Sunday, May 17, 2009


As I've said many times to many people in the last few weeks, the class of students who yesterday were graduated from UNC Asheville is in many ways "my" class. Having arrived at this school in Fall 2005, were I a student with a traditional sense of timing, I would have joined them in their sunlit march across the stage in front of the Ramsey library yesterday morning.

My last teaching gig, my first one post-graduate school, was a three-year research postdoc at the University of Illinois's main campus in Urbana-Champaign. I only taught one course per semester at that school with roughly 25,000 undergraduates, and, being given "juicier" teaching assignments like Accelerated Honors Calc III for Engineers, Abstract Algebra II, and a special topics graduate seminar in Coxeter groups, I never once taught one of the "core" courses like Calculus I or II, and thereby my chances of having the same students for more than one semester were further diminished. All told I taught 150 or so students during my stay at UIUC, and not a one of them more than once. The same holds true for my teaching career as a graduate student at Vanderbilt: I worked with maybe 200 students over three and a half years there, with no repeaters (well, one exception...but that's a [not altogether pleasant] story for another post).

So it's been radically and refreshingly different seeing the same students in class after class, some taking as many as 19 credit hours with me, watching them grow from timid (or not-so-timid) first-year students, many still clinging to their high school memories like a tattered spit-soaked security blanket, to mature, clear-thinking, sophisticated scholars capable of creating their own original mathematics.

It's been wonderful.

My class has come of age, and it's time now for them to leave. They leave to undertake new adventures, to seek out new experiences, to learn more, to do more, to contribute more to this world.

I say farewell now, fondly, to Bertrand, Cassio, and Davina; to Deidre, DeWayne, and Farina. I say my goodbyes to Farrah, Katya, Kaytlynne, Leonardo, Nicolette, Nidra, Oswald and Stanley; to Ulrich, and, last and certainly not least to Sylvester, Tatiana, and Nadia, the last three of whom shared 16, 17, and 19 credit hours of classes with me over the course of the last four years.

Though I know that I now have and will continue to have in the coming years many more wonderful students, those to whom I now bid adieu will always be dear to me, they'll always be my class.

I love you guys, and I'm proud of you all.

Good luck in all that you do. Keep learning, keep loving, keep living. Keep doing marvelous and incredible things with your time on this Earth, and with the talents you've gained in the years in which I've known you.

And for Pete's sake, keep in touch!

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