Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

Math & Computer Science

Comments from Alumni

I loved every minute of my time working with/in the SU Math department. I’m very glad I chose to study math at SU, and I hope to study it again after working for a few more years. Regards and best wishes to all of the math folks! (Winnie Fristoe ’99)

Computer Science at Southwestern University was a demanding major, but I’m glad I stuck with it. The environment between professors and students here is a special one, as the professors would always go out of their way to help students that were eager to learn. The challenging curriculum and helpful nature of the professors went a long way to making sure I was more than prepared to apply my skills towards my career. (Garhett Bonneaux ’14)

I really enjoyed the support that I was given in the Math/CS Department. All of the professors in the department pushed me to achieve more than I thought I was capable of and encouraged me when I struggled. Even though I haven’t used math much in my career, I feel that the support of students and the advocacy of life-long learning that I experienced while at SU still affects me to this day. (Sarah Stern Ochel ’10)

I am teaching in high school, currently my classes include the Pre-AP and Gifted Algebra II. I have taught all levels of high school math through Calculus, and have taught at the Junior College level in Houston at North Harris College. I began teaching 30 years ago, and am very concerned about the future of math education in Texas. Most of my colleagues are within 5 years of retirement, and I don’t see many students planning to pursue public school math as a career. (Marilynn McKinley71)

Choosing SU for Comp Sci was easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. SU doesn’t just give you a degree in Comp Sci, they prepare you to use everything you learn in your future. I’ve seen a number of other juniors come and go in the same position I am in now because they were not prepared to handle the workload. I can honestly say SU is the reason I have been able to step in and not only succeed in this career, but excel beyond expectations. (Will Nguyen ’12)

Every time I tell someone that I majored in Mathematics, they are always surprised. Especially since most of my classmates majored in biology or chemistry. But I think it was one of the best decisions I could have made. Not only did I enjoy majoring in math, but it has helped me remarkably in medicine thus far. The entire department improved my critical thinking skills by creating assignments/courses that were centered on complex, open-ended problems. In medicine, there are several different ways to approach a problem and come up with the answer. You may have to try several times, but eventually a diagnosis and plan for the patient can be formulated. I have found that the demanding math classes I took at SU prepared me tremendously for my future. (Maria Pollifrone ’12

Engineering degree coupled with Math opened countless doors. The extra 1 to 2 years for for either a B.S. or Masters in engineering will be well worth the time… (James Booth ’73)

I didn’t take any CS courses at SU. I wish I would have majored in Computer Science rather than Math since software is where my career has lead me. Having the Math major did help me get jobs - people are usually impressed by it, especially in the computer industry. Also, having a Math degree helped my analytical skills which is important in programming. (Lynn MacGowan ’98)

Any work or research related internships would have been very helpful prior to starting work and graduate school. (Lee Silverberg ’95)

I teach Gifted students at my school so any questions regarding certification are welcome. I didn’t take an education class until graduate school so I can answer any questions regarding emergency certification. (Kristin Sumpter ’93)

Advice for new grads: Tech support isn’t what you think it is. Also, any pay w/ benefits is better than no pay w/ no benefits. (Michael Nguyen ’03)

I’d advise current and incoming students to take advantage of opportunities to work one-on-one with professors.  Some of my best learning experiences at Southwestern took place in an office rather than a classroom, and the ability to see a long-term project through is invaluable in the working world. (Stephen Brown ’12)

Deciding what to major in at Southwestern was not a difficult choice. After some deliberation, I asked myself ‘Well, what else am I going to do?’ Studying Computer Science is tough. There is a lot to learn. But whether or not you go into a career field that necessitates a CS degree, you will find some way to apply everything you learn, whether it’s basic programming syntax, theory behind data transmission, or techniques for software development. Not only did studying Computer Science give me a new skill, it gave me a much better understanding of the electronic and networked world we live in. (Jefferson Ellinger ’13)

Alumni share their most valuable experiences at SU

Cryptography was my favorite CS course, but looking back on what I got out of my undergraduate education, the heavy emphasis on writing at SU has proved to be invaluable.  Computer science grads are hugely in demand these days, and computer science grads who can communicate clearly are hard to come by. If some of the non-CS courses at SU seem extraneous, keep in mind that being well-rounded will serve you well. (Stephen Brown ’12)

The most valuable aspects of my education at Southwestern that I’ve brought with me into graduate school and (soon) the corporate workforce are the ability to express complex ideas in well-defined terms, process information quickly, and “self-compile” the results of a technical operation such as a computer program before execution. In my current field, I’m doing a lot of work with high-level statistics - things like neural networks, boosted tree algorithms, and auto-regressive moving average models - as well as optimization and dynamic programming. I think Southwestern prepared me well for the challenges I regularly face. (Zachary Anglin ’13)

I’d have to say Numerical Analysis and the Capstone class were invaluable to my success in graduate school. Combinatorics with Dr. Marr as well as  pretty much every other class I took have all come in handy at various times. (Eric Godat ’12)

I encourage any student to take any class he/she is interested in without a care of whether or not they think it will be useful in the future. You can never really know what will help you in the future. For me these classes were Operation Research and Databases. Two random classes I decided to take because I thought they were interesting, and the two skills I needed to take a failing project and turn it into a multi-billion dollar product. If only I worked on commission! (Will Nguyen ’12)

My most valuable courses would be operations research, discrete mathematics, and all programming classes. Operations research gave me an understanding of linear programming and helped solve real world problems; e.g. finding the optimal angle of a water pipe to minimize build cost or minimizing residuals in a linear regression model. The discrete mathematics gave me knowledge of probability that helped me pass my first actuarial exam(aptly named ‘Exam P’). All the programming classes gave me the technical foundation to work for a small software company right out of SU, for which I could not be more thankful. (Alan Lowry ’11)

The overall thought processes and analytical skills that were developed in my course work at SU are what is most valuable to me now. I am not in a field in which I use my advanced math skills very frequently, but I regularly benefit from the ability to logically think through complex problems. (Sara Barnes ’97)

Software Engineering, Programming Languages (Matthew Finlay ’00)

The mathematical modeling course was by far the most helpful for my career. Having to write about and present our work is invaluable experience. It was also one of the few courses that I took which required computer work. I am also very grateful for the interaction with professors and their concern for our education. (Lee Silverberg ’95)

Programming Concepts I and II and Analysis of Algorithms. (Dave Rosen ’97)

The most beneficial experience I had was an internship with IBM the summer after my junior year. Most valuable CS class I took was Computer Architecture. (Ashley Lipscomb ’99)

The most relevant courses that I took at SU were those in Differential Equations, Calculus, Linear Algebra and the introductory Computer Science courses that I took. In retrospect, I wish that I would have taken more programming classes. Overall, I think that I was better prepared for the theoretical rigors of Applied Math than most of my fellow students. (Daniel Reynolds ’98)

A class on LOGIC. (Esther Wong ’89)

Independent study - Cryptography with Dr. Potter was the most valuable as a learning experience. (Brian Reed98)

I liked them all— they provided a challenge and taught me to think through those challenges. I especially enjoyed algebraic structures, real analysis, complex analysis and combinatorics. (Winnie Fristoe99)

Independent study, Take-home exams. Courses that offered: 1. Opportunity to appreciate complexity regardless of the specific content. 2.Development of strong conceptual/abstract reasoning skills. (Siddharth Sinha ’95)

Probability (very relevant to my current course of study), Real Analysis (an excellent introduction to proof). (Nora Horick ’99)

Statistics, linear algebra, elementary geometry from an advanced viewpoint (or something close to those titles!) (Lydia Williams Hewett ’74)

Programming concepts 1 and 2, and discrete math although it has not been directly applied I learned a mental discipline. (Brad Jacobson ’86)

My very favorite class in my entire Southwestern study was Abstract Algebra. That class taught me different ways to think about things I thought I understood. Probably the most useful classes in my working career were the statistics and calculus classes, as well as the Operating Systems course. And I have used concepts from Linear Algebra occasionally. (Amy Miller Dessert ’85)

I acquired great problem solving skills while at Southwestern that have been a great help to me. (Gabriel Farris ’95)

Since I am a high school math teacher, I use the information that I gained from Calculus I, Calculus II, Statistics, and Probability more than any of the more upper level classes. (Andy Curtis ’97)

All of Dr. Potter’s classes. Doing proof after proof in such a small classroom setting in upper level classes in addition to the oral final exams! (Laura Guarascio Pyle ’93)

Calculus and Differential Equations were probably the most important classes I took for my field. However, all the classes I took were beneficial to some extent in teaching problem solving. (Elizabeth Bossart ’93)

Statistics-I wish I would have taken more in depth classes in this area. (Shannon Franks ’98)

For what I am doing, I don’t think any one specific class helped me more than another. But, I do know that, in general, the problem-solving skills that you “hone” as a math major help A LOT in the “real world.” I don’t mind digging into problems, and I am able to work out solutions, and I think that being a math major helped better shape that ability. (Katherine Engel Nelson ’97)

General programming and problem solving. (Rhonda Ballard ’95)

Statistics (even though it doesn’t qualify for the math major). (Laura Prothro ’96)

Statistics was interesting and I used it in a job I had with the State Board of Insurance. Most helpful, I would say, was struggling through Differential Equations with the Engineering Majors! I knew what it was like to feel totally lost and inadeuate and I think that prepared me to be a more sympathetic and understanding teacher - that some of us do hit the wall mathematically and for some of my students it comes early in their educational career and they truly appreciate me for not looking at them as inadequate! (Darlene Blackwood Jones ’71)

My computer programming course not sure of the name. (Michele Bryant ’94)

The courses taken from Professor Shelton. (Cassandra Moore McZeal ’92)

Programming Concepts 1 and 2, Operating Systems. (Mohammed Raheem ’98)

Hard to say since I don’t do any advanced math in the jet. I’m constantly crunching numbers in my head, but it is simple math. I would have to say that the courses I found the most valuable were any of the ones taught by Dr. Kendall Richards. What a great American! (Eric Shafer ’95)

I suppose it would have to be those horrible Algebraic Structures classes. I just think back to how lost I was in those classes and imagine that’s how some of my students feel about basic math. Though the only real part of those classes I liked was going to lunch with the class and Dr. Potter. I suppose it’s the relationships the professors have with the students at Southwestern that makes is the great place that it is. (Crisanne Potts Barker ’97)

Introductory to Analysis- the one that has been most hit upon in Grad School. (Stephanie Miller ’00)

Learning to logically and systematically solve problems. (Mickey Martin ’97)

I took a course called Introduction to Real Analysis pass/fail my senior year. I had to take the same course when I got to graduate school but it helped to have the concepts taught prior to entering graduate school. (Kristin Sumpter ’93)

To tell you the truth I’ve enjoyed learning how valuble our calculator is to us. I teach Algebra II, PreCal, Physics, and Calculus and it never seems to amaze me how much better we are for knowing how to do something with pencil and paper. Then again when you run into the more difficult problems it’s reassuring to know how to work the calculator properly. (Ray Lara ’95)

Dr. Whitmore’s advice to study with Dr. R.L. Moore and Dr. H.S. Wall at the University of Texas was most instrumental in developing me as a mathematician and as a teacher. (Charles Coppin ’63)

In general the entire math degree is beneficial because it teaches one how to think and reason clearly (as demonstrated in math proofs). (Clint Rain ’00)

Operating Systems Senior Seminar in Compiler Design Algorithms Discrete Math (Drue Reeves ’92)

The most valuable skill I learned in the Math and CS department was the ability to think abstractly in order to model a problem either mathematically or programmatically. (David Gillen ’97)

Although I enjoyed most of my classes, the most valuable experience for my career was my internship at Hayes Software Systems. I think every student should attempt to gain “real world” experience, because it truly adds to your skills and therefore marketability. (Lindsay Cowart ’01)

The Algebra and Real Analysis courses were very helpful in learning the language and logic structure of mathematics. (Michael Gagliardo ’98)

Technically, the most valuable courses have been Operating Systems and the Database class. The Software Engineering capstone was valuable as well, but would have been more so if it had been structured differently. In terms of graduate school, the most valuable course *subject matters* were Algorithms and Programming Languages. In mathematics, the Mathematical Modeling Capstone was very helpful, as were the Differential Equations and Algebraic Structures courses. (Angela Roles ’02)

Senior Capstone: Software Engineering (Zach Toups ’03)

Team software development projects were valuable. (Karlie Verkest ’02)

I honestly think that the most valuable part of my math degree are the problem-solving skills that I developed along the way. They have helped me numerous times in my career — My superiors know that they can give me a problem to solve, and I will find a way to work it out. (Katherine Engel Nelson ’97)