PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century

Mike Daven

F21 Class of 2004 Statement

Mike Daven is Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Mount Saint Mary College.

While in graduate school, it became clear to me that teaching and research do not have to be separate activities. Friends and colleagues of mine at other institutions – small liberal arts colleges or large universities – have different teaching load and research expectations, but we can both benefit from the observation that being a teacher and doing research are not separate, but integrated careers. Working to improve one’s teaching can lead to more and better research results; developing a fruitful research program can often lead to new and improved means of teaching.

A key element is getting students involved. Students are excited to see they understand something new and amazed that they could even take part in developing and creating new mathematics and new science. Students can learn through research, being immersed in a problem, by experiences outside the “usual” classroom. In my own teaching, I want to find opportunities like these for all of my students, from a research experience for juniors or seniors, to a freshman-level class. Students are often interested in the life of a teacher outside of the classroom. When a student asks “What does a mathematician do?”, “What’s that?”, and “What are all those funny drawings?”, it is a welcome opportunity to describe how mathematics is a living and growing science. We need to find more experiences like this, in the classroom and beyond.

At liberal arts institutions like Mount Saint Mary College, we encounter students at all levels, in a great variety of different courses. While the students and material may vary, I think it is important to keep students interested, involved, and experimenting. Learning from one another while working on in-class discovery exercises or take-home projects, students are usually able and very willing to accept a challenge. We also need to share with our students how the sciences have developed and continue to develop together, rather than as disjoint activities. At my school, a tremendous number of our students are preparing to become teachers, and I am often reminded that my own teaching is helping to mold a new generation of teachers. More than anything else, I want my students (and their students) to ask questions, to wonder.

Entering my sixth year at Mount Saint Mary College, I am still eager to learn. Project Kaleidoscope is a way in which I can share with other faculty about new teaching strategies and new technology. I am also eager to find ways to integrate my courses with faculty in other departments, in other schools, and at different levels. I look forward to working with Project Kaleidoscope to find ways in which this can be done.