Woodward’s retirement leads to advising changes

This fall has seen a change in the advising faculty and staff in the Department of Mathematics. Following the retirement of Professor Gordon Woodward (see page 12), Professor Tom Marley has taken over as Chief Undergraduate Advisor and Lori Mueller and Professor Steve Cohn as Academic Advisors.

Marley is now advising students following their completion of the calculus sequence. Mueller advises the student populations of non-majors, transfers, and freshman and sophomore math majors, and also works with the math placement process in conjunction with Cohn. Cohn works with transfer credits for international students, determining class eligibility for Calculus I and higher level classes, and coordinates the math placement exam for new freshman, grads, transfers and those who are missing credits. Although the leadership in advising has changed, the goal of increasing enrollment of math majors to more than 250 has not changed; with more than 190 majors currently, this goal is in sight.

Marley said he has many goals for the undergraduate program. Among Marley’s goals for the undergraduate major is to see an increase in the number of students participating in opportunities such as summer REUs (Research Experiences for Undergraduates), Penn State’s MASS program or study abroad programs like the Budapest Semester in Mathematics. He also intends to maintain a strong connection with students after graduation, tracking their career paths.

Both Mueller and Marley said they will look continuously at the course offerings to determine when they need updating and to make sure classes are offered on a predictable and reliable rotating schedule with enough sections to satisfy demand. Other desired changes in the future could include offering a larger variety of 400-level courses and making more advanced classes that are accessible to undergraduates, while not being combined with graduate students.

The advising team is currently working on new print materials and updating its website to "showcase the unique benefits of the UNL Math Department and its strengths," Marley said. Mueller emphasized, "Math is complementary to so many other disciplines, making it a great option for a double major."

Among the assets that the advisors credit with the strength of the UNL Department of Mathematics in regard to resources for undergrads are the Math Resource Center (MRC) and the Math Club. Math Club offers a way for undergraduate students to interact with one another and to disseminate information to them about REUs, give them previews to upcoming courses, and listen to speakers talk about job opportunities and graduate school. There also are many different employment possibilities that exist for our majors, such as MRC tutor, grader or calculus teaching assistant.

Opportunities such as these, combined with the support of advisors, who as Mueller said "want students to feel comfortable within the department and feel like they can stop and visit with faculty and staff," strengthen the UNL math program and help to define it as a program that cares about the well-being of its students and alumni.

– Stephanie Vendetti