The Spur

Matthew Zabka to Join Math and Computer Science Department

Kathryn Kaiser, Staff Writer

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The SMSU Math and Computer Science department will be welcoming a new faculty member as fall semester rolls around. Matthew Zabka, a soon-to-be graduate from Wayne State University in Detroit, will be joining the Mustang faculty. He will begin by teaching pre-calculus and calculus.

The search and hiring committee for the position consisted of several faculty members including the Math and Computer Science Department Chair Dan Kaiser and Associate Professor of Chemistry Noelle Beyer. A current math and computer science major, Joseph Lilleberg, also joined the committee.

“With over 100 applicants, there was a myriad of documents that I had to read carefully, ensure that it met the minimum requirements, and mark anything I felt to be important in the application,” Lilleberg said.

Once each committee member analyzed every application, they chose which ones to continue to the next phase of the hiring process.

“Despite being a student, my voice was weighted just as any other faculty member’s in the committee,” Lilleberg said. “Applicants were only marked off if everyone, including myself, unanimously agreed.”

The remaining candidates underwent phone interviews with the committee. From there, the committee eliminated the pool down to three candidates. These individuals were then invited onto campus.

Uniquely, each candidate was also interviewed and observed in the classroom setting. The three candidates taught a mock calculus course using the same lesson content to various freshmen through senior students.  The hiring committee also invited each one out for supper to familiarize themselves with the candidates in a more informal setting.

“The three finalists we brought to campus were outstanding and all three would have been good additions to the department,” Kaiser said.

After much discussion, the committee felt that one candidate stood out amongst the three.  While Zabka will possess all of the professional prerequisites of the position when starting in the fall, he also displayed abilities beyond the requirements.

“He asked lots of questions and was very encouraging and supportive of all the answers that were given during the classroom observation,” Beyers said. “That, in turn, made the students more willing to respond and participate as class went on.”

From the students’ standpoint, Lilleberg was impressed by his accommodations to ensure that all the students understood the material.

“Not only was he able to engage the entire classroom in his discussion, but he was also able to garner some laughs, which can be tough to do in math,” Lilleberg said.

While the hiring committee was impressed by Zabka’s abilities, he was also searching for the right fit.

“I was looking for an academic position whose primary focus was teaching and working with students,” Zabka said. “Everybody I met at SMSU was very kind.”

Zabka originates from St. Paul with a love of Minnesota sports teams. Another aspect of Zabka that stood out to the committee was his abroad experience in Germany towards the end of his undergraduate degree.

“I thought it would give him a different perspective from others without any experience abroad,” Beyers said. “Also, I thought that it might help him better relate to international students and faculty here.”

Zabka not only spent time abroad, but also enjoys learning other languages. He is fluent in German, and is learning French and Ukrainian.

Overall, the hiring committee is pleased with their selection and excited to welcome him this upcoming fall.

“His congenial and open nature will allow an easy transition for him into the SMSU community,” Kaiser said. “My colleagues and I look forward to working with him.”

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Matthew Zabka to Join Math and Computer Science Department