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From the Chair - July 2020

Photo of Department Chair Charles Moore

Dear Alumni, Friends, Colleagues, and Students,

Welcome to the 2019-2020 edition of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics newsletter.

Our department trains mathematicians, statisticians, teachers, actuaries, and data scientists – careers that consistently rank in the top ten on surveys of best jobs. So it’s not surprising that our enrollments are up, but I believe that in addition to the possible job prospects, students continue to find mathematics intriguing, useful, and beautiful.

The year started out as any other. Last fall our classes were full and we welcomed new math majors and graduate students. In September, the department’s Long Lecture featured Professor Carlos Castillo-Chavez of Arizona State University, widely renowned for his work in mathematical biology. In October and January, WSU teams participated in mathematics modeling competitions, and in December, students competed in the Putnam Exam (a problem-solving competition). On February 29 and March 1, 2020, the department hosted the Data Science and Image Analysis Conference of the Pacific Northwest with over 100 participants.

In the second week of March, everything changed. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty and students learned that beginning March 23, and for the rest of the semester, all instruction would be taking place online.

The response from our faculty was inspiring. With about a week’s notice, faculty members had to completely shift their medium of instruction. They worked long hours learning to use software to videoconference and record lectures, and learned to use software for online homework submission and grading. They set up the necessary equipment to make this possible. They quickly learned techniques and practices for online teaching. When we went completely online on March 23, it went very smoothly with only a few tiny glitches.

The response from our students was equally inspiring. They adapted instantly and had no trouble navigating their new virtual classrooms or submitting homework online. Students all seemed determined to continue their progress.

While it is wonderful to be part of a community such as WSU that pulls together when confronted with a challenge, we are very aware that these are times of anxiety, uncertainty, and suffering. Many of our students, and faculty are studying or teaching under far less than optimal situations. Some have difficulty getting an internet connection, while others are sheltering in place with many family members in a small apartment or house. Others have fallen ill, or lost loved ones. We are working hard to take care of each other.

Summer classes are all online and it was recently announced that all classes for the fall will be online. We are hoping to be back in the classroom for the spring 2021 semester.

I hope you enjoy this newsletter. We would be very interested in hearing from you. Please send us a note or an email to let us know of the recent, and even not-so-recent, events in your life and career.

We appreciate our alumni, friends, and all who are associated with the department in some way. You all have contributed to the success of the department and the students we teach.

Sincerely,

Charles Moore
Professor and Department Chair