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Oakland, CA - Zvezdelina Stankova, associate professor of mathematics at Mills College, knew 13 year-old Evan O’Dorney was destined to win the Scripps 2007 National Spelling Bee last month. Throughout the past year, the home-schooled 8th grader from Danville, CA attended Stankova’s weekly Berkeley Math Circle, and his unusual intelligence drew her attention.

“Evan has a rare combination of speed and depth of thinking,” she said, “and he can quickly answer almost every question you pose him, regardless of the level of difficulty. He also presents original, brilliant solutions no one has ever considered, including his professors.”

Stankova said she expected Evan to win in this, his third year in the Spelling Bee finals; he tied for 14th last year. “He is such a brilliant boy. When he answered the spelling questions, you could see how calm he was, and how he reasoned so logically to get the correct spelling…this talent and mathematical training gave him a big advantage.” In the end, for spelling the word “serrefine” correctly, Evan won $35,000 cash, a $5,000 scholarship, a $2,500 savings bond, and a set of reference works.

Stankova has worked with Evan to shape his mathematical future, for example, she suggested that he take undergraduate calculus at UC Berkeley as a high school freshman. He also participated in the 2007 U.S. Math Olympiad with the help of Stankova’s Math Circle; in the American Math Competition, the Olympiad’s first round, he won a rare perfect score among 500,000 U.S. participants up to the12th grade. Stankova said, “He was ready to submit his perfect paper midway through the time, and he was only in 8th grade. He qualified for the summer training of the U.S. team for the International Mathematical Olympiad, ranking between 13th and 24th nationally.

Stankova is well known as a coach for the USA team for the International Mathematical Olympiad. Her enrichment work as the creator and leader of the Berkeley Math Circle for mathematically talented students has been recognized by the American Mathematical Society. The latter plans to publish a series of books entitled A Decade of the Berkeley Math Circle— the American Experience co-authored by Stankova and Tom Rike, an Oakland High School math teacher.

Stankova earned BA and MA degrees from Bryn Mawr College, and MA and PhD degrees from Harvard University.

Mills College is a nationally renowned, independent liberal arts college offering innovative degree programs for undergraduate women, and graduate degree and certificate programs for women and men. Consistently recognized as one of the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, Mills currently ranks among the top 20 most diverse liberal arts colleges. The New York Times recently selected Mills as one of three leading California colleges for students to consider.

In 2006, the Washington Monthly College Rankings named Mills a leading liberal arts college based on community service, research spending, quality of preparation for graduate education, and social mobility. In addition, The Princeton Review’s annual guide, the Best 361 Colleges (2007) included Mills for the second year in a row among top U.S. institutions offering students an outstanding undergraduate education.

Nestled in the foothills of Oakland, California, on 135 lush acres, Mills provides a dynamic liberal arts education fostering women’s leadership, social responsibility, and creativity.

Deborah Dallinger
Communications Consultant

Last Updated: 6/25/07