoral studies, completing her Ph.D. in 1999. Her dissertation, Prime Ideals in Rings of Continuous Functions, connects abstract algebra with functional analysis and was supervised by Jorge Martinez.

After a term as Van Vleck Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Wesleyan College, she joined Lafayette College as an assistant professor. In mathematics, she is known for incorporating concepts of social justice into her classroom teaching. She is now a Professor and Head of the Math Department. In 2008, she along with Professor Sharon Jones began the Summer Program to Advance Leadership in STEM at Lafayette. This six-week program where incoming students take college-level writing and calculus address along with modules in STEM. Students are those who are identified as leaders from groups typically underrepresented in STEM fields. In 2018, Kimber was one of six recipients of the prestigious Clare Booth Luce Scholarship to attend the HERS (Higher Education Resource Services) Institute.

Quilting

Kimber began quilting in 2005, soon after completing her application for tenure at Lafayette, and her interest in quilting was renewed in 2007 by the death of her father. In 2008 she began creating highly politicized quilts and blogging about them, beginning with a series of quilts inspired by George Carlin’s seven dirty words and by racist and sexist graffiti on her college campus. Her work has been associated with the “modern Quilting” movement, based on its geometric design and provocative content. Her work includes varied subject matter that raises social issues including the killing of African Americans and sexual assault.

Kimber’s quilts are frequently included at quilting shows and museum exhibits of quilting. The Paul Mellon Arts Center put up a show of her works in 2018. One of her quilts inspired by the death of Eric Garner won first place at QuiltCon West in 2016,  and was included with other pieces by Kimber in a show on “Quilts and Human Rights” at the Pick Museum of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University. As well as quilting, Kimber has also exhibited quilting-inspired works of mathematical origami.

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