“Math Missionary” sees mathematics as key to student success

The Department of Mathematics welcomed William Yslas Velez as the speaker for the 32nd annual Lonseth Lecture on May 2, 2017. A Distinguished Professor at The University of Arizona known as the “Math Missionary,” Velez is a renowned teacher so dedicated to student success and diversity that he makes a point of meeting individually with minority first-year students to persuade them to register for calculus, his motto being “If you know mathematics, you can do anything.”

In his lecture, Velez argued that, too often, undergraduate students rule out further study in mathematics due to self-assessments based on peer interactions, instructor feedback, and their relationship to the material itself, in terms of how competent they feel as well as how passionate. And, at the undergraduate level, subjects like algebra and analysis are often taught as dry, discrete topics with little relevance to each other. Yet beyond the classroom, mathematical research is dynamic and interconnected in a way that more students would find engaging if they were introduced to it early on. Mathematics opens many doors for students and should never be an obstacle to a desired career path.

To gain more understanding about Velez and his passionate commitment to undergraduate education and diversity, watch this brief and entertaining video about his work and his life. Velez talks about why he himself was once an unlikely candidate for mathematics.

The Lonseth Lecture was established in 1985 to honor Arvid T. Lonseth, Professor Emeritus and former chair of the Mathematics Department at Oregon State University. Read more about Arvid Lonseth and the Lonseth Lecture series here.

Accommodations for disabilities can be made by calling 541-737-4811 one week in advance.

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