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2012 Haimo Winners Announced

The Mathematical Association of America has selected Matthew DeLong (Taylor University), Susan Loepp (Williams College), and Cynthia Wyels (California State University Channel Islands) as the 2012 winners of the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Awards for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics. Full citations and biographical information for each winner are available below.

In 1991, the Mathematical Association of America instituted the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Awards for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics to honor college or university teachers who have been widely recognized as extraordinarily successful and whose teaching effectiveness has been shown to have had influence beyond their own institutions.  Deborah Tepper Haimo was president of the Association, 1991-1992. Read more about the Haimo Award.

This year's Haimo winners will each present a lecture during the MAA Presentations by Teaching Award Winners session on Friday, January 6, 2012, at the2012 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston, Massachusetts. Awards will be presented during the JMM 2012 Joint Prize Session at 4:25 p.m. on Thursday, January 5.

Matthew DeLong, Taylor University

Matthew DeLong is a passionate and reflective teacher who challenges his students, from the math-anxious to the most able, to higher levels of accomplishment. His personal qualities of integrity, creativity, caring, and patience contribute to his ability to connect with students on an individual basis and encourage them to do their best work. He has also become a leader in professional development for collegiate mathematics teaching and in student-centered instruction.

While a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan, Professor DeLong was the first graduate student put solely in charge of a course of ten sections of precalculus, received the Rackham Pedagogy Award for materials designed to facilitate the pedagogical development of graduate student instructors, and was responsible for helping to plan and run the professional development week for graduate students and post-docs.

Professor DeLong is the 2005 recipient of the MAA’s Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College or University Faculty Member.  At Taylor University, DeLong started and leads the monthly School of Natural and Applied Sciences Educational Issues Seminar, and is Taylor University’s first Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence Fellow.

DeLong is dynamic in the classroom and implements progressive and innovative teaching strategies. A typical class session involves students presenting homework solutions, mini-lectures, and group problem solving activities from handouts. He keeps the class moving quickly and on task, while encouraging the students to explore the “why” questions and to understand the mathematics. Students meet in groups outside of class to solve “team homework” problems; they take turns writing the solutions to these problem sets.  DeLong expects students to read the textbook before class by employing a blog for students to post questions on their reading.  DeLong developed a liberal arts general education course at Taylor University that engages students in meaningful activities involving the application of mathematics skills and content as part of real world problem solving.

Professor DeLong has published several articles on student-centered instruction, and given many regional and national professional presentations on teaching mathematics. He also coauthored the MAA book Learning to Teach and Teaching to Learn Mathematics: Resources for Professional Development.This book presents a model for training college mathematics instructors in a collegiate program. Reviews say it “offers a treasure chest of ideas” and that this “high-quality comprehensive resource belongs in every mathematics instructor’s hands.”

DeLong has led Taylor University’s Mathematics Contest Team to a top three finish seven times in the last ten years of the Indiana Collegiate Mathematics Competition, and he initiated an undergraduate research program at Taylor, in which he has supervised students, two of whom have recently had their research published in Mathematics Magazine.

Biographical Note

Matt DeLong was raised by a supportive family in rural Indiana, which was the perfect environment for nurturing the varied loves that have remained with him throughout life:  family, learning, church, mathematics, music, theater, and sports.  Because he was raised by teachers and married into a family of educators, it was probably inevitable that he would become a teacher himself.  For this he was prepared by his 1993 B.A. from Northwestern University in mathematics and economics and his 1998 Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Michigan. Taylor University, a small Christian liberal arts college in Upland, IN has, since 1998, been the perfect place for Matt to grow as a teacher and mathematician.  The supportive environment there has also allowed him to maintain a variety of interests, including number theory, knot theory, faculty development, coaching little league sports, singing and conducting sacred choral music, performing and directing in musical theater, and singing in his faculty quartet, Quadrivium.

Susan Loepp, Williams College

Susan Loepp has a profound influence on her students, challenging them to reach their full potential through high standards and talented encouragement. Her mentoring of a diverse group of students has inspired passion and encouraged many to major in mathematics. She also advises numerous undergraduates to successfully publish research, and has created new courses and a concomitant book.

Professor Loepp received an unprecedented three teaching awards as a graduate student at the University of Texas, Austin, and also the 2007 Alumni Award from her alma mater, Bethel College in Kansas. Her teaching evaluations at Austin, the University of Nebraska, and Williams College shine above most others.

At Williams College, Loepp challenges and encourages a diverse group of students, men and notably women, athletes and scholars, the anxious and the overconfident. Loepp has high standards, assigning both daily and weekly problem sets, about which students have been known to brag how long it took and that they were able to finish. She says “I am passionate about setting high standards for students and then helping them struggle to reach their potential.”

Loepp’s colleagues write that she exudes energy, interest, confidence, and knowledge, “has a lively, friendly, inviting teaching style, but it’s clear that she means business”; that she has the “courage to explore tough/pointless/all student questions, [even] if it [means] departing from her lesson plan”; and that she has impressive ability to conduct class discussion: “She drew perceptive and eager responses from her students … due, in part, to her engaging them in vital mathematical conversation and exploration. Susan knows the importance of giving the students time to think.”  Professor Loepp empowers students, connecting with them individually and inspiring mathematical zeal, encouraging many to become mathematics majors. Students are clearly infected by her enthusiasm.

Professor Loepp also guides numerous students in undergraduate research in commutative algebra: she has seven joint papers with undergraduate students, and six additional research papers have been published by her students. She has advised 32 summer research students from across the country in the NSF “SMALL” undergraduate research project, and many of these have given student talks at conferences. A colleague writes, “It is remarkable that Loepp is able to make this very technical material accessible to undergraduate students. To bring students to the point of producing publishable results is truly incredible.” Additionally, Professor Loepp has advised 35 student colloquia at Williams College.

Finally, Professor Loepp has created three courses that emphasize applications: a senior seminar on algebraic error-correcting codes, a course on quantum cryptography (which utilizes a book she co-wrote with William K. Wootters), and an applied version of a core requirement in abstract algebra, including encryption on elliptic curves.

Biographical Note

Susan Loepp received a B.A. in mathematics and a B.S. in physics from Bethel College (N. Newton, KS) in 1989.  She earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1994.  After a two-year postdoctoral position at the University of Nebraska, she joined the faculty at Williams College, where she now holds the rank of Professor.  Loepp is currently the principal investigator on the Williams College SMALL REU grant, and has served as the director of the program twice.  Her research area is commutative algebra and she has advised the research of many undergraduate students in that field.  Loepp and William K. Wootters, an expert in quantum information theory, are co-authors of the book Protecting Information:  From Classical Error Correction to Quantum Cryptography, published by Cambridge University Press in 2006.

Cynthia Wyels, California State University Channel Islands

Cynthia Wyels is committed to student success. She works tirelessly to facilitate student learning, not only for her own students but also for students of her colleagues, students across her university, and students at other universities, including in other countries. Her devotion to supporting learning extends to students of all backgrounds and abilities.

Professor Wyels invests considerable time, creativity, and enthusiasm in developing, employing, and assessing innovative teaching practices.  One example is her development of computer laboratory activities that lead students to understand and explore key concepts in a variety of undergraduate mathematics courses.  Another example is her creation of in-class worksheets that help students to concentrate on the big picture of mathematical ideas being presented.  More recently, Professor Wyels has begun to use “proof portfolios” to track students’ abilities to construct complete, correct, and elegant proofs as they progress through their undergraduate studies.  Professor Wyels has shared all of her teaching innovations with her departmental colleagues and also more broadly through various MAA conferences and publications.  

Providing students with enriching research experiences is a particular passion of Professor Wyels.  She has led Research Experiences for Undergraduates programs that have emphasized participation from students in underrepresented groups, particularly native Spanish speakers and first-generation college students.  She has regularly donated her own faculty stipend in order to support participation of students from a Mexican university.  She has mentored 63 undergraduates in research, including 38 from underrepresented groups, with several of these projects leading to co-authored research papers.  Professor Wyels has also led efforts to institutionalize student research on her campus and to create an annual student research symposium. 

Professor Wyels’ dedication to effective teaching extends across her campus, as does her commitment to providing productive learning environments for all students.  She founded the Critical Friends Group at California State University Channel Islands, which colleagues report as having fostered a cultural shift in attitudes toward teaching, especially with regard to supporting students who initially find university culture to be confusing and alienating. 

Students and colleagues alike attest to the tremendous influence that Professor Wyels has had as a mentor, not only on their study of mathematics and their careers in mathematics and education, but also for developing their self-confidence, persistence to succeed, and professionalism for handling all situations.  Testimonials for Professor Wyels attest to her high standards and meticulousness, and also to her generosity, enthusiasm, kindness, and selflessness.

Biographical Note

Cindy Wyels attributes a love for teaching and an analytical bent to her parents, a teacher and engineer. She first learned to appreciate mathematics at Pomona College. After earning her Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Barbara, she took positions at the United States Military Academy and Weber State University, then spent several formative years at California Lutheran University. Growing interest in access to higher education led her to CSU Channel Islands, where she has directed the graduate program since its inception. Over the years she has become more cognizant of the barriers facing students from low income, first generation, and historically underrepresented groups, and has worked more actively to help students overcome whatever barriers they may face. She is an advocate of undergraduate research and believes it is particularly meaningful for students from non-traditional backgrounds. Her research interests are in combinatorics, most recently in graph pebbling and graph labeling.

News Date: 
Friday, December 9, 2011