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After obtaining her undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, Allison Henrich '08 came to Dartmouth as a graduate student in the Mathematics department.
Here, she studied the mathematical theory of knots under Dr. Vladimir Chernov while participating in the Graduate Student Council and other student groups and graduated with a Ph.D in Mathematics. Since then, she has been teaching at Oberlin College and is soon moving to a tenure-track teaching position in her hometown at Seattle University.
Taking a teaching position after graduation was not an unexpected career move for Allison - she had plenty of experience teaching before coming to graduate school and says that her experiences at Dartmouth only made her love it more. Having taught many community college courses before moving to Hanover, she participated at Dartmouth in the Mathematics Department's intensive teaching seminar and then began teaching courses here. This, she says, confirmed for her that "[she] would be very happy as a professor at a school where there is an emphasis on excellent teaching."
Dartmouth, Allison explained, not only strengthened her interest in a teaching career, but helped her to develop as a teacher. Most importantly, she said, "I found my own teaching style and learned about many ways I could improve the way I teach without sacrificing my individuality." Teaching undergraduate courses gave her plenty of opportunity to practice in this arena, while her work with Dr. Chernov gave her valuable research experience. In addition, Allison spent time working to help better Dartmouth's graduate community, since she feels that service to one's school is a crucial aspect of any professor's job. Overall, her experiences at Dartmouth led her to feel confident in her abilities to teach, conduct research, and be a "valuable part of an academic community."
In addition to her involvement with the Dartmouth community, Allison also spent some of her time working with younger students in the community at large. Collaborating with graduate students from Dartmouth and other institutions as well as undergraduate members of the Association for Women in Mathematics, Allison helped to develop a workshop explaining the tiling of planes for presentation to middle and high school classes. "The idea," she explained, "was to expose younger students to different types of fun math and show them that people who do math for their career aren't necessarily old nerdy-types." Allison has continued to be involved in local communities after graduation and is one of the organizers of a panel discussion on outreach to local schools that will take place this summer at Mathfest.
While both Oberlin College and Seattle University place a heavy emphasis on the quality of the teaching provided by their professors, they also require professors to remain actively involved in research pertaining to their fields of study. Since graduating, Allison has published one paper based on her thesis and submitted a paper that she co-authored on another topic. She maintains close contact with her collaborators at other institutions and plans to participate in the SMALL undergraduate research program at Williams College this summer. Conducting research with her colleagues has remained an important part of her work post-graduation, and she looks forward to getting involved with undergraduate research.
As she moves on to Seattle University, Allison hopes to continue to improve her teaching and to have a positive impact on both her own department and the wider mathematical community. She wants to share her interest in mathematics with others, not only by involving undergraduates in her research but also by reaching out to even younger students to cultivate an interest in math. Ideally, she says, "I would involve undergrads in teaching kids cool things about math. We shall see what the future holds!