Humans of IEEE WIE talks about a dedicated WIE volunteer who is well known for his/her notable contribution to IEEE WIE.
IEEE WIE: Please give us a brief introduction about yourself and your family.
I am Bozenna Pasik-Duncan who spent half of my life in Poland and another half in the USA. I received all my education including my highest habilitation doctorate degree in Poland. As a professor of mathematics and a courtesy professor of AE & EECS at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, I am passionate about research, teaching, building communities, and helping others. My hobbies are music, art, and poetry. I love traveling. I have visited 57 countries around the world and have been to Poland more than 130 times. I left Poland but Poland never left me. I have a strong collaboration with Polish scholars. My husband, Tyrone Duncan, IEEE Life Fellow is an EE and professor of mathematics; my daughter, Dominique Duncan is an EE, mathematician, assistant professor of neurology and bioengineering, and she is an IEEE Senior Member. I am proud of being a Life Fellow of IEEE, Fellow of the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC), Fellow of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM), IREX Fellow, Chancellor’s Club Teaching Professor, and inducted to KU Women’s Hall of Fame.
IEEE WIE: What is your specific area of STEM?
Mathematics and its Applications to Stochastic Adaptive Control and all fields of STEM and beyond.
IEEE WIE: Please tell us something interesting about your life that may be why you chose the STEM field.
I was in an all-girls high school. I was the President of the 400 Students Body. My goal was that every girl would finish high school with good grades. I tutored those who needed help in science and math.
When I was a freshman, I tutored my sister who was a senior because she didn’t like math. I had to advance myself in math so I could help everyone at different levels. I tutored my father in physics who needed to complete a college education which was interrupted by WWII.
I tutored my brother and brother-in-law in math so they could complete their master’s degrees. While on various vacations to a small village with forests and lakes, I taught logical and critical thinking, which are the foundation of math, to children from surrounding villages on Sundays. I did this without any boards or notebooks, just sitting on the green grass and thinking about real-life problems and what one needed to know to solve them. My favorite five Cs: curiosity, creativity, connections, communication, and collaboration were my tools during those fascinating, most memorable interactive learning sessions. I miss them the most. I knew very early on that math was my love and my strength which I could share with all members of family, friends, and children of friends. When I moved to the USA and my daughter was in the second grade I went to her school and offered to teach math as a volunteer. I taught 17 brilliant students probability and algebra using Polish, French, and American books for
4 years until they finished elementary school. Those students won every single math competition in problem solving and I learned all I needed to know about American education. Later that experience gave me the foundation for developing the most innovative outreach programs at my university and in my control organizations including the IEEE Control Systems Society.
IEEE WIE: As an empowered woman, please share how you plan to empower other women. How do you encourage them to take leadership positions?
By serving as an example. I like thinking of leadership as a practice to mobilize people to tackle tough challenges and thrive.
I like building communities and love collaboration. My family is my smallest community. In collaboration, you learn new ideas and new tools.
You build lifetime friendships. Trust yourself and believe in yourself. Think about what you can offer to your workplace or community to make them better. Engage others in your task. One of my mottos is: only by working together can we make a difference. A good leadership position has new opportunities. Take advantage of those opportunities and don’t be afraid are my words of wisdom.
IEEE WIE: How do you think diversity and inclusion help in boosting creativity and better problem-solving strategies?
As I described it earlier in collaboration. Be respectful and listen to others. Get out of the box and learn new ideas, new visions and new strategies in finding solutions from others.
IEEE WIE: In your opinion, how can everyone ensure that technological advancements are used for the betterment of humanity?
By critical thinking and careful scientific analysis of scientific data.
IEEE WIE: What is one piece of advice you can give to young professionals who are IEEE WIE members?
Never give up on your goals.
IEEE WIE: How do you challenge the status quo or how do you identify problems in your field and propose solutions to bring positive changes?
I value partnerships with the industry tremendously. All of my students except one chose industry for their professional careers. They chose different types of industries. I am in touch with them. All of them are very successful in their careers. They serve as the best guest speakers in my classes. They bring inspiration, motivation, and recognition to the classroom. This is one of my best practices in teaching. They inspire me by sharing new problems and those are the foundation for developing new mathematical theories for solving those complex problems of the modern world. It works beautifully. Those new problems are tough and challenging and when they are solved, life seems beautiful and exciting and I feel younger and younger.
IEEE WIE. An empathetic leader helps promote a better work environment. Would you agree?
Of course. I was lucky I had many role models and mentors among empathetic leaders. They listened to me, they understood my thoughts and my feelings. They made the work environment better and they made an impact on me as a person and on my leadership.