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Math Faculty Receive Student Success Grant 

We want to show all of our students they are math people.” – Jack Ryan, math lecturer 

With a steadfast commitment to enhance scholar well-being both inside and outside the classroom, the Division of Student Success (DSS) has awarded a grant to the Department of Mathematics.

The grant allows for a redesign of the Math 119-123-125 series: college algebra, finite math, and basic calculus. Angela Gentry, Math 119 course coordinator and senior lecturer, will lead the two-year initiative.  

“This grant underscores our commitment to fostering an environment where every student can thrive academically and personally,” says Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick. “This investment reinforces our dedication to innovative programs that empower students on their educational journey and contribute to their overall success.” 

The series redesign will standardize course content of the introductory math curriculum across multiple sections and provide more active learning strategies. Jack Ryan, math lecturer and success grant team member, said the impact on students will be significant.  

“As a department that serves students from every corner of campus, we are excited and grateful for the opportunity to make our classes engaging and accessible for everyone,” he says. “We are hopeful this work will improve student success in these pivotal courses and that our students will feel welcomed into a classroom environment that reduces math anxiety.”  

As one of the core Volunteer Experience initiatives connected to goal one of the Strategic Vision, these academic department grants were established to foster the integration of well-being pedagogy and to fund data-informed interventions designed to lift success rates in high-enrollment courses.  

The initiative is a collaborative partnership across multiple units:  

  • Dr. Sally Hunter, faculty member in Child and Family Studies, serves as the Volunteer Experience Faculty Director, coordinating efforts related to the success grants.  
  • Dr. Patrick Biddix, Faculty Director for Research and Assessment, leads the assessment and research activities relevant to the success grant program.  
  • Dr. Virginia Stormer, the Associate Director for Curriculum Development and Design in the office of Teaching and Learning Innovation, serves as a key facilitator of the success grant project, providing professional development, curricular redesign support, and partnership on research initiatives.  
  • Tabitha Villalba, the Associate Director of Learning Assistance within the Academic Success Center, partners on the project to coordinate specific, targeted supplemental instruction for the students enrolled in Math 119, 123, and 125.  
  • Jennifer Hardy, Deputy Registrar, from the Office of the University Registrar, works with the faculty team to determine the classrooms best suited to implementing active learning strategies.  
  • Additional members of the Math 119-123-125 grant team include Kim Smith and Shel Swenson. 

April Conner, a lecturer and Math 125 course coordinator, recently spent a year learning about ways to impact scholars’ well-being in the classroom through the Volunteer Experience Faculty Fellows initiative. She said the cohesiveness of the redesigned series will help set up scholars for academic success.  

“If students experience Math 119 as their first math course, they often take Math 123 or Math 125 as their second math course,” she says. “It is important to our team that the students who go through two or three courses of this series will feel comfortable and will notice the similar structuring of these active learning experiences.”  

The course redesign is largely due to the visionary leaders of the Department of Mathematics and College of Arts and Science. Their guidance and vision helped pave the way for academic transformation, according to Dr. Amber Williams, Vice Provost for Student Success 

“I express deep gratitude to our dedicated math faculty and college leadership for their unwavering support in ensuring student success,” she says. “Special thanks are extended to department head, Xiaobeng Feng, associate head, Nikolay Brodskiy, and divisional dean, Kate Jones, for championing innovative teaching methods that educate and truly empower our students.”