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The Evolution of The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science

Photo courtesy of the OWU Flickr page.

The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science has made a few improvements in the last few years, starting with the hiring of three new professors.

These strategic additions allow the department to make improvements to the curriculum and make more opportunities available to the students. This allows the department to broaden the scope of course offerings in mathematics, computer science and data analytics.

Dr. Scott Linder, chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, explains the staffing issues the department faced and how they are still adjusting.

“Within the span of four or five years our staffing for math and computer science shrank from 7.5 original FTE (full-time-equivalent) lines to 3.5 lines. We're currently at 5.5 faculty supporting math and computer science.” However, as Dr. Linder continues, "while we're still not at full strength, we are more versatile and more innovative. More of us are crossing over to teach courses in other disciplines.”

The department hopes to soon hire additional faculty, especially in computer science, so that it will be able to return to full support of its mathematics and computer science programs while continuing to develop the new data analytics program. In the meantime, and until the Administration approves of such growth, the department will continue to try to innovate and improvise to serve students in all three disciplines.

Dr. Hanliang Guo, mathematics and computer science professor, is a new addition to the team and he describes the departmental advances and what the new hires bring to the table.

“These past few years have been years of changing. The other professors offer a more pure-math-oriented approach but Dr. McCurdy and I allow a more applied application to the department and it allows for more overlap with the various majors.”

Guo believes this hiring strategy benefits the students. It allows for more mixed teaching methods and approaches which leads to a higher success rate.

“The university is strategic in hiring anyone. Everyone here is hired for a purpose. I happened to have experience in math and computer science and it was a natural fit. I consider myself lucky.”

Ashley Hayward, freshman Astrophysics and Mathematics major, expresses her thoughts on these changes to the department.

“They all have different backgrounds and could each bring something different to the table. For example, Hanliang Guo focuses on more applied problem-solving as opposed to the other professors who may offer more pure math skills. Differences like this will allow me to graduate with a deeper understanding of my major.”

“Challenges force organizations to innovate and adjust,” said Linder.

The department did just that. They have various opportunities currently available and some will potentially come to fruition in the near future. Linder elaborates on these opportunities.

“Dr. McCurdy has already created an entirely new course on mathematical modeling (to be offered in Fall). We have summer research with students happening in all three disciplines: math, computer science and data analytics.”

Guo expands upon this list of courses.

“Computer graphics is a possible new class. The basics of this class would be to make the computer draw something such as animations.”

Guo explains the situation about offering new classes. It is a difficult situation that the department is working to improve upon, but right now it would be challenging for the department.

“There's potential for new classes to be developed over time. We are currently understaffed, so we do not have the luxury to teach new classes when we need to teach the basic classes that are essential to the majority.”

The basic classes are requirements for not only mathematics and computer science majors. So, the department has a duty of providing education for other STEM majors as well. This takes away from their own department, but it is necessary for the growth of the students.

The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science changing their curriculum applications could be of benefit to the university as a whole and not just the department.

Hayward describes why she believes that it could benefit the entire university.

“New additions or revisions to the curriculum can make OWU stand out from other schools. Combined with a department that is made up of a strong staff of professors, I think it would persuade students to come to OWU as opposed to rival schools similar to ours.”

More students attending OWU provides more opportunities for all students and staff alike. The future of this department and OWU is bright.

“There are exciting reasons to be optimistic about where we'll be a few years from now,” said Linder. “We still have really great students to work with, and the department is still a really supportive and friendly place in which to work and learn.”

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