For every graduating class, each academic department at GVSU chooses a single "outstanding graduate" to recognize. For the mathematics department in 2009, the recipient of this distinguished honor is Geoff Patterson of Haslett, Michigan. While we often hear of students changing majors during college, typically we think of transitions from, say, engineering to mathematics: but Geoff started out as a film major, and in fact he chose GVSU for college because of the quality of the film and video program. We are delighted that he changed his mind and pursued a degree in mathematics.
Geoff shares that he has fallen in love with Grand Valley during his time here. "Most aspects of the university fit me perfectly," he says, "and those which did not originally fit have shaped me for the better." He has especially appreciated the teachers and smaller class sizes, granting him a very personalized college education. When asked about his favorite courses, Geoff named a few. Euclidean Geometry helped him begin to see some of the beautiful results that occur in mathematics, and The Mathematics of Voting and Elections enabled him to appreciate a very applied aspect of mathematics. Moreover, his Modern Algebra II course was also very enjoyable as it opened a door to the world of much more theoretical mathematics. Geoff was also a participant in the GVSU mathematics REU, a summer research experience that has had a major impact on his future plans while simultaneously giving him an even greater appreciation for math in general.
Following graduation, Geoff plans to continue his education by pursuing a PhD in mathematics. At the time of this writing, he has been accepted to University of Hawaii and Clemson University and is awaiting replies from several other schools. Ten years from now he hopes to be engaged in mathematics research, perhaps by working at an organization like the National Security Agency. Regardless, he says "I hope to never stop learning math."
Current and former students know how much work the mathematics major is. So they might be surprised to learn how many different things Geoff finds to do in his spare time. For example, this man of many hobbies spends some of his spare time surfing on Lake Michigan, playing drums and guitar, running, playing beach volleyball, playing softball, and programming computers. He is also the owner of Responsible Boy Taxi, a safe-ride service for GVSU students on weekend nights, at which he employs more than 10 other students and owns several vehicles. In Geoff's words, "I am rarely unoccupied."
As he departs GVSU this spring, Geoff has some words of wisdom for students with time left at Grand Valley: "talk to your advisor at least a few times a year, partly to ensure you are taking the right courses, but also to look for summer internships or research opportunities so that when you are not taking classes you can be gaining experience in other ways."