Working beyond the mathematics classroom

Our faculty are quite unique in that the work they undertake does not always relate to mathematics or mathematics education. One such example is Richard Pineau, associate professor of teaching, in our department. Professor Pineau recently finished up his time with the Mandela Washington Fellowship. Mandela fellows are from Sub-Saharan Africa and come to the United States in the summer as part of a six-week leadership institute. The fellows are some of Africa's brightest public management leaders and represent many different disciplines of which include education, medicine, business and more.

Professor Pineau was asked to work as a coach with one fellow as part of the Program. He holds a master's degree in public administration from Wayne State University and one of his former instructors recommended that he participate in this capacity. "I was surprised to have been asked to be a coach and to work with some amazing people who are trying to make their part of the world a better place", he said.

Richard Pineau with Daniel Worku
Richard Pineau with Daniel Worku.

Professor Pineau was assigned to work with Assistant Professor, Daniel Worku, from the University of Gondar in Ethiopia. Professor Worku is part of the English Language & Literature department at this institution. His other role, however, is why he applied for the Fellowship. Professor Worku is also the coordinator of the Career Development Center and he was seeking guidance on how he could (1) provide recent graduates with soft skills to make them employable, (2) build his career development center into a more robust hub for students, faculty and staff to learn from each other, (3) engage with stakeholders from the community, university, the region, and abroad to bring about opportunities.

As a coach, Professor Pineau met with Professor Worku once a week. "I gave Daniel plenty of reading material on various ways to help students build their soft skills but more importantly, introduced him to university personnel who he could talk to about his project and get ideas from," Pineau said. These connections, all in Pineau's network that he has built from being on various committees and work he has done while at Wayne State, included Director of WSU's Career Services Shawn Pewitt, Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Carolyn Hafner, and College of Engineering Assistant Dean of Student Services Sondra Auerbach.

Assistant Dean Auerbach oversees many aspects of student life for her college, including internships, which is quite relevant to Professor Worku's project. "I wanted Daniel to hear from folks who are doing the work he intends to do. This way he can hear what is working well, what challenges exist, and some general advice on getting started. Building his network along the way is crucial", Pineau added.

About his time as a coach, Pineau had this to say: "I really enjoyed my time as a coach and working with Daniel was great. I learned a lot about the after-graduation culture in Ethiopia and the challenges students face. Some of them are the same for our college graduates and working to help them place into stable career paths is a worthwhile collaboration. Daniel and I will surely be in touch for the foreseeable future."

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