Washburn student captures top mathematical award at convention

Mathletes (left to right, front) Kristin Ranum, Sarah Butler, (second row) Hwa Chi’Liang, Sarah Cook, Tamela Bolen, Richard Nelson, (third row) Brandy ‘Mann, Alexandria Jeannin, Riley Harrington, Sean VanDyke, Jennifer ‘Wagner, (top row) Bill Gahnstrom, Kevin Charlwood, traveled on April 4 to the Kappa Mu Epsilon conference. Mann received an award for her presentation.

Josh Rouse

Washburn may want to consider adding a competitive new sport to their athletics department next season: calculus.

On April 4, seven faculty and eight students traveled to Pittsburg, Kan., for the Kappa Mu Epsilon north central regional convention. During the weekend competition, three of the students presented projects that they had worked on for more than a year, in some cases.

Brandy Mann, Tamela Bolen and Alexandria Jeannin were the three presenters representing Washburn, imparting their papers and PowerPoints before a panel of judges and an audience of fellow students from across the region.

Mann, a senior in math, finance and accounting, was one of four presenters to receive an award for their projects. Her paper, titled “Where do we hunt for Ichabods?”, focused on Washburn’s problems with admissions. The other three students to win awards were Natalie Hilger of Fort Hays State, Amanda Johnson Baty of Drury and Brandon Turner of Missouri State.

“This year there was so much good competition. All the research was just amazing,” said Mann. “I was honestly in shock that I won … I think that was the best moment. It was really interesting to hear everyone’s speeches as well, but it was nice to know my research was so unique from everyone else’s at the conference.”

Lecturer Bill Gahnstrom, who mentored Mann as she prepared for the convention, said that seeing her go up there and present after all the work she had done was a gratifying moment for him.

“[I felt] a great deal of satisfaction,” said Gahnstrom. “I was extremely proud of her, and in fact, before she presented I told her how proud of her I was. She had worked so hard doing research, developing her paper, putting together a PowerPoint presentation, presenting it many times to me and to other members of the faculty and the capstone group and math club. She was always enthusiastic during the presentations and when we identified ways that it might be improved slightly she was eager to make adjustments.”

For Mann the experience wasn’t entirely new, as this was her third KME convention. However, it was her first time presenting, and she said that presenting one of the top four papers with her mentor and a panel of judges watching was a bit intimidating.

“It was a little nerve-racking at first but after the first few minutes it just kind of came naturally, especially after spending so much time on the project,” said Mann. “It was just a lot easier to talk about than I thought it would be.”

Gahnstrom recalled the awards presentation when a bit of confusion took him on a rollercoaster ride of emotion. During the presentation the winners were being announced in a random order, and Gahnstrom was unsure of how many winners there were going to be. However, his fears were alleviated when Mann’s name was called.

“You were either an award winner or you weren’t,” said Gahnstrom. “They announced three names and none of those were Brandy, and it was not clear to me that they were going to announce anymore and that was not a good moment for me. Knowing how hard she worked, I was worried she wasn’t going to get the recognition I personally thought she deserved. So in a way, that was the worst and best moment all in one.”