The year flew by, and my first commencement as a faculty member is over. We sat in the hot sun in our hotter robes as the Hood College Class of 2016 paraded across the stage. I hadn’t taught many Seniors this year, so most of the faces were unfamiliar, but it was fun watching the students beaming as they shook the college president’s hand. What I didn’t expect was all the students wanting photos with the department after the ceremony. It was really touching to see how much they valued my colleagues time and patience. And luckily the clouds had moved in a bit by then so nobody passed out from the heat.
When our students complete a math course at the 200 level or higher, they receive a button that represents the class. They’re simple and a little corny, but the students love them. A lot of these buttons live on student backpacks for years, and then get worn on their robes or mortarboards at graduation. It’s a nice symbol of the progress they made during their time here, and it really livens up their regalia.
This wasn’t the most productive semester of my career, but I hit a good number of my targets. I applied for and received an internal grant to do summer research with two undergraduates – ambitious freshman I had all year for their calculus sequence. We’ll begin working in June, and I’m sure I’ll be posting about that later. I’ve never guided any undergraduate research projects before, so it will be a learning experience for all of us. I got accepted to some other summer programs that I’m really excited about – one for inquiry-oriented curriculum, and one for developing online interactive resources. I chugged away at a couple of papers and one’s starting to get close to the finish line. I implemented standards-based grading in my graduate class, which was wildly successful with some students and much less so with others. I dipped my toes into helping at my MAA section meetings, and got nominated to a few committees, both on campus and in the wider mathematical world. And I was on a couple of masters student committees. Pretty much checked all the expected boxes for my first year.
I’m thinking about all this not because I’m independently reflecting on my year like everybody says you’re supposed to. We have a short annual report due soon, in which we all have to express our accomplishments as eloquently as possible and explain our goals for the future. It’s not nearly as big an undertaking as a mid-tenure review, and these reports should help me organize myself once that time comes, so I definitely see the value. It’s also nice to see how much I really got done all in one place, especially after what felt like a somewhat lackluster semester. I think a lot of us focus so hard on the goals we didn’t meet that it’s easy to ignore the ones we did. I can’t say I’m thrilled about the paperwork, but I am glad my institution requires us to brag as hard as possible about ourselves at the end of every year.