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Faculty Profile: Darin Stephenson
Professor of Mathematics

To Dr. Darin Stephenson, professor of mathematics, the intrigue in math has always been exploration.

“Once I got into math beyond calculus,” he explains, “I began to see what the field is truly about. It’s exploratory.”Three years after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and in the midst of a nationwide job search, Dr. Stephenson had the chance to meet with some representatives of Hope.

“There was a good match between my interests and what they were looking for. I had never been to Hope’s campus, but I had been to Holland once or twice before.”

It didn’t take long for Dr. Stephenson to figure out that Hope truly was a good match for him, although he admits, it may have been a bit overwhelming at first.

“I was really impressed and challenged by the almost frenetic activity. There were people teaching with very innovative strategies and people doing a lot of research.”

One aspect of Hope that continually impresses Dr. Stephenson is the close partnership that students and faculty share, particularly through summer research opportunities.

“I sort of jumped into this community where the norm is to be doing a lot of exceptional, quality stuff, and the students are in the middle of that. I think Hope combines the close student-faculty relationship with excellence in research, and that doesn’t happen at many small colleges.”

Faculty-student collaborative research is a significant part of the mathematics program at Hope. Dr. Stephenson has participated in summer research for six summers and also has worked with students in research opportunities during the school year. What he appreciates most about Hope students, demonstrated through both their research work and in class, is their eagerness to serve as well as their eagerness to learn.

“They bring questions to class and the spirit of the questions is not, ‘Tell us how to do the homework’ but rather, ‘I really want to understand.’”

While Dr. Stephenson’s training and research is grounded primarily in “pure mathematics,” he fully believes that mathematics, in any form, equips students with essential life skills, a benefit available to every student regardless of major.

“There is pure mathematics, which is interested in solving problems for the sake of mathematics, and then there is applied mathematics, where you are trying to model a real-life situation and solve it using mathematics. With either, though, math incorporates precise, technical writing and communication of logic. It’s critical thinking as well as problem solving. The thought process for solving problems is honed in mathematics.”

This profile was written by Charlie A. Walter, a Hope College senior from Grand Rapids, Mich., for the 2010-11 Hope College Catalog.

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