W&L alum joins math department faculty as the university’s only statistician

Prince Nelson said she wants to connect with students and be a part of the change in culture

Em Becker

Alumna Sybil Prince Nelson, ‘01, joined theWashington and Lee University faculty as an assistant professor of mathematics– one of the university’s few female professors in the field.

“It is a dream come true,” said Prince Nelson.

Prince Nelson is currently the only statistician at Washington and Lee.

According to Alan McRae, head of the mathematics department, Prince Nelson is a critical addition to the math department, the data science program and the larger Washington and Lee community.

“It is a big deal because students want totake applied mathematics,” McRae said.

This semester she is teaching MATH 309:Probability, a three-credit class which delves into the complexities of probability.

Prior to teaching at Washington and Lee, Prince Nelson was a professor at The Citadel in South Carolina. She received her Master’s in math from the College of Charleston, and later earned her doctorate in biological statistics from the Medical University of South Carolina.

Prince Nelson taught high school mathematics for nine years. She is also the author of several science fiction books, historical fiction, interracial romance novels, and even a children’s series.

During her time as a student at Washington and Lee, Prince Nelson double majored in mathematics and music. She played the piano, double bass and two saxophones in addition to being a member of the jazz band.

As one of McRae’s former students, Prince Nelson said she is grateful to be working-alongside him in the math department.

“Professor McRae made me feel like I was smart and actually belonged at W&L,” said Prince Nelson.

In addition to her experience as an alum, McRae hopes she will help increase the diversity of the math department as a Black female professor.

She has many goals for her time at Washington and Lee– most revolving around the stu-dents and the overall campus culture.

“While I want to get used to the school on a faculty side, I want to connect with the students and be a part of the change in the culture,” says Prince Nelson, “I want to help it change for the better.”

Prince Nelson was very involved on campus while she was a student. She was heavily involved in activism, and was a part of a student organization called Pride, dedicated to increasing tolerance and diversity. She was a part of the Student Association for Black Unity and a dorm counselor. Additionally, she was a member of the sorority Pi Beta Phi. She also pursued her love for dance through various dance activities on campus, as there was no minor yet.

After graduation, Prince Nelson remained involved in the community through the South Carolina alumni chapter. She also had her wedding ceremony at Hopkins Green, in Lexington and her wedding reception at Evans Dining Hall. Prince Nelson used her education as a music major to compose her wedding songs

Last year, she came back to campus for a Black alumni reunion which gave her the opportunity to join the faculty of her alma mater.

Prince Nelson’s close connection to Lexington makesher an asset to the university, said McRae.

“She has a perspective thatnone of us have because she understands the history of W&L.”