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Breeann Wilson '19

Math grad moves forward with confidence

At times, Breeann Wilson '19 felt her status as a first-generation college student threatened to keep her from reaching her educational goals. Now, as she enters a Ph.D. program with the ambition of becoming a math professor, she sees her background differently.

"I view my socioeconomic status now as motivation for attending graduate school so that I may use my doctorate degree to benefit other students who have the same mentality I had," says Wilson, who double majored in math and mathematical economics.

Wilson says her mentality as a student was often one of self-doubt, but she found an important source of encouragement in her professors.

"I nearly stopped myself from filling out graduate school applications because I underestimated my ability to continue my education at a level unknown to my family," she says. "The math department has helped me to challenge these doubts, and with this encouragement from my mentors at Whitworth, I have achieved more than I thought possible."

Indeed, Wilson accomplished much as a Whitworth student and, as a transfer student, did so in a short amount of time. Last summer, she completed a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at James Madison University where she was introduced to graduate-level research.

"The most meaningful part about it was gaining the experience of doing mathematical research and working with a team of other motivated individuals toward a common goal," Wilson says.

The REU opened new opportunities for Wilson. She co-authored a mathematical research paper that was recently published in an academic journal and has presented at regional mathematics conferences.

Wilson's love for math is obvious, and she has worked to instill an appreciation for it in other students as a tutor.

"Math seems to have a reputation for being difficult," she says. "As a tutor, I try to switch this narrative so that students may see the beauty in mathematics as they realize that their homework is not as scary as they thought."

To Wilson, the beauty of math is "how complete and invariable it is, even when we can't see the big picture."

Wilson explored this beauty outside of the classroom this past Jan Term through the Math History program in England and Germany. "Like many others on the trip, it was my first time going to Europe, and it was an incredible experience," she says. "We touched an Enigma machine from World War II, saw Isaac Newton's death mask, and toured more than a handful of beautiful churches. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience with my math peers."

This fall, Wilson will begin her doctoral program at the University of Colorado. Although she has some sadness about leaving Whitworth and Spokane, she is looking forward to moving closer toward her goal.

"The last few weeks of my undergraduate career were bittersweet," she says, "but I know that Whitworth has taught me the tools to succeed as I start graduate studies in the fall."

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