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Chad Baldwin
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Phone: (307) 766-2929
Email: cbaldwin@uwyo.edu

UW Students Appreciate Jeff Selden’s Approach to Teaching Mathematics


April 28, 2014 — Mathematical analysis is one of the oldest, deepest and most challenging areas of mathematics, but University of Wyoming mathematics lecturer Jeffrey Selden has shown the rare ability to challenge students to understand and succeed in this difficult subject.

For his efforts, Selden was chosen to receive the John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award. The awards are made possible by a fund established by Ellbogen to "foster, encourage and reward excellence in classroom teaching at UW." Winners are selected from a list nominated by students, and the awards are based entirely on classroom performance and helpfulness to students.

This year’s other winners are Joe Cooper, assistant professor in the Department of Management and Marketing; and David Finnoff, associate professor in the Department of Economics and Finance.

Since beginning at UW, Selden has gone the extra mile to help students learn in 18 classes spanning 13 different courses, ranging from beginning calculus through graduate-level courses such as Partial Differential Equations. Through it all, his students describe him as “an outstanding teacher,” and statements such as "Professor Selden did a remarkable job in teaching this course" are repeated throughout the written comments.

“He is committed to quality instruction of mathematics at a variety of levels, delivering what students almost unanimously describe as rigorous yet relevant courses,” wrote John Spitler, a colleague in the Department of Mathematics. “He has made, and will continue to make, a significant impact on those students fortunate enough to have him as a teacher. They will think about mathematics and its connection to the world around us.”

Such commitment to student learning, Spitler says, is offered “for each and every one of his students no matter whether that student is a first-semester, perhaps somewhat intimidated, freshman from some small town in Wyoming or a graduate student trying to understand the finer points of functional analysis. His expectations are high, but he is willing to do everything within his power to help his students attain, and even surpass, the lofty goals he sets. “

Students appreciate the challenges Selden sets for them.

“His lectures are concise and to the point, which allows time for students to ask questions and interact with him. His depth of understanding allows him to answer almost any question effectively,” writes former student Eric Jensen. “Most importantly, Dr. Selden's ability to break problems into fundamental steps makes higher-level math seem very clear and simple. His exams are challenging but fair and are always designed to drive home key concepts. This structure and his personable demeanor make Dr. Selden's classes very memorable.”

Ph.D. candidate Rachel Farris says Selden exhibits a perfect balance between approachability and subject knowledge.

“Jeff is approachable and he makes his classes enjoyable” she writes. “On the other hand, he pushes you to work hard and understand the material on your own. I look forward to taking many more classes with him in future.”

Another student, Sierra Johnson, also praises Selden’s teaching style.

“If some students are unable to understand a topic based on his first explanation, he will patiently use another example, or explain the concept in a different way,” she says. This not only helps more students understand each concept in class, but also provides a greater depth of understanding to all students.”

Selden joined the UW faculty in 2008. He received a B.S. in mathematics (1998) with high honors at New Mexico State University, and received a Ph.D. in mathematics (2004) from the University of Arizona.

Photo:
Jeff Selden

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