Math and More Keynote Speakers


Morning Keynote Speaker

Erika Fowler

Title: Loose Cannons or Loyal Foot Soldiers? Assessing Interest Group Influence in the New Era of Campaign Finance

Speaker: Erika Fowler


Recent Court decisions have fundamentally reshaped the campaign finance landscape, paving the way for interest groups to become more involved in elections, and evidence from the Wesleyan Media Project’s real-time advertising tracking shows that groups are taking full advantage. To what extent does their activity matter in influencing citizen opinions and in shaping the tone and substance of the debate? This talk with provide an overview of what is known about interest group advertising and the different ways political scientists have gone about answering the question of influence (with math, of course!).


Erika Franklin Fowler is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University where she directs the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks and analyzes all political ads aired on broadcast television in real-time during elections. Fowler specializes in political communication – local media and campaign advertising in particular – and her work on local coverage of politics and policy has been published in political science, communication, law/policy, and medical journals. Fowler graduated summa cum laude with a BA in mathematics and political science from St. Olaf College and earned her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.


Afternoon Keynote Speaker

Jim Larson

Title: Math and a Career in Computing

Speaker: Jim Larson (St. Olaf ‘90, BSM Spring ‘88)


I will explore some of the interplay between Mathematics and computing – not only the academic field of Computer Science, but also the engineering task of designing, building, testing, and operating computing systems. I will also explore the contributions that computing can make to Mathematics – as a practical tool and as a complementary approach to rigor. Lastly, I will discuss some of the achievements of Mathematics and computing working together. I will give examples from systems that I’ve worked with including massively distributed databases, computer-aided mathematics, and interplanetary navigation.


Jim Larson is from Princeton, Minnesota. He participated in BSM in the Spring of 1988, before the fall of the Iron Curtain. He graduated from St. Olaf College in 1990 with a B.A. in Mathematics and a Paracollege concentration in General Systems Theory. He earned an M.S. in Mathematics from Claremont Graduate School in 1993 and an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Oregon in 1995. He has worked for Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, various startups in biotechnology, email communications, and mobile multimedia before working for web services, and is currently at Google in Mountain View, California.


Career Panelists

Elizabeth J. Atkinson, M.S.

Elizabeth J. Atkinson


I grew up in Iowa City, then graduated from Grinnell College with a math major in 1987 and the University of Iowa with an MS in statistics in 1990. A few weeks after graduation I started work at the Mayo Clinic in the Section of Biostatistics (now the Division of Biomedical Statistics and Informatics) and have been there ever since. During that time I’ve co-authored over 200 papers, helped create R packages (rpart, multic) and developed various Division training programs. I’ve supported an osteoporosis research program for 25 years, and for the past 15 years I’ve worked in the area of statistical genetics. I’ve also had fun away from work travelling, reading, gardening, dancing, singing, and playing in a local band (mandolin, violin).

Meghan Steach

Meghan Steach

Customer Outreach & Offers Analytics Executive
Bank of America


Meghan Steach manages the Customer Outreach & Offers Analytics team at Bank of America as part of the Consumer Analytics and Modeling group. This team is responsible for informing the messages that get delivered to customers through development of new offers and messages using data mining techniques, ensuring testing rigor is applied appropriately, and measuring the impact of messages versus business objectives across channels.

Steach joined Bank of America in 2000 as a member of inaugural class of the Quantitative Management Associate Program. Upon completion of the program, she worked with Balance Sheet Management implementing proprietary mortgage prepayment models and as manager of the Market Risk team. She then worked with Global Portfolio Strategies on commercial risk-reward optimization before joining Corporate Investments as an economic and financial analyst focusing on the housing market and Financials equity sector. From 2006 to 2010, Meghan worked for Enterprise Credit Risk, managing the External Analytics team focusing on competitive, strategic, public policy and economic impacts to the consumer and commercial credit portfolios. Within the Consumer Bank, Steach has worked in Consumer Retail Strategy focusing on strategic updates to fulfill consumer borrowing and payment needs across all product types. Most recently, Steach was the Preferred Segment Analytics Executive, providing analytics to support and drive strategies for the Preferred Segment (households with $100,000 or more in investable assets). Key areas of focus were opportunity sizing, Preferred Rewards performance analytics, Preferred Treatment and Call Center analytics.

Steach graduated magna cum laude from the University Of Notre Dame where she majored in theoretical Mathematics and minored in Anthropology. She attended the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics Program for the spring semester of 1999. She received the Financial Risk Manager Certification from the Global Association of Risk Professionals in 2003.

Steach resides in St. Louis, MO with her husband and 2 sons.


Paul Boisen


Paul Boisen participated in BSM in its first semester, Spring of 1985, during the bad old days of communism. He visited his host family a few times while earning his doctorate in mathematics (University of Chicago 1990), and on one of these visits he managed to come home with the BSM Budapest Program Coordinator in his luggage (Krisztina Szekely, who worked with BSM from 1986 to 1990). They have three daughters, all above average. Paul’s academic career (1990 to 1997) was mainly in the University of Minnesota system, with stints at the Math Research Institute in Berkeley and a Fulbright Fellowship at the Math Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In his federal career (1997-present), he has been blessed with a wide range of interesting problems, worked with lots of different people in several exotic locations (and in Maryland). Paul lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia. His hobbies include ham radio, occasional teaching at James Madison University, and trail maintenance in the Massanutten Mountains (handsawing fallen trees from the trails & constructing waterbars to prevent erosion).