Mission & History

Our Mission

The faculty of the Mathematics Department are dedicated to the mission of the College of Science and Engineering. In particular, we seek to develop in our students the level of mathematical competence appropriate for their educational goals, to foster appreciation of mathematics as part of human culture, to provide a climate conducive to intellectual growth of students and faculty, and to prepare and inspire students to the service of others. In recognition of the increasing need for mathematics and technology as tools in a societal context, we give emphasis to applied and contextual based problem solving in our courses.

Our History

In the beginning, there was no Mathematics Department at Seattle College. Former Seattle University President Louis Gaffney, S.J., recalled "mathematics was taught by whomever was around and knew some mathematics." In the early 1950's, while he was still completing his Ph.D. at the University of Washington, Orval Klosewas became the first mathematician hired by Seattle University. Ted Chihara, a former SU student, soon joined him after completing his own Ph.D. at Purdue University. In 1956, two other UW graduate students, C.C. Chang and Andre Yandl, were added to the department. Andre, who was still teaching at Seattle U nearly fifty years later, has had a vigorous influence on the department and, more importantly, on so many of the students that have passed through during his tenure here.

In the 1960's, Sputnik and the subsequent space race reminded the world, and the United States, of the importance of cutting edge mathematics—which, until then, had done most of its cutting in the Soviet Union. Support for mathematics education increased significantly, as did the number and quality of mathematics majors. The SU mathematics department expanded, including the hiring of Mary Turner, the first woman to earn a doctorate in mathematics at the University of Chicago, and George Town, who introduced the first computer science courses at Seattle University. In addition to computer science, the Department also expanded its offerings with courses designed specifically for business and elementary education majors.

In the following decades, Seattle U’s Math Department greatly expanded the breadth and depth of its program, hiring experts in combinatorics, differential geometry, numbers theory, statistics, topology, and applied math. We have made especially meaningful efforts to incorporate technology into the curriculum. In the mid-1990's, we were able to initiate an Applied Mathematics Track. In the fall of 2012, we initiated the Actuarial Mathematics Track as one of our now six degree options. The department supports the undergraduate programs of every college in the university through its Core offerings, though primarily our students come from the College of Science and Engineering and the Albers School of Business. The department has a record of reaching out to the broader community through grant-funded programs such as our Service Learning tutoring and Mathematics for K-8 Teachers class.

Our math faculty has a history of dedication to their students, the department, and the field of mathematics. Donna Sylvester, our first applied mathematician, was hired in 1990 and is still teaching at Seattle U. Shusen Ding joined us in 1999, Jeff Boersema and John Carter in 2001, David Neel in 2003, Dylan Helliwell and Mark MacLean in 2005, Leanne Robertson in 2007, Allison Henrich and McLean Sloughter in 2009, and Brian Fischer in 2011. Most recently we hired Eric Bahuaud, Steven Klee, and Katie Oliveras in 2012. All are actively involved in mathematical research and regularly published. Department members have won numerous teaching awards. Most recently, Steven Klee was named a recipient of the prestigious 2017 Henry L. Alder Award from the Mathematical Association of America, for university faculty whose teaching of undergraduate mathematics has shown to have influence beyond their own classrooms.

The Math Department has four instructors.  Dr. Jim Humphreys has been teaching full time at Seattle University since 2002.  In 2013, Christine Cole and Katya Yurasovskaya joined the faculty, and AJ Stewart arrived in the fall of 2014.  In addition to these faculty members, several lecturers help to support the mission of our department.

In 2012, the department created three annual awards for graduating seniors, named in recognition of key faculty members who made significant contributions to the history and success of the department: the Janet E. Mills Award for Undergraduate Research, the Wynne Alexander Guy Spirit of the Mathematics Department Award, and the Mirbagheri-Yandl Award for a graduating mathematics major whose achievement and enthusiasm for mathematics reflect the spirit of these two beloved SU faculty members.

Today, the SU mathematics department plays a vital role in the College of Science and Engineering.  Our vibrant community supports a moderate but steady number of majors; approximately twenty graduate every year.