Teaching

Since joining St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2009, I have worked with hundreds of students in a variety of classes ranging from introductory ones like Survey of Mathematics and Calculus to upper level courses, seminars, and guided research experiences on Riemannian GeometryMean Curvature FlowTopology, and Topics in Algebra.

During the 2016-2017 school-year, I had the pleasure of teaching our year-long sequence in Analysis.  My all-time favorite classes to teach at St. Mary’s include Foundations of Mathematics (or FOM) and Linear Algebra.  In fact, the list of “FOM Blogs” displayed to your right contains links to student-run math blogs that were launched and maintained as part of these courses.

Some more information (and flattering documents) can be found here in my teaching portfolio: Teaching Portfolio.  Below I’ve included some personal highlights from my ongoing teaching career.

PIC Math: Industrial Mathematics

You can consult my CV for an exhaustive list of all the courses I have had the pleasure of teaching and co-teaching, but one deserves special attention: Industrial Mathematics.  This course was funded by a generous grant from the MAA’s PIC Math program, and took place during the Spring of 2017.  My colleague Dr. Emek Kose and I planned and co-taught this class, arranging 13 students into groups of 3 or 4 and pairing these teams with businesses and local organizations.  Students met and coordinated with their “clients” / industrial liaisons to solve real-world problems.

For example, two groups worked with scientists at the nearby Chesapeake Biological Laboratory , one with the task of better understanding and modeling local fish communities.  In essence, the class served as a semester-long internship for our students, one during which they had to research and learn new types of mathematics, collaborate with professionals in academic and non-academic settings, and develop written reports and presentations.  I intend to devote a separate page of this blog to this class, but for now this brief summary will have to suffice.

St. Mary’s ESP-REU (Summer 2016)

Another teaching highlight I should include involves the NSF funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) that took place during the summer of 2016 at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (and will take place during the summers of 2018 and 2020, too).  I encourage you to read more about it here.  Dr. Sandy Ganzell was the PI for this grant proposal while I served as the CO-PI.

This REU continued St. Mary’s tradition of providing paid research experiences for undergraduates, focusing on students who have not yet taken advanced coursework.  This is where the “ESP” part of the name comes in: students are participating in an “Emerging Scholars Program,” one that seeks to encourage first- and second-years to pursue mathematics (or mathematics-related) degrees and careers by exposing them to (1) mathematical research and (2) a broad range of math subjects.

reu-group

I served as both the program director and seminar instructor during the 2016 summer program, and as such, had the pleasure of working with 12 young women from across the country in a variety of ways.  During our regular morning seminars, we explored and reviewed a wide range of subjects, including Linear Algebra, proof-writing, and Analysis.  Along with the program’s research mentors (Drs. Ganzell, Jamieson, and Socha), I critiqued students’ weekly presentations and helped them develop and apply new mathematical tools to their research questions.

I think the most important responsibility that fell to me was to help create and maintain a supportive and beneficial atmosphere for our students.  To be clear, I am not singularly responsible for success on this front — the research mentors, visiting lecturers, and  students themselves are largely to thank.  Through our combined efforts, I learned a lot about creating meaningful and lasting learning environments for students (especially students at risk of “falling through the cracks” in our current educational system, those who might not otherwise consider or pursue math and STEM-related paths).  Almost all of our participants have gone on to pursue degrees in mathematics and other, related fields, with many planning to pursue an advanced degree.  Such outcomes are definite indicators of success, but perhaps the clearest evidence came from the students themselves:

“I really enjoyed this experience. I loved the campus. It was beautiful, and the energy and atmosphere were just so welcoming and supportive. I loved the food! But primarily, I love the wonderful women I met and the supportive advisors. They made a lasting impact on me, and I know in my heart that the eleven other women I spent the last two months with were not just an experience. We created meaningful relationships that were built to last. I’ll never forget this experience and what it taught me about friendship, courage, myself, and of course MATH!”

High-impact practices like undergraduate research don’t always or easily translate into other, more traditional types of teaching. Of course, key aspects can be integrated into and used to transform otherwise “regular” classes.   While I will not be involved with the Summer 2018 program (one of the few drawbacks of my current sabbatical), I will continue to implement lessons I learned while working with these 12 amazing students and research mentors.

–Casey

 

 

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