Students Helping Students to Succeed

Ian GonzalezUndergraduate Ian Gonzales believes that students can help each other be successful. He has found his passion for mathematics and now is helping other students better master the subject. He serves his fellow UM students as a Learning Assistant in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. This model transforms classrooms into engaging, active learning spaces where Learning Assistants work with faculty to present core mathematical concepts to students.

After serving as a Learning Assistant in a Calculus II class, Ian notes that, “Interacting with the students allows me to engage in several thoughtful and different discussions about that week’s concepts. I’ve gained some 20 or so students that I’ve come to root for. Being able to aid in their learning has made me invested in their capabilities, and that in turn makes me want to be a better mathematician.

"For the first time in my life I feel like the work I’m doing is my calling. To say my UM education has changed me would be an understatement. It’s completely redefined me. This university and its math department has ignited my interest in studying mathematics to where I can confidently say this is what I would like to do for the remainder of my life. I’ve never felt more singularly focused and driven than I have these past few years.”

Ian, a junior from Warwick, Rhode Island, is also a scholarship recipient who has received the Duane A. and Kathleen M. Adams Scholarship and the Undergraduate Math Scholars Program Scholarship.

Ian is grateful for his scholarship support: “Being a scholarship recipient is meaningful because to me it says that I’m not the only one who thinks this is my calling. Being recognized by professors as someone to invest in means so much to me. As a nontraditional student, I have an entire life of rent and financial responsibilities that exists in addition to my academic responsibilities. So, financially, the scholarships I’ve received to me say ‘We’ll handle a few bills for you, focus on your dreams.’ That sort of mental relief is invaluable when it comes to prospering as a student.

“With this scholarship, I have a better shot at earning my degree and, perhaps more importantly, falling deeper into mathematics where I now realize my purpose lies. I am beyond grateful for the Adams Scholarship itself and for the inspiration UM supporters have given me to continue pursuing what I’m passionate about.”

Dean Jenny McNulty says, “The support of the Learning Assistant program has enabled us to bring active learning to more of our classes. This type of learning better engages and thus better educates our students.”

The Learning Assistant model grew out of the Noyce Scholar Program at UM.