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Paulina Volosov ’14 joined the math­e­matics department last fall. Courtesy | Paulina Volosov

When Paulina Volosov ’14 began her job search, she did not hes­itate to apply for a position in the math­e­matics department at Hillsdale College. After earning her master’s of science in applied math­e­matics and Ph.D. in math­e­matics from Rens­selaer Poly­technic Institute, Volosov began teaching as an assistant pro­fessor of math­e­matics and has come to enjoy being on Hillsdale’s campus once again.

“My goal was always to find some­thing as close to Hillsdale as pos­sible because the department here is absolutely won­derful, and everyone gets along,” Volosov said. “That alone is very pre­cious to work in such an envi­ronment. And then of course the stu­dents are very easy to get along with and they’re inter­ested and polite.” 

Volosov com­pleted her Bachelor of Science in math­e­matics and German at Hillsdale College and said she enjoyed being sur­rounded by other stu­dents who were willing to explore many dif­ferent ideas. Studying both math­e­matics and German allowed her to broaden her worldview as a student. 

“The nice thing about Hillsdale is that you can come, and even if you’re studying math, you’re still inter­ested in cre­ating a wider worldview of history and intel­lectual tra­di­tions,” Volosov said. “When I came to Hillsdale, I had some ideas, but they were def­i­nitely broadened and solid­ified within those four years.”

Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Math­e­matics David Gaebler taught Volosov when she was a student at Hillsdale and said he is excited to have her back in the department as a colleague. 

“We were all very happy to see her name on the appli­cation list,” Gaebler said. “We did our due dili­gence to check all of the other appli­cants, but she was head and shoulders above the rest of the pool.” 

Gaebler said Volosov had a “high-level of maturity and poise” as a student, so her tran­sition into the department as a faculty member has gone smoothly. Reflecting upon Volosov’s time as a student in his class, Gaebler said she was steadfast and approached her work with a smile.

“There’s one par­ticular point that I remember in the course where I assigned this assignment that I expected to be dif­ficult, but it turned out to be excru­ci­ating,” Gaebler said. “I was mobbed by dozens of people swarming my office hours. I got an email from one of my top stu­dents in the course saying that he just couldn’t take the mental strain anymore; he had reached a breaking point. And then I asked Dr. Volosov about assignment labor issues, and she said, ‘Oh, that was kind of fun.’” 

Gaebler said he looks forward to seeing Volosov grow within the math­e­matics department and within the greater college com­munity. Although Volosov has taught just two classes so far, Gaebler said he imagines that she will take on a bigger role assisting with student research and working with student groups, clubs, organizations.

“I look forward to her being net­worked into all of the little niches and corners of campus,” Gaebler said. “The first year we don’t give people com­mittees, clubs, or other things outside of teaching, but she’ll be ready for all of those extras when the time comes.” 

Junior Lily Van­wingerden is an applied math­e­matics major who enjoyed the prac­tical aspects of her numerical analysis class with Volosov. In addition to the content of the class, Van­wingerden said she appre­ciated Volosov’s ability to create an enjoyable learning environment. 

“She was very good at proving every­thing we did and then giving us the space to learn it and really use it on our own,” Van­wingerden said. “I under­stood the material better, and then in my struggle trying to implement it in code, I was able to work through and overcome a lot of the obstacles that came with that.” 

Junior Adam Stacey is also an applied math­e­matics major who took numerical analysis with Volosov last semester. He is cur­rently taking math­e­matical mod­eling with her. When he first entered numerical analysis, Stacey said he did not think of himself as a superb math­e­matics student, but Volosov helped boost his confidence. 

“When I started taking numerical, I didn’t think in a thousand years that I’d want to get a Ph.D. in math, and now it’s my goal,” Stacey said. “I would credit her with pointing me toward the oppor­tu­nities and helping me see what I could do.” 

Stacey said he also enjoys learning from Volosov because she under­stands the mindset of being a student at Hillsdale and pro­vides helpful guidance for thinking about graduate school. 

“It’s nice when you’re looking at what you need to do to prepare for grad school because she went through all of that a couple of years ago,” Stacey said. “I really liked the fact that she’s a Hillsdale grad. It’s cool to see someone who was in your shoes not all that long ago who went to a great grad school and got her Ph.D.” 

Van­wingerden said Volosov has become a role model for her and has helped her learn more about preparing for graduate school. Cur­rently, Volosov is the only woman pro­fessor in the math­e­matics department, and Van­wingerden said the change has been both exciting and comforting. 

“It’s been nice to have such a won­derful and elegant role model who is a woman and does under­stand how to com­mu­nicate with other women,” Van­wingerden said. “She’s very well-edu­cated, so I’ve been able to go and talk to her about a myriad of dif­ferent topics, including talking about reading material that’s not math-related at all.” 

Both Van­wingerden and Stacey said Volosov also chal­lenges her stu­dents but pro­vides them with a strong foun­dation to succeed while working through dif­ferent problems. 

“I had a lot of problems in numerical where I would go and ask her for help asking: ‘How do I actually do this?’ And she would say, ‘Well, you have to figure that out for yourself,’” Stacey said. “You grow a lot in the class and you learn a ton instead of just having every­thing handed to you. But it’s not like you’re on your own, so she has a really good balance there.” 

Volosov said getting to know her stu­dents has been a delight and she looks forward to becoming more involved with dif­ferent orga­ni­za­tions on campus, helping stu­dents with research, and teaching seminar classes. 

“I’m very happy to be here, and I’m just enjoying myself so much that it hardly feels like work,” Volosov said. “When I was a student, I really enjoyed when we had a per­sonal rela­tionship with the pro­fessor, and it’s true from this side as well.”