The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Beth Segers ’81 is Changing the Lives of Boston Youth One Slice at a Time

Beth Segers in a blue sweater helping two students with math
Thursday, April 7, 2016

By Emilie Ferreira, SBS Associate Director of External Affairs for Communication & Events

Walk into Dudley Dough in Boston on most weekdays, and you'll find students sitting below a sign that reads "Pie R Squared", poring over math textbooks with a slice of pizza in hand. They're there because of Beth Segers, founder of Pie (R) Squared, an after school program for kids in need of help with math. Segers began the program when she  realized there was a great need for math support outside of the classroom after tutoring middle and high school students since 1991.

Segers herself graduated with honors from UMass in 1981 with a degree in Economics. Since then, she has worked for multiple investment firms, banks, schools, and is currently a Partner at Empirical Research Partners, LLC., an investment research firm. 

“Many students need math tutoring, but if they’re sent to me during the school day, or during sports, they think they’ve done something wrong,” says Segers. “There are the outliers that do take advantage of the tutoring, but I was usually met with long faces. I thought, ‘What if we change the dynamic and push the tutoring hours to immediately after school—and what if we feed the kids?’ And so, Pie R Squared was born.”

Pie R Squared is a tutoring program for students anywhere from 3rd to 12th grade. The students come right after school to do their homework and get assistance if needed. The program takes place at Dudley Dough, a pizza shop in Roxbury, MA. Dudley Dough is a social enterprise of Haley House—a refuge for the homeless turned soup kitchen, which manages over 100 affordable housing units throughout Boston. While the students are doing their homework, Segers buys each student a snack from Dudley Dough’s nutritious menu.

“The proceeds benefit Haley House, so the more pizza the students eat, the more money can be spent feeding the homeless,” says Segers. “Dudley Dough is a unique place with a mission of ‘Pizza with Purpose’ - and we are grateful to be a small part of that purpose.   They welcomed us to design the booth we’re sitting in with the architect – there are math equations on the wall and benches for all the supplies. We’re here Monday through Thursday from 3-7 and we have 3-4 tutors including myself. My goal is to get kids to associate math with a positive work environment, rather than just sitting at a desk doing equations.”

A staunch believer that math proficiency is crucial in continuing education, Segers donates her late afternoon to helping these students. The motto of the program is “algebra by 8th grade, calculus by 12th” because if students are able to excel in calculus before reaching college, more opportunities will present themselves.

Segers smiles when thinking back to how she got started tutoring. “My father was a mathematician,” she says. “I loved math because I loved him. After dinner every night, we’d clear the table and reset it with all of our homework. I thought everyone had that same privilege. It became clear to me that not everyone did, which is why I wanted to do something about it. These kids don’t have the resources I had at home growing up. It’s so important to give them that now. I have confidence and competence in math and I want to pass that along to them as best I can.”

Right now, the program is mostly helping students with homework and whatever questions they have at the moment. But moving forward, Segers hopes this program will prepare students for their college and professional careers, helping them figure out where they can go from here.

So far, the program has had a clear positive impact on students – even those who were reluctant to participate at first.  Segers recounts a group of high school girls who had fallen into a cycle of not turning in their homework, so their teacher recommended Pie R Squared. Now, they’re getting the A’s that they’ve earned through their hard work.

To help the students succeed, Segers taps into the vast network of professionals in Boston. “We’re in a city with so many educational institutions and so many people with confidence in math,” says Segers. “We have such a great range of tutors. We’ve had retired MIT engineers volunteer their time. We’re very affiliated with professionals and students over at Northeastern University. We have high school kids interested in being peer tutors to the younger ones. It’s so fulfilling seeing how well everyone has taken to this program.”

Segers will be finishing her Master’s in Teaching STEM this fall. “I graduated many years go from UMass, but I’ve never stopped learning, and I believe no one ever really stops learning. This program has been my dream for so long, and it’s truly a win-win situation. The kids get the help they need, the dynamic of tutoring has changed, and I truly love what I do.”

For more information on Pie R Squared, please visit their website.