April 17, 2013
The Arizona State University Sun Devil Family Association honored Stephen Wirkus, professor of mathematics in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, as the 2013 Professor of the Year for his lifelong commitment to mathematics and his ability to inspire students to become innovative and successful in often-difficult classes.
Wirkus teaches at ASU at the West campus during the academic year, with many commuter and non-traditional students attending his classes. During the summer, he works at the Tempe campus in the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute as co-executive program director for a summer program that focuses on underrepresented minorities.
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“I’m truly humbled to have been chosen among such stellar colleagues – I’m still in disbelief,” Wirkus told attendees April 16 at the 2013 Faculty Excellence Awards, a celebration of faculty achievement. “I’m happy to have been able to make a difference in the lives of my students and thankful for the supportive environment that ASU has provided for me as a faculty to grow as a teacher and mentor, and thereby serve and impact our communities. This award is particularly meaningful because it is a true testament to ASU’s commitment to access, excellence and impact on our communities and the value that the Sun Devil Family Association puts in this.”
Wirkus, who completed his doctorate in 1999 at Cornell University, continues to share his applied mathematics skills with students who strive to learn what he has over the years. He arrived at ASU in 2007 and has since created the bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics at the West campus and two new courses involving applied mathematics in biology and upper-division applications.
Special Recognition awards also were presented to Ann Kinzig and Kevin McGraw, both professors of life sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Information and a video about the 24 nominees can be found at asu.edu/pty.
After teaching for 17 years, Wirkus has created the program at ASU that he says he wishes he would have had as an undergraduate. Outside of ASU, he continues to increase his mathematical presence within the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and has been awarded grants totaling more than $680,000 by the National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency to support hundreds of undergraduate mathematics students traveling to the annual SACNAS conference.
Several undergraduate students and faculty colleagues contributed letters in support of Wirkus’ nomination. These letters were considered by the committee of parents, other Professor of the Year winners and scholarship students in recognizing Wirkus. The ASU Sun Devil Family Association awarded the first Professor of the Year award in 1994.