A Letter to Our New Math and Computer Science Students

studentsWe have great students in math and computer science at Lewis. They are talented, funny, engaging, deep-thinking, unselfish, generous, and ambitious people. No matter how many frustrations a typical day might bring, the students are my escape. Even on those days when the excrement that is university politics makes it hard to breathe without catching cholera, they make me feel that what I’m trying to do is worth it.

I wanted to give the public a sense of what our department is like, and so I’ve decided to post a letter I sent welcoming our majors back to campus.  We are a department driven by its students. I think that makes us unique and helps accomplish great things as an educational enterprise. As long as we keep that focus, I think we’ll continue to grow in quality and enrollment, no matter what obstacles might be put in our way.

Here is the letter:

Dear Math and Computer Science Students,
First, thank you very much for choosing to study Mathematics or Computer Science at Lewis University. You had lots of educational options when you made your decision to come here, and we are honored you chose us. We are happy to have an opportunity to help you reach your goals and further your interests.
We are welcoming a record number of new majors this semester. We have 34 new Computer Science majors. Just four years ago, we had 38 Computer Science majors total. That brings this year’s total number of Computer Science majors to about 100. You’ve become part of what might be the fastest growing department on campus! We also have 14 new Mathematics majors, which also is an impressive number.
I think our enrollment growth suggests two things: (1) these are the fields of study you and your parents recognize as important for the future and (2) we are doing something right in how we serve our students.
The first point – the importance of math and computer science to the future – is really pretty obvious, right? I’m typing this on a tablet. Chances are, you’re reading this on a smartphone while doing three or four other things. Our lives are enriched by technology at every turn. And it’s people like you and me who create that stuff! Whether it’s the mathematical principles that drive the technology, the expression of the technology in the form of computer code, the implementation of the technology through the design of circuits, or the communication of what technology produces through secure connections between devices, we Computer Scientists and Mathematicians are the only ones who make this stuff! How cool is that? That’s what you are working toward.
And you’re working toward something that is likely to be very beneficial to you personally. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 270,000 brand new jobs in Computer Science by 2020. Mathematicians often work alongside or as part of software development teams, so that’s good news for all of us. The future is bright.
You just have to make sure you stick with it.
There will be days when school will be overwhelming. That’s college, right? There will be days when ten different things are due, and you don’t want to do any of them, and you might have pushed some of them off. Those days will suck. However, try not to lose perspective. This is only school, after all! You are working toward something much bigger than a particular grade in a class. You are working toward understanding and mastering concepts that, when taken together as a field of study, have changed the world and will certainly continue to transform it in ways no other field of study can. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. We are the modern Gutenbergs. We are transforming the ways people learn, communicate, work, and play. We rule.
What’s especially cool about Lewis is that you will get all the help and support you need to make sure you stick with it. You will not be alone. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we’re just going to hand you the keys to the kingdom. You have to earn your chops. But we’re not going to stand in your way like they do at some other schools. We are partners in this enterprise. If you don’t succeed, both of us fail. If you work hard, you’ll find that we faculty are likewise working hard to give you all the supports, lessons, and experience you need to become an extremely well-qualified mathematician or computer scientist.
What does that mean for you? If you need help, all you have to do is ask! If you feel lost in a class, seek us out. We’re almost always around either physically in our offices or virtually through the great cyber tether of email. You will get the help you need. All you have to do is care enough to work hard and seek help when you need it.
I do believe we offer the best Math and Computer Science programs in the area, and I hope you’ll see why in the coming months and years. We have great students like you, excellent computing facilities, and a dedicated faculty. We have all the ingredients needed to build upon our 40 years of success preparing innovative mathematicians and computer scientists.
OK. This has been a long-winded welcome. Sometimes I’m too verbose. The other thing is that I send out a lot of email during the year about internships and trends and other things that I think might interest you. You’ve been warned! Don’t ignore them, though. In the worst case, use them as ways to help you fall asleep.
The bottom line is that you’ve come to the right place to become a Mathematician or Computer Scientist. You are going to love being a part of this, and you are going to do well, because we are going to work together to make sure that happens.
We are really happy you are here. Good luck as you start a new semester.
Ray

About Ray Klump

Professor and chair of Mathematics and Computer Science Director, Master of Science in Information Security Lewis University http://online.lewisu.edu/ms-information-security.asp, http://online.lewisu.edu/resource/engineering-technology/articles.asp, http://cs.lewisu.edu. You can find him on Google+.

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