Every other week, the My First Year blog will be sharing stories of faculty so that our freshman students can get to know their professors a bit better and hear some of their advice for new students.
Mike Daven, Professor of Mathematics
Years at the Mount: 20 years
Where did you go to college? I graduated from Villanova University (undergraduate) and Auburn University (PhD).
What are your hobbies/what do you like to do outside of work? I enjoy hiking, wandering the many trails we have in the Hudson Valley. Mount Beacon is a quick and rewarding climb, Storm King has some interesting trails with a variety of great views, and Breakneck Ridge is my absolute favorite hike! The website https://hikethehudsonvalley.com is like a to-do list of great trails in our area.
What is one thing most students don’t know about you? As an undergraduate, I earned degrees in mathematics and philosophy. I started as a math major then added philosophy as a second major after taking an “Introduction to Philosophy” class. This wasn’t a big leap since I already enjoy the abstractness of mathematics. In my philosophy courses, I became aware of how much I love learning new perspectives and thinking about thinking!
What does a successful student look like in your class? A successful student is willing and prepared to ask questions. What parts of a lesson or topic do you understand? What parts are unclear? What’s missing? How do we fill in those gaps?
What was an experience you had in college that positively impacted you? An instructor in one of my undergraduate English classes said something in class that has stayed with me to this day: “It is not the responsibility of college students to know the right answers, but the right questions.” At the time, I wasn’t doing particularly well and wasn’t enjoying my studies, but this comment rattled me and caused me to rethink the way I viewed myself, my fellow students, and my teachers. Now, as a teacher myself, I take that quote to be a significant part of my job description – helping my students find the right questions and to become better at asking questions. Your instructors may sense that you have questions, but we won’t know what those questions are until you ask. So ask those questions! If you can’t find the right question to ask, talk with someone about what is unclear. Those conversations may come up in class, during office hours, in a tutoring session, or with other students.