An Accidental Math Professor | Eur Ing Dr James P. Howard II An Accidental Math Professor | Eur Ing Dr James P. Howard II

Dr James P. Howard, II
A Mathematician, a Different Kind of Mathematician, and a Statistician

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An Accidental Math Professor

I was doing an interview recently on how much mathematics is necessary for a graduate. This is all sort of prompted by Andrew Hacker’s book, The Math Myth, but more on that in a later post. I realized, the story of how I became a math professor is kind of surreal. So I wanted to share it.

Back in April 2010, I am minding my own business (or, let’s just assume so), when I got an email saying “Thank you for expressing your interest in teaching at the University of Maryland University College…” and asking for a transcript and references. Except, and I am reasonably sure of this, I don’t think I ever expressed an interest. But I was all like, of course this is something I want to do, and got the ball rolling on transcripts and references.

Now, I am thinking this is for either economics or political science. I had completed the MPA program two year or so earlier and just become ABD at UMBC in public policy. UMUC doesn’t have a public policy program, but UMBC’s policy program is an interdisciplinary program grounded in economics, sociology, and political science. So heading to one of the home departments made sense to me.

Then, six weeks later, I get an invitation from Professors Andy Au and John Beyers of the math department for an interview. This made some sense since my undergraduate degree from Maryland was in mathematics. But it was still a bit surprising. I accepted the interview and I was hired officially on July 12, 2010. I went through training in the fall and taught my first two classes in the spring of 2011.

I’ve also taught in the public administration program at the University of Baltimore, but the overwhelming amount of my teaching has been in bread-and-butter mathematics. It’s been an amazing journey just about six years in, and I plan to keep going for as many more as I can.

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