Pioneer Spotlight: Dr. Daniel Wackwitz
When Dr. Daniel Wackwitz began college at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, he intended to earn a degree in secondary education. However, his plans changed when he discovered his passion for theoretical mathematics and higher education. He then earned his doctorate from the University of Iowa and has been an assistant professor of mathematics at UW-Platteville for three years.
What drew you to study math?
I always liked math, even from a very young age. My mom tells a story of me helping calculate change when I was four or five years old at the supermarket. Numbers always just made sense to me. When I was in high school searching for what I wanted to do with my life, I was looking into engineering, architecture and other fields that incorporate math, but after a little while I thought, “Why don’t I just study math, and teach math?” I went to college to pursue a degree in secondary education. After a year or two though, I decided to pursue a graduate degree, since I really liked the higher level math course and wanted to continue my education. I also thought it would be fun to educate college students. Everyone loves college, right? So staying at the college level was a great choice, and working primarily with young adults is a good time.
What brought you to UW-Platteville?
Location was the first thing that drew me to this university. I’m from Green Bay, and my wife is from the Milwaukee area, so UW-Platteville is in a great location for us. After looking further into the university though, the thing that really pulled me in was the focus on education. We work hard here to help our students succeed. This is the kind of institution I always wanted to be a part of.
What is your favorite class to teach?
I certainly enjoy all the calculus courses, but Calculus III is a particular one that I really enjoy. However, my absolute favorite course currently is Mathematical Explorations. This is our math for liberal arts course, so the students taking this class often may not have much interest in taking a traditional algebra or precalculus course, but still need a math course as a degree requirement. Math explorations is a course where the students get to approach a different kind of math in a way that is far different from their expectations. In this class, we cover three areas of math that are more theoretical and are usually not discussed until higher level math courses taken primarily by math majors. It’s fun to talk about some of these really cool topics like number theory that usually take a lot of background knowledge, but instead we build up these topics in a different, and less intimidating and less rigorous way. You can learn the basics of some really cool math without much background. It’s a course built around teaching students how to problem solve and we can do this with some really interesting mathematics.
What is your favorite part of working at UW-Platteville?
I really love teaching and interacting with the students. The formal teaching in the classroom is very enjoyable, but I also love when students come to my office for help or to just talk about the course or life in general. It’s great to have students who want to talk about math, with many who deeply care about the practicality of the subject and other who just love the theory. I’m also one of the faculty advisors for Math Club, which meets once a month and is open for any student who wants to join. We just had a math comedy night, and we watched a standup comedian – who is a mathematician – with some really clever math related humor. Another thing we do in Math Club, among many other activities, is have a graduate student from the math department at the University of Iowa come each year and talk to the club about their research and experiences as a graduate student. It’s a great opportunity for our students who are thinking about attending graduate school to network and have their questions answered about what graduate school is really like. It’s also nice for this to come from a fellow student who is still in the thick of it rather than one of our professors who may be a little more removed from grad school.
What do you do in your free time?
I’ve been married for a little over five years now and we have two kids. I like to spend every moment I can with my family. I also really enjoy cycling, though it is much more difficult now to fit that into my schedule. I just love spending time with my family, enjoying the parks around Platteville or just relaxing at home. It may not sounds that exciting to some, but I wouldn’t give up those moments for anything.
Interview conducted by: Olivia Joehl, Student Writer, Communications. To nominate someone who is digging in and making an impact at UW-Platteville, email email@example.com.