History of Mathematics at GVSU
William James College


Phone: 616-331-2041
Ted Sundstrom
sundstrt@gvsu.edu

Department of Mathematics
Grand Valley State University
Allendale, MI 49401
William James College
Grand Valley State Colleges opened its third baccalaureate degree granting college in 1971. William James College (WJC) was originally designed to be an interdisciplinary, non-departmentalized college consisting of concentration programs, rather than majors. In an article for the Grand Valley Review (Volume XIII, Fall 1995), Dr. Richard Paschke described three of the qualities that were to permeate the William James approach to college education: future-orientation, career-orientation, and person-orientation:  
William James College will be future-oriented, since its programs will correlate with society's projected needs; it will be career-oriented, since its concentration programs will lead to clearly defined professional opportunities, as well as to advanced studies; it will be person-oriented, in that its programs will stress intellectual and personal maturation within a community of learners.  Those three qualities became hallmark characteristics for the twelve years WJC flourished in the Grand Valley cluster. 
A major part of the WJC curriculum was organized around three concentrations that were meant to be interdisciplinary career preparation offerings: Social Relations, Administration and Information Management, and Environmental Studies. It was in the Administration and Information Management (AIM) program where most of the courses related to mathematics, statistics, and computer science were offered. Because of this program, two of the original faculty members in WJC were mathematicians: Dr. Daniel Clock (who was also part of the planning committee for WJC) and Dr. Kenneth Hunter. In 1974, Dr. Wilbur Walkoe left the Department of Mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences to join the faculty of William James College. Prof. Clock left WJC and Grand Valley in 1973 and Profs. Hunter and Walkoe left Grand Valley State Colleges when the Administration and Information Management program was discontinued in 1979.
 
One of the hallmark features of William James College was the inspiration to create a new synthesis of vocational and liberal education. Fundamental decisions about the college organization, the curriculum, and the philosophy of the college were common features of the formal and informal discussions at WJC. Because of this and its emphasis on problem centered courses and the fact that a majority of its courses were taught with a team-teaching model to reinforce the interdisciplinary nature of its offerings, the curriculum at WJC was very dynamic and changed frequently.
 
Two of the courses that were part of the WJC curriculum throughout its history were Applied Statistics and Algebraic Modeling. The Algebraic Modeling course was part of the Administration and Information Management and was last offered in the 1978-79 academic year.
 
Algebraic Modeling
Original description: Learning the fundamentals of linear algebra in order to model real world problems. Applications from areas such as communications theory, economics, business decisions, scheduling and routing problems, statistics, or any other branch of human knowledge. No use of computers in this course. Linear programming will be covered. Recommended for students in management, environmental studies, data processing, and any area where quantitative decisions must be made. Prerequisite: A working knowledge of algebra must be obtained from two years of algebra in high school or one year in college.
 
Description in 1975-76 catalog: Real problems will be solved using techniques from applied, modern mathematics. The specific problems examined will depend upon the interests, concentrations and employment of those enrolling, but may include operations scheduling, personnel assignment, resource allocation, urban planning and routing problems. The mathematical techniques will include linear programming and other procedures from linear algebra. No knowledge of computer programming required; no computer programming will be done in this course. Prerequisite: Knowledge of high school algebra (through equation solving).
 
Description in 1977-79 catalog: Real problems will be solved using techniques from applied, modern mathematics. The specific problems examined will depend upon the interests, concentrations and employment of those enrolling.   Prerequisite: Knowledge of high school algebra (through equation solving).
 
 
Applied Statistics
Original description: Practice use of a family of “canned” computer programs to solve a wide variety of statistics problems. No previous knowledge of computer or statistics required.
 
Description in 1975-76 catalog: An introduction to several statistical procedures including interpretation of the results and criteria for valid use of these procedures. The student will be introduced to some of the “canned” computer routines available for computing these statistical results. These skills are essential for people planning to do research, field work, or advanced study in environmental studies, social relations, marketing or quantitative decision making.
 
Description in 1980-81 catalog: Statistical techniques for doing real problems in business, environmental studies, social relations, and other areas. Prewritten computer programs will be used to do descriptive statistics, t-tests, F-tests, analysis of variance, factor analysis and discriminant analysis. Not a computer programming course. No previous knowledge of statistics or computers required.
 
Other Mathematics Courses at William James College
It has been indicated that the curriculum at WJC was very dynamic. New courses were frequently offered and others were discontinued. Following is a list of some of the mathematics courses found in the Grand Valley catalogs.
 
Thinking Quantitatively
Description in the 1975-76 catalog: In this course, we shall look at some of the clever and useful concepts used in the mathematical solution of real problems. Several topics will be selected from a list such as the following: Basic BASIC computer programming, beginning probability, beginning statistics, elementary model building, basic logic. A student will find this course useful for developing the ability to think quantitatively.
 
Description in the 1977-79 catalog: Examines some of the clever and useful concepts used in the mathematical solution of real problems. Several topics will be selected from a list such as the following: Basic BASIC computer programming, beginning probability, beginning statistics, elementary model building, and basic logic.
 
It appears that this course was not offered after the 1978-79 academic year.
In the late 1970’s, there was an emphasis on ensuring Grand Valley students possessed certain basic academic skills. One of the ways that William James College seems to have responded to this was to offer some courses in basic mathematics. One such course first appeared in the 1976-77 catalog.
 
Uptight about Numbers
Description in the 1976-77 catalog: This course is designed for people who have little confidence in their ability to use mathematics in real life situations. Individual tutorials, drill and practice, group discussions and lectures will be employed within the class structure. This course meets the first five weeks of the term.
 
Note: It seems that this course was taught in the fall quarter of 1976 for the first five weeks and followed by an algebra course (WJC 1627) in the second five weeks, but there is no description of the algebra course in the catalogs.
 
Description in the 1980-81 catalog: Does the thought of fractions, word problems, x’s and y’s make you uptight? This course will use approaches effective in reducing math anxiety. Each student will work at his or her own level. The course will involve both group discussion and individual work. Recommended for students who need to build computational skills and algebraic competence. Useful for students in education and for students who need to pass the William James College math skills requirement.
 
Note: The math skills requirement was implemented in the 1980-81 academic year. It was part of the skills requirements for graduation at William James College. The catalog stated that entering students must take a series of diagnostic tests in reading, writing, and quantitative skills. Based on the test results, remedial work might have been recommended or required.
 
Another course that was directed towards helping students with mathematics anxiety appears to have been offered only in the Summer 1977 quarter. This was WJC – Math Clinic.
 
Math Clinic
Addresses problems of anxiety and fear with respect to mathematics in a humane an confidence building manner.
 
 
Management Operations
Description in the 1977-79 catalog: Techniques for product process and manpower planning, work system design, ergonomics, work measurements, forecasting, logistics, inventory control, quality control, and cost control systems. Prerequisite: High school algebra.
 
Note: This course was part of the Computers and Management Program and was discontinued after the 1979-80 academic year.
 
Operations Research Topics
Description in the 1977-79 catalog: Quality control, project scheduling, inventory control, logistics, ergonomics, forecasting, process control, investment analysis and applications of probability. Prerequisite: Algebraic Modeling.
 
Note: This course was part of the Computers and Management Program and was discontinued after the 1979-80 academic year.
  Last Modified Date: November 16, 2007
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