Math Matters

Johnson, Cousins and Millichap pose in the IR Office.

From left, Michael Johnson, Christian Millichap '08 and James Cousins '14 pose in the IR Office.

Young alums divulge the effects of mathematical models and Dickinson connections.

by Ben West '14

What is the relationship between a successful mathematician and his education? When most people solve for x, it tends to equal practice and prepwork. But this can obscure the role teachers and mentors play. Two young alums, writing in the latest issue of Math Horizons, bring the people back into the equation, discussing their mentors’ role in a unique experience with Dickinson’s Office of Institutional Research (IR)

Working under IR Director Michael Johnson, and propelled by Professor of Mathematics David Richeson, James Cousins ’14 and Christian Millichap ’08 capped their time at Dickinson researching questions posed by the Dickinson community, from compiling data on faculty salaries to parsing statistics on admitted students. Cousins and Millichap are enthusiastic about the blend of social-science curiosity with hard-science analysis in their work, a perspective lent from Johnson. 

“He has been an invaluable mentor and inspiration to me,” Cousins says of Johnson. “He exemplifies the perk of studying at a small, private, liberal-arts college,” where students can connect and collaborate with faculty and administrators alike. 

Cousins, now a data analyst at Rapid Insight Analytics Inc., and Millichap, a Ph.D. candidate at Temple University, benefited from their close work with Johnson even after leaving Dickinson. In January, with Johnson’s support and guidance, Cousins and Millichap led a workshop for American University’s admissions team to develop enrollment-management models. 

“I would like to think we were a big help in giving them a crash course in how to do mathematical modeling for enrollment management,” says Millichap. 

Richeson, who edits Math Horizons, could not be more excited to share their story with the magazine’s primarily undergraduate readership. 

The article, “The View From Here: The Math Behind College Admissions,” “would give the readers a glimpse of the inner working of an academic institution,” inspire them with career ideas and give them a sense of how one benefits from a mathematics degree, Richeson says. “And it would introduce them to two of my favorite students.”

The mathematicians all stay in close contact, highlighting that the relationships formed first with equations, classrooms and models remain intact once the final tally is done.

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Published November 6, 2014