Dr. Mark Causapin
Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Please tell us about your background and what brought you to Concordia.

I was born and raised in the Philippines. I went to college at the University of the Philippines and majored in industrial engineering. I worked for two years at Toyota and moved to New York City afterward, working in engineering and finance. At 27, I became a math and physics teacher while I pursued my master’s in mathematics education at Columbia University. After which, I continued on to my doctorate studies while working at various colleges in the city and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth in Hong Kong during the summer. I received my Ph.D. in 2012 and accepted a position at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. I moved back to the U.S. in 2016 and taught at Aquinas College in Nashville. In 2018, I started working at Concordia.

What course is your favorite to teach and why?

My two favorite courses are Mathematics for Elementary Teachers and Introduction to Statistics. I enjoy them the most because they are very practical and impactful. Mathematics for Elementary Teachers is a course on mathematics that everyone needs to understand – from business people and engineers to carpenters and farmers – and how to teach them to children. It is highly interdisciplinary as well. On the other hand, Introduction to Statistics is a course that teaches you how to solve problems and answer questions using data.

What do you love about teaching at Concordia?

I love hearing the personal stories of students, where they’re from, what they experienced when they were growing up, and what their post-college plans are. As someone who is not from the region, I find it amazing and enjoyable to discover new perspectives and a different culture.

Why do you believe that mathematics is a valuable discipline to study?

Mathematics is a valuable discipline for two reasons: First, for its utility. Second, it is a unique art form. Mathematics helps us communicate our thoughts, think about ideas, explore theories, and organize reality. From modeling ecological phenomena and predicting the dynamics of the biggest constellations to the smallest quarks to evaluating financial securities, mathematics is indispensable. However, the second reason is probably the most common reason why mathematicians study mathematics. Math allows you to work on fun puzzles that can produce beautiful and elegant ways of thinking.

How does Concordia differ from other places you have worked?

During my interview, which was the first time I visited Concordia, what struck me was how the retired math faculty were involved with the interview process and were present for my job talk. I remember it was Jim Forde and Bill Tomhave, who I replaced, who took me around to see the campus and talk about Concordia. I even met Jerry Heuer, who was still alive at that point and was holding an office in the library. I think it shows how many connections these faculty have with Concordia and how Concordia can be such a special place. As a side note, Bill Tomhave is involved in the Math Teacher-Leaders Honors program and has given talks to our current scholars.

Please tell us about securing the NSF Robert Noyce Teaching Scholarship grant and what is involved in the Mathematics Teacher-Leaders Honors Program.

I wrote a proposal for this project in 2019 and we were awarded the grant in March 2020. The goal of the project is to produce 16 high school math teachers who will be leaders in their schools and in the field. We have several activities lined up for the scholars including internships in local schools, conferences, and planning for a Math Day event.

What advantages does this grant give to Concordia students and how can they participate in the program?

The big advantage is that the grant pays for the cost of attendance at college. It covers the scholars’ last two years of college, up to $42,000. The scholars also have the opportunity to work with great teachers during their three-semester internship. During these internships, they learn from these master teachers who will also be their mentors during student teaching and the first two years of working as new teachers. The scholars will be busy during these two years and have activities such as extra seminars, conferences, and Math Day event planning.

What do you see in your students?

I am impressed by how students juggle their academics, sports, music, and other extracurricular activities! I can see that a lot of my students have multiple interests and Concordia is the perfect place to explore those interests.

What recommendations do you have for students thinking about graduate school?

Graduate school is a wonderful experience. However, it is also an endeavor that requires significant investment in terms of time and money. Students should really think about what they want to do in terms of their career goals and how a graduate degree fits in this plan. For many careers, a graduate degree is not necessary; instead, you need specialized experiences within organizations to get certain training to pursue that career. Other times, the graduate degree that you need to pursue is not in the same fields as your undergraduate degree. Therefore, it’s important to spend time thinking seriously about what you want to do after graduation so you can plan accordingly. Ask people in the field with more experience, check out job sites or organizational websites, and talk to your professors or the Career Center.

What do you enjoy about the Fargo-Moorhead community?

I like that the cost of living is lower, houses are cheaper, there’s no traffic, you can circle the whole city in 20 minutes, it takes me less than 10 minutes to get to work, there’s a lot of open spaces and parks, and it’s still a city so you can get what you need here.

Do you have any advice for students considering Concordia?

Students who are considering Concordia should talk to faculty and current students to get a feel for what Concordia offers. I think it’s easy to feel comfortable and at home here. Admission staff do a great job of scheduling these kinds of meetings. Be sure to ask a lot of questions, not just about academics, but also about life on campus.

Published January 2022