VALDOSTA – A VSU Professor believes a shared identity is necessary for achievement in mathematics and the community.
Valdosta State University’s Dr. Lorena Aguirre Salazar believes belonging plays a vital role in mathematics achievement and community is necessary for deeper, more meaningful learning. Their goal over the next year is to work to build a sense of shared identity across the Department of Mathematics, one that builds trust, fosters student success, encourages students to contribute, and increases engagement.
“I am a Latinx person in mathematics,” shared Aguirre Salazar, who joined VSU’s Department of Mathematics as an assistant professor in January 2022.
“I give a refreshing look to building community and belong in mathematics. I bring my background and experience in various countries — Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Israel, Canada, South Africa, United States — and institutions — Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Instituto de Matematica Pura e Aplicada, Universidad de Chile, Technion: Israel Institute of Technology, McMaster University, University of Cape Town, The State University of New York at Buffalo, Valdosta State University — to the table to facilitate transformation at VSU.”
Even though they have only been on campus for just a few months, Aguirre Salazar is already emerging as a campus leader motivated by a desire to create a learning environment where all students feel heard, safe, supported, and valued.
Aguirre Salazar hopes to continue developing their leadership skills as a 2022-2023 Transforming Post-Secondary Education in Mathematics Leadership Institute fellow. This yearlong program helps a diverse group of future leaders within the mathematics community learn new leadership skills and expand their vision of what leadership means.
Aguirre Salazar’s belonging and community-focused project “stems naturally from my involvement in the Faculty Committee on Student Engagement in the College of Science and Mathematics at VSU.” They also serve in other leadership roles related to undergraduate research, mentoring Hispanic students, and more. They are pursuing VSU’s Professional Certificate in Leadership and Management, a program that helps university employees become more effective leaders in the workplace.
The 2022-2023 Transforming Post-Secondary Education in Mathematics Leadership Institute recently kicked off with a two-day workshop in Utah, where Aguirre Salazar learned more about the logistics of the institute; attended sessions on leadership skills, such as dealing with difficult people and improving communication skills; listened to leaders in the math community present on leadership and opportunities; worked on refining their leadership project; and had opportunities for networking.
“It was great to meet teachers and leaders in mathematics from all across the country with such diverse backgrounds,” Aguirre Salazar said. “I am very excited to work on my project this academic year and see what can be improved in the near future. This project is just the beginning.”
Throughout the 2022-2023 Transforming Post-Secondary Education in Mathematics Leadership Institute, Aguirre Salazar will participate in group meetings to discuss leadership principles and work with an experienced mentor who will provide guidance on completing the leadership project, developing leadership skills, and progressing in future leadership activities.
Aguirre Salazar’s favorite class to teach at VSU is Introduction to Linear Algebra. They are considered an expert in calculus of variations and partial differential equations.
“I am particularly interested in pattern formation in problems that come from physics, material science, or biology,” Aguirre Salazar said.
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