Math Talent Wins Acclaim
Jeewani Boteju and her family were able to leave Sri Lanka for the United States in 2005 after winning a Diversity Visa Lottery. Within a few years of settling in Bayside, Queens, her husband strongly encouraged her to pursue a college education and, in January 2009, she enrolled at Queensborough Community College to study mathematics.
Her scholarly talent and impressive work ethic over five semesters not only caught the attention of her instructors, but also garnered an award from the New York State Mathematics Association of Two Year Colleges (NYSMATYC). She is the sole recipient of the organization’s Dan Dodway Memorial Scholarship, which is reserved for the top mathematics student with an interest in teaching mathematics.
She also is the sole recipient of Queensborough’s newly established SUN Scholarship, which is made possible by Queensborough mathematics and computer science professor Shailaja Nagarkatte and her husband, Umesh Nagarkatte, who is chair and professor of mathematics at Medgar Evers College. To be eligible for the Nagarkatte Scholarship Fund, students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and full-time mathematics majors with a minimum 3.3 G.P.A. They are required to submit letters of recommendation from mathematics faculty members and write a brief statement as to their aspirations to become mathematics teachers.
Boteju describes her gratitude to Queensborough’s faculty for their mentoring and support, whether it was to write a recommendation letter, encourage her to apply for scholarships or advise her outside of office hours.
She greatly enjoys her academic field, particularly calculus. “It gives me a lot of satisfaction to solve mathematical problems. I have had a lifelong passion for math as well as teaching and I feel very fortunate that Queensborough has been there to support me all the way.”
Queensborough’s faculty members are not the only sources of support. Her husband works two jobs so that she can focus solely on her coursework and she says that her two sons, aged 8 and 10, are “especially quiet” when she is studying for an exam.
Boteju is a member of Kappa Delta Pi, the International honor society for the field of education, and Phi Theta Kappa, an honor society that recognizes the academic achievements of community college students. She also tutors students in the Math Center.
Upon her graduation from Queensborough in June, she plans to attend a four-year college, perhaps Queens College or York College. Through a career in teaching, she hopes to inspire a love of mathematics in middle- and high-school-aged students.