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Gatepost Interview: Benjamin Atchison, Math Professor

A photo of Benjamin Atchinson.
Ryan O'Connell / THE GATEPOST

By Sophia Harris

What is your educational and professional background?

I got my bachelor’s degree at Trenton State College, which is now called The College of New Jersey. It is a state school – very similar to Framingham State – it started as a teacher’s college. I got my bachelor’s in math with a minor in German and then master’s and Ph.D. at the University of Albany – State University of New York also in mathematics. And then, after getting that degree, I got a position here as an assistant professor.

What is your role at FSU and what does your job entail?

So as a professor, full-time tenure, I have teaching obligations – three courses a semester at

Framingham, and we advise students, and we also do some scholarship and some service for the University. Currently, I am the curriculum committee chair for the University Curriculum Committee. Typically, it’s two 100-level courses that we teach a semester and then one upper level course.

What made you want to become a math professor?

As an undergrad, I had a decision to make if I wanted to use my degree in the corporate world or pursue a Ph.D. At my school, a small state liberal arts college, I really admired my advisors and the professors and the lifestyle working on college campuses – it is fantastic. The other option was actuarial work and I decided at that point in time, I wasn’t ready to go that route officially. So that’s what led me to a Ph.D. program and it is what eventually led me here.

What is the best part about your job?

I would say the interactions with students, but also faculty. I think working on a college campus, especially now that I have two young children – important topics and pertinent things are brought up and discussed, whereas I think in other settings, it doesn’t happen as freely. It’s really valuable not only as an employee, but also as a father. It sort of makes me rethink how I’m raising my kids and how they’re affected by my parenting.

What are some of your personal hobbies?

My family does a lot of camping. I do as much trail running as I can. My kids are big into Perler Beads. So I joke that I do a lot of Perler Beads and a lot of ironing. I grew up in the ’80s – in the Nintendo World – so I sort of introduced my kids to that early on. We like board games as well in our household. And, I’ll participate in friendly competition in any sort of organized sport, but I’ll say friendly because I’ve never really excelled in any one sport.

Do you have any advice for FSU students?

There’s a lot of growing up that happens after high school between the early 20s all the way up into the early 30s. Be open to examining yourself as an individual and the world around you and be willing to learn and to be critical of yourself. But at the same time, ask questions, seek support when you need it, and communicate. When I was hired here, I talked about four areas that served me well as a grad student. The four areas I focused on were confidence in my pursuits, humility because it can be quite challenging to achieve your goals, responsibility – you have to be responsible for your own accomplishments and failures, and understanding. I teach mathematics for understanding. ... I’ve since added communication to that – communication is essential. I’ve learned that a lot. I keep going back to that in my role here.


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