Hearts

How’s the new job? Well, it’s good. I’m an Instructor in the Department of Mathematics. It’s full-time, limited term, which makes me a real Faculty member for the first time. I get my own office, though as the new and possibly temporary guy it’s the worst office, next to the computer lab. I also got my own name badge. The choice of school to list in my abstracts is not straightforward. Do I list both? Picking one means trading job rank against school rank. Between the 18th and 25th I have three interviews, in three different states not including Kentucky. I’m quite glad that Bellarmine is only about 10 miles from the airport. I’ll write more about the search next time, after the rather brutal travel schedule. This letter is about my job.

I’m teaching three classes. One is Mathematical Statistics, like Stat 244-245. It’s an elective for math and actuarial science students, so I’ve only got 8 students. Not so bad, eh? Well, there are issues. First, it’s been three years since I touched most of this stuff. Second, math-stat has always been my worst field in university statistics – I’m a little better with probability and much better in applied work. Third, the preceding semester, the probability term, didn’t go so well. Several students failed. Some want to continue. Since I’m the new guy, I’m being nice, letting them in. They don’t have baggage.

My other two classes are sections of introductory statistics. I’m using the same book as I did this summer and fall, which is pretty fortunate. I do have some work, because we use a graphing calculator instead of Stata. And I have no TAs, so I’ll be grading the quizzes, tests, and project all by myself. Bellarmine has a math requirement, and Intro Stat fulfills the requirement, so there are a lot of sections – six this semester. Each has 30 to 40 students; I have 35 and 36 in my two classes. So far, that’s typical. Bellarmine has a little under 2000 undergraduates, so I teach about 4 percent of the school.

Well, except for the composition of those classes. Bellarmine is about 60 percent female, which is a change. But my classes are a little more unbalanced. Out of those 71 people I have 14 guys. (That’s 80 percent women, for the non statisticians.) My 9 AM section, the earlier one, has only 5 guys and 20 nursing students. I am not making this up. As I write, I have just realized that this sounds eerily like a plot for USA Up All Night or Cinemax or something. Hmm … ideas … I was surprised Wednesday morning when they entered, fifteen lovely ladies in their white uniforms and hats. Candie cooed, “We wanted to thank you for all you’ve done this semester.” Slowly hands reached towards buttons …

Oh, sorry about that. Anyway, I was trying to figure out how to explain the differences here. The average ACT score is less, of course, and that means I have to make changes. I get about 75% more class time this semester to cover the same amount of material, which I’ll need. But that’s not the interesting part. Culture is different. Despite what people might say, Louisville is the South, compared to Chicago. I’m “Mr. Molnar” here, and students are more respectful. The other difference is in attitude. I’ve often said that UChicago is populated with undergraduates who want to be philosophers, and philosophy has no concept of joy. This leads to stoic moroseness.

To some, I’ve mentioned that students wear school insignia. Positive shirts too, not The Level of Hell Dante Forgot. It’s not true that only Bellarmine stuff appears, but the level of spirit is much higher overall. Students look happier and healthier. One reason is food. Cafeterias are not run by a nasty corporation I refuse to name, just because its CEO donates to the GSB. I asked about this. A couple years ago, Bellarmine booted the servers of bad prisoner food. I’ve eaten at the cafeteria and cafe on campus. The quality of food is better than Bartlett and Hutch, at a lower price. I could provide more examples of competent administration (and some of less), but that’s not the big instance that titled this entry.

Friday, I stumbled upon the most obvious sign. I gave out a brief in-class exercise on the calculator, since most students benefit from active learning. Because I want to encourage the students, and I was asked to take attendance the first week, I collected the papers and gave them a point. While alphabetizing, I started laughing. One of the students had dotted her i’s with little hearts. I walked into the hall, shocked. I asked my boss, the chair, if this was common. He replied that there were some free spirits here.

Hearts. Wow.

I’ve still got my job talk to write, and other things, so I’ll stop here for now. I’ll write again around the end of the month, after the first round of job interview visits.

About Adam

My quest is a world where calling someone "virtuous like a fairy tale hero" is routine, not fantastic or ironic. My vocation is the teaching and learning of statistics. My dream is a long happy life with a wonderful wife and kids. Who knows if any will become true? More information is at my homepage on the twelvefruits network: http://adam.twelvefruits.com
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