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Alumni Spotlight: Patrick R. Shields '09

patrick r. shields

BS Mathematics


Philadelphia, PA

Current Position

PhD Student/Teaching Assistant
Drexel University








 My Widener Experience


why did you decide to major in mathematics?

I majored in mathematics to have the relevant background to pursue further education and eventual employment in the actuarial sciences. I decided upon this route for entirely the wrong reasons. I eventually realized that I did not enjoy the field, nor did I want to become an actuary. So I focused most of my attention on the humanities. I ended up never switching my major and reaffirming my desire to study mathematics. The math faculty members inspired me in a way that no other instructors had previously. They made the material alive and beautiful in an unprecedented way.

who was your favorite professor at widener? why?

It is hard to decide as a few professors left a profound and indelible mark on me. However, Dr. Richard Pappas did so at a pivotal time. Dr. Pappas took material that I had regarded as arcane, dead, and mundane and transformed it into something vibrant and important. He had a talent for making material accessible without reducing it to being facile. I can recall being palpably excited for his lectures that seemed to unfold with all the drama and purpose of well-written fiction. I am lucky to have been educated by him.

My Professional Experience

how has widener prepared you for life after college?

I do not believe that I would have become a mathematician, so I owe a unique debt to Widener. Aside from profoundly affecting my interests, Widener gave me the necessary technical background in mathematics to allow me to succeed with a strong liberal arts foundation. Aside from helping to differentiate me from others in my field, I feel that the well-rounded education I received has made me generally more content in life. 

what advice would you give a prospective student considering your major?

I learned far more in the faculty offices than I did inside the classroom. So take advantage of the math faculty's accessibility and expertise. Part of Widener's comparative advantage in education derives from the individual attention students can receive. The breadth and richness of my knowledge would be severely compromised if not for the heroic efforts by the faculty to entertain my questions outside of the classroom.