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Math and computer science department celebrates 100 years

Photo by Brandon King. Paul Brambilla '02 participates in aMicrosoft panel on Jan. 20. The event was part of a 100th Anniversary celebration for Concordia's Math and Computer Science department.

The math and computer science department honored its 100th anniversary Jan. 20 by inviting a group of guest speakers to share their work experiences with mathematics.

Speakers presented information about a variety of math-related topics including new features of graphing calculators, Feynman integrals and the responsibilities of an actuary. In addition to the morning presentations on specific subjects, the evening portion of the event included two panel discussions and an opportunity for students to connect with Concordia alumni.

Guest speakers came from a variety of backgrounds to represent the three course types currently offered by the math and computer science department: mathematics, math education and computer science. In addition, the speakers represented a variety of ages and experience levels.

The morning speeches, which were sponsored by alumnus Ordean Oen ’49, were directed toward a general audience, as was explained by Mathematics Professor Dan Biebighauser.

“People could get something out of any of the presentations,” Biebighauser said.

Speakers were asked to include information about their career path so that prospective and current math and computer science students could see the influence mathematics can have in the workplace.

Doug Anderson, chair of the math and computer science department, described the department’s objective behind the choice of speakers.

“We thought that gave a good idea of the things you can do with math,” Anderson said.

Current math students were given the day off from classes to encourage attendance at the event. Some math courses also required students to go see the speakers and to write a reflection. In fact, speakers were scheduled to correspond with the classes that were cancelled; the educator spoke during the cancelled math education course and the graduate student spoke while students interested in graduate school were in attendance.

The overarching goal of the event was to give students an opportunity to learn about possible career paths and to take a look at the history of the department. There was also a focus on the persistence of mathematics.

“I think it shows the continuing importance of studying mathematics in a liberal arts setting,” Anderson said.

The night events were sponsored by the Alumni Office and the Career Center which is part of the reason why this portion was focused on alumni interactions with students. Students were given the chance to meet Concordia alumni, ask questions and make connections with alumni. Biebighauser described the idea behind the night events.

“Here’s where our students have gone – what they’ve done,” Biebighauser said.

The events also gave alumni a chance to return to the college and reminisce. One such alumnus was Dwayne Presler from the class of 1977. Presler graduated with majors in mathematics and physics and is currently a software systems engineer.

“It’s fun to come back,” Presler said.

Presler, along with participating in one of the panel discussions, had the chance to see the speakers and to visit and reflect with other alumni and faculty.

“I had a great experience here,” Presler said.

Throughout the 100 years that the math department has been in existence, many students and faculty have had the chance to learn and to influence each other.

“One hundred years is a pretty big deal,” Biebighauser said.

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