By Dr. Juan B. Gutiérrez, Chair of Mathematics
Mathematics is everywhere. Mathematics is for everyone. Mathematics is the alphabet with which the vocabulary of all sciences is built. It is no surprise that the Department of Mathematics is the largest at UTSA by number of students and credit hours served, and therefore it has the lion’s share in student success.
UTSA is unique in its diversity and how it reflects the society it serves. This is what attracted me to UTSA, for my professional mission has been since the beginning to have the face of success match the face of the nation. Access to and achievement in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is not evenly distributed among all members of the US society. The National Science Foundation keeps reliable annual statistics in this subject (available here). The Department of Mathematics is working to provide a template to the nation for closing achievement gaps.
Currently, UTSA is undergoing a profound and positive transformation. The most evident change is the expected designation as an R1 institution by 2021. The growth the university is experiencing in all aspects (diversity, achievement, number of students and faculty, financials, endowment, research, academic quality, etc.) supports the idea that The University of Texas at San Antonio is the university of the future.
The Department of Mathematics at UTSA has 21 tenured or tenure-track faculty, and 30 instructors. The Department currently has experts in the areas of pure mathematics, applied mathematics, and mathematics education. It offers three Bachelor of Science degrees: the B.S. degree in General Mathematics Studies, the B.S. degree in Mathematics, and the B.S. degree in Mathematics of Data and Computing offered as a joint degree with the Department of Computer Science. The Department also offers three Master of Science degrees: M.S. in Applied Mathematics–Industrial Mathematics, M.S. in Mathematics, and M.S. in Mathematics Education. The Department is engaged in the creation of a Ph.D. program.
Improvement in mathematics education at the undergraduate level will have an impact in all STEM education and research at UTSA. We recognize this opportunity, thus we are engaged in a continuous improvement process in teaching using innovative pedagogical approaches such as adaptive learning, stratified course coordination, student data analytics, personalized interventions for students at risk, and machine learning to optimize the use of instructional resources. We will leave no students behind. One of the best predictors of success across domains is numeracy coupled with confidence. Our society pays a tragic human cost when students drop out from UTSA and never finish their degrees, or end up in different destination majors that do not match their passion and greatest contribution potential. In many cases, mathematics is the greatest obstacle. We are building a department that facilitates even access to the opportunities that come with a higher education, and we are doing it through education and research in mathematics.
In terms of research, our department is growing its connections to many other academic units. We recognize the importance of (i) pure mathematics as the foundation for mathematical research, (ii) applied mathematics as a highway for interfacing with other academic units, and (iii) mathematics education as the driver to understand instruction and learning. The Department will maintain a balanced research portfolio in these areas.