Few departments at small, liberal arts colleges can say they have won a national award, but Franklin’s math and computing department is an exception.
The department was recognized in 2019 with the American Mathematical Society award for an Exemplary Program or Achievement in a Mathematics Department. MIT, a prestigious math and engineering institution, received the award the following year.
Thursday afternoon, math and computing students and faculty gathered to celebrate their success and honor individuals for their work. Math professor Stacy Hoehn also unveiled a mathematical sculpture entitled “Fireworks” that artist and mathematician George Hart created to honor the department. Hart is a retired research professor of Stony Brook University in New York who now lives in Canada. He has recently specialized in creating geometrically-complex structures from household items like cards and pencils.
Junior Nick Elmendorf was applauded for passing two preliminary exams on his path to be an actuary.
“I’m very excited. It’s a great way to recognize all the work we’ve put in together,” Elmendorf said.
Sophomore Trey Jones received the Bugeholl Family Award given to the student who best exemplifies departmental culture. Jones said he appreciates his professors and the fact that they notice his effort.
Math professor Dan Callon said that the Math Department at Franklin has long been thriving.
“I would stack us up against any school in Indiana,” Callon said. “We have been ahead of the curve in a lot of ways as a department for decades, but it’s culminating with what we’re celebrating.”
What makes the team special, Callon explained, is that all its faculty members have agreed to structure student learning in a way that promotes academic progression.
“We really have put together something quite special,” Callon said. “It’s not an individual accomplishment... We all work together effectively.”
Callon said that his department effectively blends their curriculum with co-curricular activities. They pay for students to travel to national conferences and host math events on campus. They also devote a lot of time to establishing consistent relationships with their students.
Franklin math students are disciplined individuals, Callon said, who realize that hard work will pay off eventually. He is proud of his students’ reputation.
“They are just amazing people,” Callon said. “We have people compliment us on just the quality of our students and how well they represent Franklin College.”
One final component of the math department that sets them apart is their high level of alumni participation. Each year students get the chance to travel to the workplaces of former Franklin students to explore career options. In some classes, students are also paired with alumni coaches for projects.
“How much better real life experience can you get without being in the workplace?” Callon said.
Callon’s colleague, Hoehn, said that her students deserve the national award. They are hardworking and multi-talented individuals, who are willing to accept challenges.
“It’s a special place, and I think what makes it special are the people,” Hoehn said. “They were super excited when they found out because they knew they were part of it—part of what makes the program special.”
Hoehn said the department got widespread recognition for its minicourse at the National Math Festival. In 2016, she said, the traveling group presented their project entitled “Creating a Purposeful Student Learning Experience,” and people loved it.
“Other departments were like ‘Wow, you guys have thought this stuff through,’” Hoehn said. “I think it was nominations for people who had done that mini course that helped us get the award just because it got our name out there.”
Hoehn values the fact that all the math professors have been at Franklin since 2012 and that they met weekly to strengthen their bonds before COVID-19 interrupted the practice.
Hoehn said the math department has a bright future and that is continually expanding. Classes are starting to look at big data, as data science is an increasingly relevant field in the modern world. The department also added an actuarial science major in 2018.
The fact that math coursework at Franklin are relevant and comprehensive attracts aspirational students like Jones.
“I started as a running start student. I really enjoyed the way math was taught here at Franklin,” Jones said. “Seeing how approachable everybody was in the department was really what made my decision to come here to Franklin College.”