Doing science the Colombian way: a story of diversity and inclusiveness
Now in the 6th edition, “Encuentro Colombiano de Combinatoria (ECCO)” (Colombian Meeting on Combinatorics) has grown from a small group of enthusiasts to an established summer school whose reputation for academic quality and inclusive community reaches far beyond Latin America. We wanted to understand the secret behind this success, so we asked a participant, a speaker, an organiser and a lecturer to tell us what makes ECCO special. By Olga Kuznetsova
Sophia Elia, Berlin Mathematical School, participant
At the beginning of ECCO we made a community agreement to try our best to create a rewarding, welcoming experience for all. The agreement kicked off an open mindset for the entire conference. The friendly and passionate environment at ECCO is what I enjoyed the most. ECCO taught me that this kind of intentional acknowledgment of differences has a positive effect on the experience of doing mathematics. We should ask ourselves how we can help every person feel comfortable and confident. I left ECCO feeling inspired and empowered, both mathematically and socially. I’ve made new friends and met new collaborators from all over the world at all different stages of their careers. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to participate.
Giulia Codenotti, Berlin Mathematical School, contributing speaker
On the first day, we were handed the community agreement, invited to read it and discuss with the people around us. As I read it, I had to hold back tears. To me it was saying, all at once, you belong here, we want everyone to feel like they belong here, we’re all here to learn together, let’s build this community together. It was liberating.
Ana Maria Botero, TU Darmstadt, organizer
We put special emphasis on creating a conference atmosphere in which every participant would feel valued and appreciated, regardless of their mathematical experience, gender identity, nationality, race, or any other factor.
This year, I had the honor of being one of the main organizers of the sixth summer school “Encuentro Colombiano de Combinatoria (ECCO)” (Colombian Meeting on Combinatorics) which took place in Barranquilla, Colombia. Previous conferences took place in Bogotá (2003, 2008, 2012, 2014) and in Medellín (2016). The main goal of this school is to bring together young mathematicians from Latin America along with world experts in various fields of combinatorics in a culturally diverse, challenging and motivating environment.
Viviane Pons, Paris-Sud University, lecturer
The one word that summarizes it is inclusiveness.
The one word that summarizes it is inclusiveness. Both in Medellin in 2016 and in Barranquilla in 2018, in two weeks, the organizers managed to build a strong sense of community within the participants. People of all mathematical levels and nationalities felt welcomed and at their place during the conference. Efforts are made at every step to keep the spirit: from the community agreement to the problem sessions, the lectures, and the many social events. One question arose from the students: why do professors (me and others) come and teach at ECCO? They saw clearly what was the gain for them students but the reason WE would spend time and energy there was not clear to all of them. So let me tell you what I (and the scientific community as a whole) gain from that investment. Let me tell you why I went twice to ECCO and accepted to be part of the organizing team for the next one in Bogotá.