Personal spotlight: Dr. Katie Volz

Student gives special thanks to a helpful professor

How do you teach a subject to students who have already decided they are not good at that subject? Dr. Katie Volz faces this question every day when she teaches general education math courses at UW-Platteville.

This semester, Volz is teaching Mathematical Explorations, a course created by the math department for students who have met the mathematics cut-off scores for a general education math course but do not have a major requiring a lot of math. Volz compared it to music appreciation, except that it is for math instead.

Besides Math Explorations, this semester Volz is teaching two sections of College Algebra and one section of Linear Algebra. Last semester Volz taught Business Calculus and Math Explorations, and was kind enough to take over atrigonometry class for another professor when that professor had a baby towards the end of the semester.

Melanie Bisbach, a freshman in Volz’s Math Explorations class this semester said her favorite thing about having Volz as her professor is how “she is just super willing to help us no matter what we are having trouble with, whether it’s a certain problem, an assignment or a whole unit.”

When asked how she tries to teach math to students who don’t like it or are not good at it, Volz shared that “I try toencourage students to be open-minded and I try to get to know my students and invite them to come and get help early in each semester.” Volz says she cares about every students’ understanding of mathematics “because math shows up in every aspect of life, so I want my students to not fear math.”

Dr. Volz has been in the math department since the fall of 2017. Previously, she taught at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois for two years, Cornell College in Iowa for a year-and-a-half and Grinnell College in Iowa for half a year. She earned her
undergraduate degree in 2002 from Augustana College. Later, she went on to earn a Ph. D. from the University of Iowa in 2007.

Volz said she has always liked math but, interestingly, “I didn’t want to like math.” Volz thought she wanted to be a medical doctor, but realized that meant she would have to stop taking math classes and she “just loved math too much.”

Volz stated that “some really good teachers,” such as her professor for Calculus 2, sparked her interest in mathematics. Volz stated that her Calculus 2 professor, “really challenged [me] . . . I loved the challenge and knew I wanted to take more classes from him.” One of Volz’s favorite things about teaching here is “the variety of classes I’ve been able teach.” Another favorite thing is “I’ve also met many interesting students.” Finally, she “look[s] forward to each new semester and what it will bring.”