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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Math majors double

The number of UA math majors has doubled in the last six years.  

This increase coincides with the tenure of William Velez, who became head of the Undergraduate Math Majors Advising Center within the UA department of mathematics in 2004.

There are now more than 600 math majors and another 600 minors.

The center has received many national awards, including the latest, the 2011 AMS Award for an Exemplary Program or Achievement in a Mathematics Department from the American Mathematical Society.

“”One of the goals that we have set is for students to feel like mathematicians by the time they graduated,”” said Velez, who’s been a faculty member since 1977. “”We want to give students an opportunity to research, to teach and, of course, lots of our math majors work as tutors. So, I think many of our students have learned mathematics, have applied mathematics, have taught mathematics.””

Velez grew up in South Tucson and earned all of his degrees at the UA. He said that passion for mathematics can affect the futures of the students that he advises in the center. The center resides on the second floor of the mathematics building, with some blackboards, tables and chairs.

“”Mathematics changed my life and I think that it can change the lives of our students,”” Velez said. “”I want to try and convince our students that mathematics is important to their future. I’m fortunate that I’ve been given this opportunity (with the center) to allow me to do this.””

The math center began 20 years ago, originally headed by Department Head Bill McCallum.

“”A lot of the recent increase in math majors is due to the personal effort of Bill Velez and has just done an incredible job with the math center,”” McCallum said. “”He interviews tons of students every year, he calls them up, brings them into their office, encourages them to take more math.””

But he and Velez said that recent success is indicative of the research-intensive program the department boasts and the way in which the faculty take a special interest in students and their success.

“”It’s one of the things that has always attracted me to this program,”” McCallum said. “”There’s a culture of integration of research and education. We are, I think, a department that really provides a sense of the excitement of mathematics.””

Velez said the interdisciplinary methodology of the university’s mission supports the department. It’s the “”all-purpose mathematics department,”” he said.

But McCallum said that shrinking budgetary concerns are something he considered but doesn’t dwell on. The department supports the center monetarily and will continue to.

“”I don’t worry too much about the future because there’s not much point,”” McCallum said. “”We’re just riding the wave along with everyone else, the tsunami really.””

The department will continue to work on its community outreach efforts, training K-12 students to take more advantage of their outreach programs and their teachers, in induction services, to survive their first two years of teaching.

“”The next big leap for us is looking at all the things we do (and) really sort of inform the community about all that work,”” McCallum said.

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