The Professor Is In: Q&A with Brian Evans

  

From traveling to Uganda to help teachers develop their mathematical problem solving abilities to hiking the Himalayas, it’s a wonder Brian R. Evans, EdD, has time for anything else. But when he isn’t traveling the world, Evans serves as the department chair and associate professor of Mathematics Education in the School of Education. He is also the co-chairperson for the Institutional Review Board and  director of Pace’s Summer Scholars Institute, which brings ambitious high school juniors and seniors to Pace for an early college experience.

At the School of Education, his primary focus is on pedagogical and content courses in mathematics for both pre-service and in-service teachers at the adolescent and childhood levels. He recently became the first Faculty Resident at Pace and serves as managing editor for the Journal of the National Association for Alternative Certification.

What was your favorite class as a student? Least favorite?
My favorite class was mathematics history. I really enjoyed this class and I now teach a mathematics history class at Pace. I’m also currently working on a mathematics history book. Mathematics and history are two of my favorite subjects, so the combination of the two is quite attractive to me.

I really didn’t take a course in college that I didn’t like. However, my least favorite class, if I had to choose one, was probably [computer] programming. I like computer science, but I often found myself very frustrated when the programs I wrote didn’t run correctly and I couldn’t figure out the problem. I liked the class, but found that aspect frustrating.

What one thing or person made you passionate about your current career?
If I focus on the teaching perspective of my career, it was my high school geometry teacher and a mathematics college professor who inspired me to teach. Both had the same approach of injecting humor into the classroom and had such an easy going demeanor that made learning very pleasurable. If I focus on research, there was an education professor with whom I still collaborate on research projects who really inspired my writing.

What quality do you most value in your students?
My classes are most enjoyable for me when my students are independent thinkers who engage in critical thinking and inquiry. Probably the most important quality of a college education is the enhanced ability to think critically.

What’s your advice to students to make the most out of their time in college?
My advice is for students to take advantage of opportunities they would later regret not taking when the opportunity is gone. For example, while I’ve traveled quite extensively on my own, I never participated in a study abroad program and now wish I had. I know others who took part in study aboard programs and felt it was one of the most rewarding experiences in their lives.

If you had to do it all over again and took another path, what profession would you like to attempt? What profession would you not like to do?
If I were to go back, I would still choose the position I’m in now. However, if I chose something different, medical school would have been a rewarding path to take. I would not like to have gone into any career in which helping people wasn’t a major focus, like it is with education and medicine.

What is your favorite book/TV show?
It’s difficult to choose only one book, but generally I like reading non-fiction about politics, philosophy, and travel. I don’t watch a terrible amount of television, and I generally watch the news or a documentary. However, currently I might say Big Bang Theory. It’s a show about nerds in academia. What’s not to like?

What would you do if you had an extra hour every day?
Only one hour? That’s difficult because I’d like many more hours. I wish I had more time to volunteer. I don’t volunteer nearly as often as I did before I became so busy. I do quite a lot of reading for my career, but not much reading for pleasure anymore. Having some time to read for pleasure would be welcome, hence my need for more than one hour.

What is your favorite journey/experience?
I love to travel everywhere. I’ve been to all seven continents and all 50 U.S. states. Probably one of my favorite trips was to Antarctica, given how remote and beautiful the continent was.

What is your favorite saying/words to live by?
I [find] this question difficult because there has been so much said throughout history that would fit this question. If I had to choose just one quote, it would be, “Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”–Aristotle

If you could have any five people, living or dead, imagined or real, as guests at a dinner party, who would you choose?
If living or dead is not an issue, nor is language and period context, there are so many from which to choose. One of the things I love about reading books is that one can read the words of thinkers who are long gone to the world, but whose ideas persist. It’s the next best thing to actually sitting down to dinner and having a conversation with them. To make the task easier for me I’ll choose living people in which it wouldn’t be impossible to have at a dinner party, albeit unlikely. I would choose Stephen Hawking, Noam Chomsky, Barack Obama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Andrew Wiles, and Richard Dawkins. That’s six, but there’s always room for one more at a dinner party.

Written by Pace student Sarah Aires ’14

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