Harvey Mudd College computer science professor George Montañez received the Claremont Colleges 2020 Diversity Mentor Award, which honors faculty members who provide consistent and meaningful support and encouragement to historically underrepresented students, staff or colleagues.
Along with Montañez, The Claremont Colleges Diversity Working Group presented Diversity Mentor awards to Janice Hudgings (Pomona College) and Kathy Yep (Pitzer College).
A Harvey Mudd faculty member since 2017, Montañez has mentored 42 Claremont Colleges students on various research projects. Last year, he submitted over 60 graduate school recommendation letters for graduating seniors, some of whom would not have considered going to graduate school without his mentoring. He creates an inclusive learning environment characterized by trust and holistic support and has seen his upper division course enrollment become much more gender balanced. He’s well-known for his Friday social/office hours, where students can enjoy snacks, play games or just hang out and get to know one another.
A former Microsoft data scientist, Montañez explores why machine learning works from a search and dependence perspective, and identifies information constraints on general search processes. He leads the Artificial Machine Intelligence = Search Targets Awaiting Discovery (AMISTAD) lab, which researches problems in theoretical machine learning, probability, statistics and search (he’s quick to note that “amistad” means “friendship” in Spanish). Their current research projects include measuring the information storage capacity of algorithms, exploring two-distribution hypothesis tests, formalizing a theory of overfitting and underfitting, and further developing a framework of machine learning as search.
The Claremont Colleges Diversity Teaching and Mentoring Awards are one way the community celebrates and highlights the contributions that faculty make to a more equitable, inclusive and welcoming environment. The 7C Diversity Working Group solicits nominations from the community each fall and gathers information from nominees and community members to make a set of recommendations to the Academic Deans Council each spring.