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If you are considering study in mathematics, Radford University is your right choice. If you are not considering it because you think you’re “not a math person,” you’re wrong—anyone that has a general interest in problem-solving can immensely benefit from a math education.
Choosing a major and, ultimately, a concentration, should line up with your interests. It’s also okay to not know what you want to do initially. I came to Radford - a school with fantastic math and teaching department, with a dream to share my love to math with other high school students when I graduated. After I enrolled in classes, I figured out that teaching high school wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do within the world of math. I took more math classes and sought advice from my professors and finally figured out that my interest fell in the realms of Statistics and Applied Mathematics.
I went into RU as a premajor with no clue what I wanted to study in. I took many gen ed classes to try to narrow down my potential career path but just couldn’t find anything that really interested me. I then remembered that since a young age I’ve always had a natural knack for math, so I declared that as my major and began taking classes. A BS in mathematics is pretty broad so I knew I would find something that interested me.
When choosing a concentration, there’s no need to commit to any one major right away. The nature of general course requirements allows you to survey a broad array of subjects. Find what interests you and take note.
Regardless of choosing a concentration, you have to be honest with yourself about what you really want. I chose Mathematics Education because for me, it was a realization, which was mostly fostered by my professors at RU, that it was not only mathematics that I liked, but it was the social and critical theory surrounding mathematics education that was my true passion.
After years in the classroom, and then years in private industry, I found myself burned out and dissatisfied with where I was in many aspects of my life. I wanted a program designed for high school math teachers who wanted to increase their pedagogical skills but also raise their content knowledge to the next level. I spent a lot of time researching options at many universities only for them all to come up short in one respect or another; that is, until I came across Radford’s program.
I concentrated in Statistics at RU, so I may be a bit “biased.” There are 3 possible concentrations to choose from: Traditional Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, and Statistics.
1. Traditional Mathematics concentration is geared towards future math educators and those considering furthering their math education at the graduate school level. If you’re the type of person who finds serious satisfaction in helping others understand and learn, you may want to consider this concentration.
2. The Applied Mathematics concentration is focused on practical problem-solving. The following might be considered examples of practical problems:
• How does one predict the spread of infectious diseases?
• How does one optimize the use of buses and trains for the city’s transportation systems?
• How does one quantify the risk/reward of financial assets?
3. The Statistics concentration is intended for students with the desire of pursuing careers in business and industry. Business and industry are not limited to the following organizations:
• Academic/research institutions
• Analytics and forecasting organizations
• Chemical/pharmaceutical manufacturers
• Communication service providers
• Insurance companies
Balance, Balance, Balance. I understand it may sound obvious, but I cannot emphasize it enough. Balancing your time between academics and extracurriculars is very important. Here, “balance” does not mean a 50%-time/effort allocation for each—it depends on the intensity of your courses and quantity of credits. In reality, your time and effort will perpetually change week-to-week in accordance with assignments, projects, and such. There is a spectrum of circumstances to consider when managing your time between academics and extracurriculars.
Prioritizing homework and classwork. Using my planner helped a ton. I found that I saw better results in my academic performance when I scheduled time for both class assignments and extracurriculars each day. I was able to participate in multiple clubs, organizations, and paid positions on campus because of this. Being able to write down what I’m involved in and what time commitment each activity required allowed me to identify what my limits were. I learned to say no things if my plate was already full. Quality of performance is better than the quantity of things you are involved in.
Time management is very important in school and especially life. Many schools have a significant percentage of students who drop out just because they weren’t able to make deadlines or didn’t commit enough effort. College can be an exciting fun place but you have to find a good medium between school and social time.
When it comes to studying, it pays dividends to do a little bit everyday rather than cram at the last minute. Long-term understanding and retainment is built on repetitive exposure and interaction with course material. And there are plenty of resources to help you if you’re stuck.
While academics are important, be sure to explore opportunities outside the classroom as well. The things you’ll learn outside the classroom are just as important as what you’ll learn in the classroom. Radford offers over one hundred different clubs and organizations and includes everything from athletics to asset management with SMIPO.
I worked full time while at RU, and it required a large amount of discipline on my part. Eliminate distractions and unnecessary "noise" from your life. Tell your friends that you can only see them every other Saturday for a few hours, because you are working on your degree.
Your professors and your advisor are your greatest asset at RU. In all seriousness, they are all brilliant people that want nothing but the best for you. Even if you do not have a specific question about course material, take the time to talk to them about something else. Maybe it is their research interests, ongoing projects you can participate in, or something about their professional experiences.
Your advisor and professors are great resources and fantastic people that want to help you succeed. All you have to do is reach out. I personally have had the best luck with talking to professors in person. Emails and Zoom calls were helpful as well, but in person conversations let both parties learn more about each other. A simple conversation can lead to research opportunities, information on internships and jobs, as well as letters of recommendation after graduation.
Advisors and professors can be great assets in choosing majors, discovering career paths, and being potential referrals or providing letters of reference. It is important to maintain close relationships with them because they can help you a lot down the line.
Note that professors will notice you if you take a genuine interest in a subject. Ask questions, participate, and show up to class. A unique attribute of Radford is its favorable student to faculty ratio. This gives students the unique opportunity to get into research very early in their careers. There are always active projects going on in every department and between them as well.
Keep your advisor up to date with what you are doing, and how you're managing everything. They want to see you be successful, but they can only rely on what you share with them. My advisor was very supportive and the best part is the relationship you build with them that extends past your graduation day. Build a relationship of mutual respect with your advisor.
My research advisor worked so closely with me that any time I started to feel lost or confused, after a quick zoom meeting, any obstacle that I thought was there had been removed or surmounted and I understood facets that before I hadn’t even realized existed. Though it certainly was a substantial amount of work, I found the faculty and staff of the program to be helpful well beyond my expectations. I never had an issue that a quick email or office hours meeting didn’t resolve.
My enthusiasm/interest in solving problems was the greatest contributor to my successful job search. However, enthusiasm and interest are generally not enough. It must be demonstrated by projects, papers—something tangible. That being said, I can’t stress enough how important it is to go the extra mile to research, write, or program something tangential to your interests, but outside the bounds of an academic requirement.
My path after graduation led to graduate school. For those pursuing education after a four-year-degree, Radford has amazing access to undergraduate research opportunities in all fields of study. Students even have the ability to do research in fields other than their declared major. For example, I worked on a couple Computational Chemistry research projects. More specifically within the Math and Statistics department, some professors require projects for their classes. These projects can be used for job and graduate school applications to show that you have the required skills for the position.
I was lucky and landed a position as a software engineer at a government contracting company outside of DC. I was able to get this job by preparation and perseverance. I applied to dozens of jobs before I found the right one, so perseverance is key. You can also never prepare TOO much for an interview!
I can regarding graduate school. For those interested in pursuing a masters/PhD or other tertiary education, Radford provides many opportunities to make one a competitive applicant. The most important is the easy access to undergraduate research. This is an invaluable tool that make an applicant much more competitive in the application process.
I find that the following factors are the most important:
a. be honest with the potential employer about who you are what you can bring to the organization.
b. be grounded, honest, and transparent as a person and that will shine through any fakery you might be trying to peddle about yourself or your ideas—that means be authentic and be original!
c. don't be afraid to "reach" for things you want. It will set you apart in a sea of applicants.
In my opinion, an ethic of hard work and authentic originality are the two most important qualities a university program can draw out in a student, and mathematics is uniquely positioned to do this—perhaps—better than many other majors.