Hatfield Appointed Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chair for Mathematics
September 22, 2009 — The opportunity for scholarly leadership was a natural next stage in Larry Hatfield's long and distinguished career. He is the newly appointed Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chair in Mathematics Education Professor at the University of Wyoming.
Hatfield joins two other UW College of Education endowed chairs -- professors James Baumann in literacy and Tim Slater in science education -- to bring nationally-recognized expertise in preparing new teachers and providing inservice teacher professional development opportunities. A fourth Wyoming Excellence chair in education will join the college in January.
"We look forward to Dr. Hatfield's leadership and influence in our efforts to strengthen our UW graduate programs to prepare the next generation of mathematics education faculty for higher education and also in supporting our pre-service programs for K-12 teachers," says Kay Persichitte, UW College of Education dean.
The 2006 Wyoming State Legislature established the Excellence in Higher Education Endowment, which included a $70 million endowment to create at UW senior faculty positions for highly distinguished scholars and educators. The legislation creating the endowment states that the endowed positions must expand university instruction and research in disciplines related to economic and social challenges facing Wyoming.
The UW Wyoming Excellence chairs are nationally and internationally recognized leaders in their fields.
"We are looking to them to serve as magnets to attract the best and brightest junior faculty and students to UW," says Nicole Ballenger, UW associate provost.
Hatfield comes to UW from the University of Georgia, where he held for several years the Josiah T. Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics Education position. He is widely recognized for his research and teaching in the development of mathematics concepts and influencing school reform through mathematics instruction.
The Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education endowment represents an "extraordinary visionary step toward building an enhanced culture for education and scholarship for Wyoming, the nation and even globally," Hatfield says.
"I was deeply impressed with everyone's perspectives that I encountered as a candidate for the position, and now I am excited and honored to be at UW at this time," he adds.
While at the University of Georgia, Hatfield helped to develop and build the school's doctoral mathematics program, recognized as the nation's top program in a recent study of peer rankings. One of his primary roles at UW will be to develop the new mathematics education Ph.D. program.
"A solid education in mathematics is recognized highly throughout the world. One only has to look at the reality of expectations and emphasis in our society for achievement in mathematics to realize its importance. Without developing a sound knowledge of mathematics, so many doors of opportunity get slammed shut for students," Hatfield says.
"We must also realize that for too many students, mathematics is a context for confusion, low meaning, discouragement and even failure. Far too many students develop brittle, mechanical knowledge that lacks deep conceptual understandings. This is the real challenge before us and we must collaborate with our pre-college partners -- the teachers and administrators of our schools."
Hatfield's commitment to these issues is manifested in his research and his extensive experiences across decades of work with professional development and continuing education of teachers at all levels. Among other focal points, Hatfield wants to explore new initiatives and opportunities to increase the numbers of students who seek careers in mathematical sciences.
"I am hopeful that we can establish a new resource for developing mathematically promising youths in this state and region," he says.
He envisions developing an academy in which university faculty and graduate students, serving as coaches and mentors, can offer stimulating summer mathematical enrichment experiences for identified youths and their math teachers. The next step is to provide an ongoing support system for them and their parents during the school year.
"In the years ahead, I am sure we can establish UW to be among the world's most exciting and powerful places to study and work in mathematics education," Hatfield says. "There are so many points of excellence here, and by building new communities for improving our knowledge and practices for educating in mathematics, we can surely become a world leader. I hope that can be our challenge and I'm deeply passionate and grateful to be a part of it."
He received his mathematics B.S.Ed. (1962) from the University of Minnesota and M.S. (1966) degrees from Western Michigan University, and a Ph.D. (1969), also from the University of Minnesota.
Hatfield served as a National Science Foundation (NSF) program director and was promoted to deputy division director, where he initiated new funding programs for professional development of science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers. He received the NSF Employee Superior Achievement Award.
He also has held visiting professor appointments at Columbia University and at universities in The Hague (Netherlands) and Perth (Western Australia). Hatfield has written more than 60 books and articles and presented papers at more than 60 national and international meetings. He has initiated and directed 35 externally funded projects with budgets awarded more than $5 million.
Posted on Tuesday, September 22, 2009