GVSU math professor chosen as Professor of the Year

GVL / Courtesy - Amanda Pitts

Amanda Pitts

GVL / Courtesy – Amanda Pitts

Sanda Vazgec

In order to win the Distinguished Professor of the Year Award from the Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU), an instructor has to have had a significant impact in teaching undergraduate students and contribute greatly to the institution and discipline they teach. One of three recipients of this year’s award is Matthew Boelkins, a professor of mathematics at Grand Valley State University.

Every year, each of the 15 public higher education institutions in Michigan nominates a candidate for the award. The academic affairs officers of the MASU then review the nominations and choose three recipients.

“Grand Valley is very lucky to count on Dr. Boelkins as our colleague,” said Provost Gayle Davis, who nominated him for the award. “(He) is an all-around excellent, innovative teacher of mathematics, defined by his approach to his classes and his individual students (and) his leadership in mathematics professional organizations.”

Boelkins has been a professor of mathematics at GVSU for 18 years, teaching various levels of the subject from calculus to the math department’s capstone course. Boelkins said he enjoys the variety of topics and the opportunity to teach students in various stages of their careers.

His teaching strategy involves having students actively collaborate and engage with the material instead of primarily lecture-based classes. Making an effort to get to know students on a personal level is also something Boelkins strives for in the classroom, allowing him to understand what each student’s goals are.

“We’re preparing more students who want to do something other than be teachers, while still preparing future teachers,” Boelkins said. “Our department is working hard to help students find new and exciting career opportunities that they can connect to.”

In addition to teaching courses at GVSU, Boelkins also serves as the director of new student advising and registration. He has also collaborated with his colleagues David Austin and Steve Schlicker to write and publish a free, open-source calculus textbook titled “Active Calculus,” which is tied to the way his classes are structured to promote active learning.

When it comes to his success as a professor, Boelkins credits the feedback of his students and the hard work they put in, motivating him to work harder as an educator.

Another substantial part of his growth as a professor is attributed to having the opportunity to work with many different faculty members in the mathematics department over the years.

“I have a really great collection of colleagues who I work with, many of whom are deserving of an award like this,” Boelkins said. “Those people have made me a better teacher.”

Boelkins added that being able to interact with his colleagues on daily basis to share ideas and learn from them has made the job fun and interesting for him.

Boelkins hopes to continue working at GVSU for as long as possible and is excited for the future of the mathematics department and the university as a whole.

“This award is a huge honor and I am filled with gratitude,” Boelkins said. “But what I’m most grateful for is having the chance be here at Grand Valley.”