Things you never thought you would do

While studying for  prelims or qualifying exams in graduate school or writing your thesis, there were lots of things you probably never thought you would be doing later in your life, even if folks told you that you would.  Serving on committees is one of them, while attending faculty meetings, meeting with admissions departments, doing interviews on the local radio station, and many more activities also fall into the category of "I never thought I would be doing this."

Way back in 1976 I was interested in teaching a course on cryptology, but could find no unclassified modern books - there were lots of articles from WWI and WWII in popular magazines, but nothing serious on which I could offer a mathematics based crypto course. So I began looking around (this was pre-Internet looking!) and I found several colleagues, among them David Kahn, author of the scholarly tome, The Codebreakers, who inspired me on this crypto course journey originally. This was coupled with my summer hire work at the National Security Agency while in graduate school. I was thinking of a mimeographed newsletter we could distribute at cost to others around the country who were also interested in crypto. In that way we could get to know about sources on which we could base a course. One thing led to another and before you know it we had a full-fledged academic, refereed journal (not just a newsletter) and I was the Editor, indeed the Managing Editor, running the entire operation out of my house with the help of my family - stuffing journals in envelopes and slogging them down to the post office!  For me it was wonderful working with colleagues, running a referee system, editing manuscripts, doing the art work, collaborating, sending out the issues, maintaining the subscription list, etc. 

This was ALL stuff I never thought I would be doing, never really knew existed - starting a journal!  I liked journal creation so much that I started two other journals, Collegiate Microcomputer and PRIMUS-Problems, Resources, and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies. The latter journal has become a leading source of ideas on undergraduate mathematics teaching and is now ably edited by two young colleagues, Matt Boelkins and Jo Ellis-Monaghan, while Cryptologia is capably edited by Craig Bauer.  I  stopped publishing Collegiate Microcomputer as it was too broad based and all undergraduate disciplines were publishing their own journal on using computers in their field.  A submission on  the philosophical import of the DOS prompt caused me to fold up the journal!  So what was to be a career as a teacher of mathematics in the proverbial small liberal arts college involved lots and lots and lots of editing and journal formation. Who woulda thunk!

As our careers evolve (and they sure do) we move into areas we never thought we would consider and it makes life exciting and intellectually rewarding. I always advise the folks I mentor to be open for opportunities in areas and activities you never thought you would do, for they may prove to be some of the most exciting things you do professionally.  I commend venturing to you!

Comments on this entry

There are no comments at this time.

Post a comment

You must log in to post comments.

Please keep comments relevant to this entry. Comments deemed offensive or inappropriate may be removed.