#FacultyFriday: Meet Steve Waters

Dr. Steve Waters has taught here at PUC for 36 years and he has enjoyed every second of it. His specialization is in pure mathematics, especially abstract and linear algebras. What may be surprising about Dr. Waters is his thespian interests, a hobby that draws him to the stage whenever time allows. One place he is for sure never acting, however, is when he is at the front of the classroom—one of his favorite places to be. Join us as we get to know a little more about Dr. Waters.

Name: Steve Waters
Title: Professor of Mathematics
Email: swaters@puc.edu
Faculty since: 1983

Classes taught: Nearly every mathematics course, plus a variety of honors courses.

Education: B.S., Pacific Union College in 1979; M.S., Idaho State University in 1980; D.A., Idaho State University in 1983

What made you decide to be a teacher?
My freshman year at PUC, I conducted informal tutoring sessions for a bunch of guys on 4th floor Newton. Near the end of the year, several of them suggested to me that I should consider being a teacher since I had been able to clarify things to them so well. The more I thought about it, the more it became clear that was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. It has since become a big part of my identity—being a teacher is not just something I do, it’s who I am.

What are some of your hobbies?
Reading (just about anything), music (listening and playing), hiking, spending time with my cats.

What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
Hmmm … I was a gymnast in high school? I had an uncle who walked on the moon? (I have been told that) I am the only person to have played a baritone sax in Grace Cathedral? I have a distant relative who headed the group Pink Floyd?

What’s your favorite thing about PUC?
I love the collegiality of my department (and the broader college community). That’s my favorite, but it’s closely followed by my enjoyment of being able to teach a variety of courses, both in and out of mathematics, and being able to participate in musical ensembles. It also helps to be located in God’s vacation home here on Earth.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?
Whichever classroom I happen to be in while people are learning. Working with others as real understanding takes place is one of the best feelings there is. This would also include making music in the band room and concert halls. I also very much enjoy the hiking trails in the Back 40.

What’s your favorite book, movie, or song?
This is impossible to answer since I love so many books and songs (and a few movies). Books by Dickens, Dostoevsky, Adams, Pratchett, Bryson, or Stephenson would rate highly, as would songs by Beethoven, McCartney, Joel, or Scott.

What advice would you give to an incoming freshman?
Expose yourself to as many areas of knowledge as you can (hooray for general education!), get to know the people who love those areas, and then be true to yourself as you find what genuinely interests you. Take advantage of the wonderful area in which PUC is located and become an active part of its vibrant community.

Professional activities: Ten professional speaking invitations, two invited visiting professorships, ten published research papers, heavy involvement in PUC’s governance system.

 

Why You Should Study Math and Why You Should Do It At PUC

Dr. Steve Waters has taught at PUC for 35 years, many of which he served as chair for the department of mathematics. We asked Dr. Waters to share some of his thoughts about studying mathematics, and the advantages of studying it at PUC. This is what he had to say.

Should you study mathematics in college?

The answer is a definite “yes!” if any of the following descriptions apply to you. 

  • You are fascinated by patterns—seeing how things fit together and discovering connections between seemingly very different things.
  • You love knowing why, not just how.
  • You see beauty in carefully crafted and refined ideas.
  • You enjoy finding new perspectives that change apparently hard problems into easy ones.
  • You find satisfaction in sticking with a hard problem until the thrill of a solution presents itself.

But what can you do with a mathematics degree?

The first thing that comes to mind for many people when asked this question is working as a teacher in elementary schools, high schools, and colleges. While it is true that there is a great demand for qualified mathematics teachers at all levels, and that these can be very rewarding careers, only a small fraction of people with mathematical training actually work in the teaching profession. Qualified mathematical thinkers are sought throughout government and industry to help teams make sense of data, design new products, create forecasts—work on anything involving pattern recognition and analysis. These teams often involve a fusion of computer science, engineering, psychology, marketing, communication, and many other areas, so mathematicians are always learning new things and exploring new ideas.

So what do mathematicians actually do?

I’ll let Keith Devlin (NPR’s “Math Guy”) answer this:

“What the mathematician does is examine abstract “patterns”—numerical patterns, patterns of shape, patterns of motion, patterns of behavior, voting patterns in a population, patterns of repeating chance events, and so on. Those patterns can be either real or imagined, visual or mental, static or dynamic, qualitative or quantitative, purely utilitarian or of little more than recreational interest. They can arise from the world around us, from the depths of space and time, or from the workings of the human mind. Different kinds of patterns give rise to different branches of mathematics.”

It’s worth noting very little in the description has to do with “arithmetic.” Mathematical studies open up a whole world of critical and creative thought far beyond the ideas of elementary-school number manipulation.

Knowing that mathematics provides a way to work with fascinating ideas and people, make a real difference in the world, and get paid for it!, why should you study the subject at Pacific Union College?

The short answer is PUC is a Seventh-day Adventist college with mathematics teachers who are dedicated to your success. Your classes will not be taught by graduate students, but by professors whose primary focus is on teaching. In addition to excellent classes, you will also have opportunities to do research with your professors—many of our students have presented work at national and international conferences, and had papers published in prestigious journals.

The department of mathematics, along with physics & engineering, works hard to create a family feel that welcomes all students, regardless of their backgrounds. Your teachers will quickly become your friends and mentors as you work and talk with them in their offices, as well as in the classrooms, across campus, and in their homes. Perhaps best of all, PUC gives you the opportunity to commune with God’s nature, with hundreds of acres of forest preserve filled with hiking and biking trails. It is truly a place “where nature and revelation unite in education.” We’re ready to welcome you into the family.

To learn more about studying math at PUC, visit our Admissions website or call (800) 862-7080 to talk with an enrollment counselor today!