Sam Otten Named Department's Outstanding Graduate

Sam Otten of Rudyard, MI, has accomplished some impressive things during his time at Grand Valley:  he will finish the mathematics major with secondary emphasis (including student teaching) in just four years; he engaged in a research project with Professor Filiz Dogru that was funded by Summer Student Scholars (S3 grant) in 2005; and he completed his entire degree with a perfect grade point average.

Sam Otten

Sam has long been attracted to mathematics:  in high school he appreciated the order and structure of mathematics, and also felt engaged by the subject because it seemed to treat problem-solving as an end in itself, rather than simply a means to some other end. He also enjoys many creative endeavors – such as music, writing, and drama – so he was delighted to find, beginning in MTH 210, that there is no lack of creativity in mathematics (and no lack of writing).

Among all the courses he took at GVSU, Sam particularly appreciated Math 495, The Nature of Modern Mathematics, because he enjoyed reading, writing, and thinking about the nature of the subject in addition to actually doing some mathematics. He was, and remains, intrigued about the subject’s history and its philosophical debates.


When asked about the best parts of his time at Grand Valley, Sam shares that he has been most affected by “the work done with friends for productive purposes” involving such diverse activities as producing music with peers, discussing mathematics and philosophy late into the night, and tackling mathematics projects and tackled engaging problems.  For students just starting the major, he offers this encouragement and advice: “work on articulating the reason you enjoy and love the discipline of mathematics, because you will meet with many disbelieving people who will need to hear the justification.”


His summer 2005 research experience impacted his choice of careers.  Rather than teach high school, Sam now aspires to earn a doctorate degree in mathematics so that he may join the mathematics faculty at a college or university in the Midwest.



Page last modified June 16, 2017