“I must prove to the world that it is not only men who do math,” exclaimed Maryse Moutamal, AIMS Cameroon’s Class of 2018 valedictorian. Maryse graduated from AIMS with distinction in all 11 of her classes, requiring a passing grade of 85% or higher. She not only achieved this notable accomplishment, but she completed the program in English, a language she was not fluent in at the start of her studies.
Maryse’s climb to the top of the class was not without its challenges. Born and raised in Douala, Cameroon, Maryse had always been a strong student, excelling in both sciences and humanities. When Maryse had to decide which stream of academics to pursue in secondary school, she went to her father for advice. He encouraged her to specialize in Spanish. “’Don’t do math. You’re a girl!’ my father told me,” shared Maryse. Despite her father’s guidance, Maryse made the difficult decision to challenge this gender norm by being one of only five girls enrolled in the math stream in her secondary school. “I went to the school on my own and signed up for math. My dad was shocked, but when I came first in my class, I started to reduce his anger.”
Finding role models
Her strong will and desire to achieve carried her through university and onto AIMS where she focused on Applied Mathematics, including Control Theory. She was inspired by numerous women she met at AIMS, including Professor Dr. Gisele Mophou Loudjom, who Maryse described as a brilliant and approachable teacher that demonstrated how math can be applied to solve real life issues.
It was also through her conversations with the only female tutor that she learned there had been very few young women to receive a distinction at AIMS Cameroon. “This was not okay to me,” Maryse explained. She put in sleepless nights and worked tirelessly to gain the much-deserved recognition as AIMS Cameroon’s valedictorian for 2018.
Maryse’s journey has clearly just begun. She excitedly shared her plans to complete her Master 2 at the University of Douala and pursue a doctorate in coastal erosion. She’s passionate about applying math to solve the problems facing Africa and addressing endangered ecosystems. Maryse is committed to continuing her research and becoming a teacher to pass on her knowledge and passion to future generations. She believes that we need to work harder to promote girls and young women in STEM by organizing platforms to talk about it. “We need to stop being afraid of math and saying it is only for boys and useless. Talk more about it. Encourage it. We, as women, need to ask, Why not me?”