- By Dawn Marie Densmore
Essex (VT) High School class of 2008 valedictorian Kayla LeBlanc was thrilled when her alma mater awarded her a merit scholarship to attend the University of Vermont. She is now a senior mathematics major and computer science minor in UVM's College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS). She is currently putting the math knowledge she has gained through her CEMS coursework to good use in an internship at Milliman, one of the world's largest independent actuarial and consulting firms. ”Milliman has opened my eyes on how important modeling data and statistics are to real world applications,” says Kayla.
For Kayla, the most enjoyable aspect of her UVM education has been the faculty who make mathematics fun. She counts Dr. John Voight’s Abstract Algebra class amongst her best classroom experiences.
“Dr. Voight is full of energy and talks faster than anyone I have ever met,” says Kayla. “He loves math and uses the perfect analogies. One of my favorites was his zoo analogy: ‘Consider me your math personal trainer, and imagine that I am taking you through the zoo. First we’ll visit the pandas, then we’ll go on to see the zebras and then I’ll take you to see the lions -- the most challenging applications within mathematics’.”
Her useful tip for incoming students is to start math assignments early. Some problems inevitably take longer than others, making it hard to estimate how long solving all of the assigned problems will take. “Problems also look differently the next day and can actually be easier to solve. Even though you don’t think you are thinking about them, you are,” said Kayla. “Friends also have fresh ideas and are very encouraging.”
Kayla’s owes her interest in mathematics to the excellent math teachers she had growing up. When she isn’t solving complex mathematical problems, she likes to read, run, listen to music and is a new skier. After graduation, she hopes to move on to graduate school and continue working in the actuarial sciences.