A visiting professor of mathematics felt only one thing when she was asked to teach at Purdue – nervous.
After living in California and Arizona all her life, visiting assistant professor Alejandra Alvarado found herself in the Midwest here at Purdue’s campus. She graduated from Arizona State University and worked at the University of Arizona before coming to Purdue.
“I applied for a position here and I was accepted,” Alvarado said. “I knew a few people in the mathematics department, a few good mentors and somebody who also had similar research interests. That’s one of the reasons why I applied.”
Her status here is temporary, spanning from August 2011 to this May. Alvarado said she’s enjoyed her experience thus far, even though getting settled took some getting used to.
“I grew up in California and lived in Arizona the last 10 years and then came here and it’s totally different,” she said. “(There is a) different set of people and everything was just different … but I really really like being here. I’m really happy.”
According to Christopher Earley, dean of the School of Management, there are a plethora of reasons Purdue brings visiting professors to campus.
“We bring them in for several reasons, including (filling) openings for key courses if our own faculty are on leave,” Earley wrote in an email. “They provide new perspectives and expertise that our own faculty may not have (and) they help stimulate new research perspectives and engage our own faculty members for new projects.”
He added that in addition to the host school, the visiting professors are also offered opportunities they might not have received otherwise. This is especially true for those who come from different regions or backgrounds.
“They are able to see their work through the lens of another university and other faculty members,” Earley wrote. “It (also) provides the visitor with an opportunity to network with other faculty members and to learn their approach to teaching and research, and it gives them a chance to focus on new research opportunities without the traditional obligations of being a full-time faculty member.”
He wrote that visiting professors contribute breadth and diversity while they’re here, and new teaching styles students should take advantage of. In Alvarado’s case, she noticed there are not many female Hispanic professors in the math department, so she thinks that’s something students were able to experience for the first time.
For her own benefit, teaching two math classes each semester as well as summer classes is merely the start of what she’s gained from her time here.
“They have a lot of activities here,” Alvarado said. “They have monthly seminars for women faculty with all sorts of different topics, from tenure track to grant writing. The other thing the math department has offered that’s been different than where I was before is grant money. You have the opportunity to go to conferences ... which Purdue will help pay for.”
Alvarado’s visit has kept her busy, but in the best way possible. As she has begun applying for permanent jobs, she said the lessons she’s learned during her time at Purdue have helped prepare her for the future she’s looking for.