2006 Distinguished Teaching Award

Dr. Randy Wills

Dr. Randall Wills received his B.A. from Lake Forest College in Mathematics and Physics in 1984. He was a member of the honor societies Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Pi Sigma, and Sigma Xi, and he was named outstanding graduate in both mathematics and physics. He received his M.S. in Pure Mathematics from the University of Iowa in 1988, and his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematical Sciences in 1990. He has spent the last 17 years at Southeastern Louisiana University and is currently an Associate Professor of Mathematics. He has served on a number of MAA committees at the section level including Executive, Student Paper, Student Competition, Integration Bee, and Section NExT. In addition he served as Louisiana Vice Chair of the Section in 2002 and was Chair of the Section in 2003. He has taught the full range of undergraduate courses from Intermediate Algebra to Advanced Calculus and Number Theory. He has published in a number of different fields including mathematical physics, linear algebra, as well as the teaching of mathematics.

Dr. Wills is recognized as an effective and successful teacher of mathematics. In the classroom, he does not use the traditional lecture method, but uses a modified Socratic method which emphasizes the understanding of concepts and problem solving. One of the things that have made Dr. Wills so effective in the classroom is his ability to come up with examples and problems which lead his students to a better understanding of the mathematical concepts he is trying to explain. In fact, students have commented upon his ability to explain difficult mathematical ideas and concepts in simple everyday terms. This is especially helpful to students taking service courses since they tend to have trouble grasping the mathematical ideas being presented. That this method has been successful is evidenced by several students placing in student competition at the LA/MS section meeting of the MAA, the Pi Mu Epsilon competition at Mathfest, and the Region VIII and State High School Science Fair. His ability to pose timely and relevant problems, his ability to make his students reach their highest potential, and his sense of humor, are just a few of the qualities that have made him such a successful teacher.

While at Southeastern, Dr. Wills has done a great deal to influence mathematics education at both the university and regional level. At the university level, Dr. Wills has been a leader in introducing reform methods and technology in the classroom. Dr. Wills has been successful at obtaining money to purchase both computers and software for use in the classroom. His efforts helped establish Southeastern first computer lab which was aptly named the Mathematics Training Center. He has also been in a leader in bringing the reform movement to Southeastern. In the early 1990s, he was involved with Dr. Keith Stroyan of the University of Iowa in an NSF sponsored calculus reform project. This involvement brought students both a new and innovative way to learn calculus as well as an introduction to the state of the art mathematical software Mathematica. Dr. Wills was also one of the first faculty at Southeastern to teach using the graphing calculator. His approach is to use technology in a manner which enhances mathematical thought instead of being a replacement for mathematical thought. In 2000, Dr. Wills was awarded a contract with the Casio Corporation to incorporate the Casiopaeia using the software Maple into the mathematics curriculum. Finally, Dr. Wills recently became involved with an NSF grant sponsored by the NSF on College Algebra Reform. Currently he is teaching 3 of the 6 reform college algebra course in connection with this grant. His efforts in the reform movement have led to several collaborations with colleagues at Southeastern, presentations at both regional and national meetings, and publications in a wide variety of journals on the teaching of mathematics. Dr. Wills’ efforts both inside and outside the classroom have won the respect and admiration of both his students and colleagues alike.

At the regional level, Dr. Wills has been very involved with LA/MS section of the MAA for the past 17 years. During that time, he has made numerous presentations and has been very involved with student participation at the meeting. He has sponsored students in the student paper competition as well as served as a judge for the competition many times. He has been a sponsor of the Southeastern team for several years, and was co-sponsor of the team in 1998 and 1999 when Southeastern won. In addition, Dr. Wills has contributed and graded problems for the student team competition for the past 10 years. In 2004, Dr. Wills was the Chair of the LA/MS Section of the MAA, and organized the section meeting that year. Southeastern received numerous compliments on the meeting, and a large part of this was due to the dedication and hard work of Dr. Wills. In addition to chairing the section in 2004, Dr. Wills remains active in the section by serving on several committees including the student paper committee and the Section NExT committee. Dr. Wills work with the MAA at the regional level has helped make the LA/MS Section one of the best in the country.


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