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What does Super Bowl LII have to do with Math Class?

Monday, Jan 29, 2018

Research, Students, football, Superbowl, Advanced math research

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 12.22.26 PM.pngAs the Twin Cities prepare for the onslaught of football fans, players, coaches, and new media from around the world that will accompany next weekend’s Super Bowl Festivities, I expect that local residents are experiencing a range of emotions.  Most, I’m sure, are still grieving the Vikings loss to the Eagles last week. Others are likely excited for the influx of celebrities and attention for our upper-midwest home, while some are dreading increased traffic, security, and crowds.  

At Breck, however, we see Super Bowl LII as bringing something different.  This is more than a game, more than a larger-than-life spectacle, it is an opportunity for learning.  At Breck, this unique opportunity in our very own city, gives us yet another chance to do what we do so well: ask questions, dig into research, and strive to make the world better.

Let me introduce Julia Murphy, a Breck senior, who has taken it upon herself to use the occasion of the Super Bowl to change the world.

This year, I am a student in Breck’s Advanced Community-Based Research in Mathematics program.  This course is unlike other research curricula at most high schools. The mission of Breck’s math research is not only to formulate a research proposal and collect & analyze data, but also to impact the larger community by partnering with a local non-profit organization.  

Personally, I have been greatly inspired by the leadership, courage and vision of Marilyn Carlson Nelson, retired Chairman and CEO of Carlson Companies, Inc. and a champion of human rights.  Ms. Carlson Nelson has been a worldwide leader in advancing the identification and prevention of sex trafficking within the hospitality industry.  Locally, Ms. Carlson Nelson has worked closely with and supported The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota (WFMN) to better understand the causes, prevalence and prevention of sex trafficking.  As a part of this course, I developed a research proposal that I pitched to WFMN.  I proposed fielding a survey within the Twin Cities metro hospitality industry to explore sex trafficking prevention, employee training standards, awareness, and prevalence both before and immediately following the Super Bowl.

As word of my research proposal grew, I was invited to join the Super Bowl Communications and Sex Trafficking Committees.  I developed industry and advocacy connections on these committees and was eventually able to create an in-depth Survey Monkey questionnaire that was sent via a prominent Minnesota hospitality lobby group to hundreds of Minnesota hotels servicing the Super Bowl.

To expand my research, I engaged in conversations with many experts in the field. During these meetings, I identified an opportunity to increase awareness of human trafficking among Minnesota teens.  This insight quickly resulted in a viral twitter campaign akin to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  The campaign, launched earlier this fall, reinforces WFMN’s tagline, “Minnesota girls are not for sale” and is spread via varsity teams across the state through an entertaining and competitive twitter challenge.  The campaign was launched January 4th, 2018 and in two weeks the campaign has received more than 50,000 twitter views with 15 high school teams from 7 different schools having posted videos on twitter publicly standing up against sex trafficking.  In addition, WCCO did a news piece on the campaign, emphasizing the importance of spreading the message among teens leading up to the big game. I am so thankful for the athletes who are dedicating a fraction of their practice time towards eradicating sex trafficking. With each video, awareness of the reality of sex trafficking grows exponentially.  Girls all over Minnesota are proudly proclaiming, “Minnesota girls are not for sale.”  Boys are pledging, “I don’t buy it.”

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would earn the opportunity to conduct statewide research for a non-profit client, provide insight for an ongoing national campaign, develop my own viral social media campaign to raise awareness, and work side-by-side with experts in the field of human trafficking.  I’m certain this is only the beginning of my research in the field of human trafficking.  I am determined to leverage my relationships, learning and experience as I continue my research into awareness and advocacy of the prevention of human trafficking.

As Julia’s work makes plain, at Breck, the Super Bowl is much more than a football game.  Breck students, through their work in our Advanced Research courses, during our Wednesday Community Partnership program, and thoughtfully constructed opportunities for global engagement are asking the hard questions. They are identifying real-world problems, issues that our elected leaders are struggling with, and tackling them head on.  We couldn’t be more proud.

- Tom Taylor is the director of the Upper School