Name: Kate Owens

Hometown: I grew up in a military family, so we moved around a lot. By the time I graduated from high school, I had attended 13 different schools. I’ve spent more time living in Charleston than anywhere else, so this is my hometown now.

Education: Ph.D. in mathematics, University of South Carolina. My dissertation research was in universal algebra and mathematical logic.

Job title: Senior Instructor and Associate Chair in the Department of Mathematics

How long have you worked at the College? Since fall 2011

What are your job responsibilities? I teach a variety of classes for the math department, including those at the introductory level (e.g., College Algebra, Elementary Statistics, Calculus for Business and Social Sciences), those that are part of our core courses for mathematics majors (including Introductory Calculus, Calculus II, Linear Algebra), and courses that support other departments on campus (like Vector Calculus with Chemical Applications). I’ve also taught many of the math content courses in the Science and Mathematics for Teachers (SMFT) M.Ed. program, including Applications Across the Mathematics Curriculum with Technology, Applications of Calculus for Teachers, and Introduction to Probability and Statistics.

In my role as associate chair of the math department, my primary focus is helping students navigate College requirements. I am the advisor to 49 students pursuing a math minor at the College, and I am also the major advisor to several students pursuing degrees in mathematics. Additionally, I collaborate with the Transfer Resource Center to evaluate mathematics courses at other universities to determine if those courses are equivalent to any mathematics courses at the College of Charleston. I’m also the math placement coordinator, and each semester I interact with dozens of students to help them determine what math courses they’re ready to tackle.

Outside of the math department, I have served on several committees. This year, I’m on the Committee on General Education and I’ve recently joined the selection committee for The College Reads! I’m also on the steering committee for SMFT master of education graduate program. Outside of the College, I’m proud to be involved with several other projects. I’m on the editorial board for PRIMUS (Problems, Resources, and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies). I’m also an organizer of Talk Math with Your Friends, an online colloquium series featuring weekly presentations about mathematics, teaching and other issues of interest to the broader mathematical community.

What do you like most about your job? My favorite thing about my job is getting to interact with so many different members of the College of Charleston community. Prior to COVID-19, on a regular day I would have conversations with many different people: students in my classroom, advisees in my office, students needing help with math placement, my colleagues during our lunch hour, our amazing administrative assistant, graduate students in our department, invited speakers to our colloquium series, etc. I am really looking forward to the time that campus operations are fully back to normal so that I can collaborate with people in so many different ways. I also really appreciate that my job gives me the time, flexibility and support to learn new mathematics.

What question do you get asked most in your job and what’s your typical answer? Question: “When is this assignment due?” Answer: “It’s on the syllabus.”

What’s your favorite location on campus and why? My favorite place on campus is Cougar Mall. Since my office is in the Robert Scott Small Building and many of my courses meet in Maybank Hall, Cougar Mall is a place I visit many times a day when I’m on campus. I love seeing all the members of our campus community as they transition from one activity to the next. It’s a great place to chat with colleagues, wave to students, read a book or eat a quick snack! It also helps that the landscaping and architecture are beautiful, too.

What are your hobbies? I like being active, and my goal is to go running a few days a week. I have three kids (age 5, 7 and 9) who love golf, soccer and tennis – they keep me very busy! My husband and I also enjoy traveling and visiting local breweries.

What personal and/or professional accomplishment are you most proud of? I’ve written extensively about mastery grading, an approach to grading that avoids the use of partial credit, points or percentage weightings. In 2019, some colleagues and I began planning the first annual Mastery Grading Conference to be held in June 2020. By early 2020, we were expecting around 100 math faculty members to join us at the conference. Once COVID-19 began spreading in the United States, we decided to pivot our face-to-face conference from Grand Valley State University in Michigan to an online format. This new format generated more interest than we had anticipated, and the online version of the conference ended up with over 500 participants from across the country! I am proud that we were able to move the conference online and that so many people were able to join us for two days of presentations, activities and discussions about nontraditional grading practices. We have already begun planning for a Mastery Grading Conference for 2021.

Name a creative work (book, movie, performance, etc.) you enjoyed recently and why? Everyone at my house really enjoyed watching Hamilton when it was released on Disney+ during the summer.

What was your favorite TV show growing up? Star Trek: The Next Generation

What’s next on your bucket list? My brother-in-law and his wife had their first child in early July 2020, and I became an aunt for the first time! They live in Ontario, Canada. Due to regulations regarding COVID-19 and international travel, we haven’t been able to meet our new nephew yet. I am really looking forward to meeting him for the first time. For now, we are grateful to be able to see him (and his parents, too) over video calls.

What was your first job? I’ve always enjoyed math. In high school, my classmates figured out that I was good at helping them understand what was going on in their math classes. Many of them started asking me for help daily! My high school principal recognized this and hired me as a tutor – he paid me to stay after school and help my classmates with their math homework.

What’s your favorite Lowcountry restaurant? I recently had lunch with assistant professor Ashley Pagnotta from the Department of Physics and Astronomy. My lunch came from Caviar & Bananas, which has great food and is very convenient of you’re on campus. Dr. Pagnotta and I ate outside, maintaining a social distance between park benches.

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