Last summer, the mathematics faculty at UW Tacoma set out to create a mathematics major that would prepare students for careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.
STEM has been a buzzword in education for some time with public and private elementary and secondary schools encouraged to increase their focus in STEM fields. With this new focus taking root in institutions around the country, UW Tacoma is jumping on board by offering a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics degree that will prepare students to occupy the 80 percent of some 25,000 unfilled jobs across Washington that are in STEM and healthcare fields.
In addition to answering demand in the workforce, the upcoming math major will also address an area of student interest that has long gone unanswered. As cited in the proposal for the major, there were 76 declared math minors on the UW Tacoma campus in autumn quarter of 2013. The proposal cites this enrollment and several other factors, like math club attendance and professed interest from math students enrolled in math courses on campus, as indicators that a math major is sorely needed and will be a fruitful addition to UW Tacoma’s diverse campus.
The major will also provide education-oriented individuals a smooth pathway into UW Tacoma’s Graduate School of Education. Dr. Ruth Vanderpool, a mathematics lecturer at UW Tacoma, said, “We will have some really rich math classes, which are awesome. But it’s also going to feed really well into the School of Education as well.” Dr. Vanderpool cited the difficulty of UW Tacoma graduates who want to enter the Math education program provided on campus: “Graduates of UWT have trouble getting into the program because they don’t have enough math. With the math major, we can begin to bridge that gap.”
The major will also work cooperatively with others on campus. The School of Business, the Institute of Technology, and the economics professors are a sample of the potential connections that the math major will foster between disciplines and across the different schools represented on the UW Tacoma campus.
The math major won’t only benefit the students. Dr. Vanderpool described how “having a math major also helps with the faculty. There are a number of grants the university hasn’t been able to apply for because there is no math major on campus.”
The mathematics major will incorporate pure mathematics courses as well as courses across disciplines. Depending on a student’s focus and area of interest, courses from the Institute of Technology, the school of Business, and school of Environmental Science will be applicable toward the BS in Mathematics. In addition, students will be required to experience a wide swath of mathematical concepts in elective courses from the following five areas: Probability and Statistics, Topology and Geometry, Computing, Math in Culture, and Modeling.
The mathematics major is waiting on final approval before being officially open for enrollment in autumn quarter of 2015.