As an undergraduate student studying mathematics at Wuhan University in China, Zhewei Dai was so inspired by her own professors that she determined she would follow in their footsteps.
“I wanted a career in which I would have lifelong learning and an intellectual challenge” she says. “I wasn’t interested in the 9-5, then repeat, same everyday lifestyle. I also had wonderful teachers who shaped me, and through them, I realized teaching was an important and honorable profession.”
Dai earned her doctorate in mathematics at Michigan State University, but she never imagined she would stay in the United States after acquiring her degree. Once she met her husband and changed her mind, she knew she wanted to teach at a liberal arts college, she says.
“My undergraduate degree in China was 90% math classes, so I didn’t have much training outside of math, but I think to be a well-rounded person, it’s important to be able to talk to other people about history, about music, about other disciplines,” she says. “After I found out about liberal arts colleges, they were the only institutions I looked into in 2005 when I was searching for a position. Alma was exactly what I wanted.”
The associate professor of mathematics loves teaching her Alma students about mathematics, a subject she calls “beautiful,” but Dai also enjoys getting to know them as people. One of the best opportunities to do this was on a recent Spring Term trip that she led to her home country of China, she says.
“It was a learning experience for me as much as for them,” she says. “I got to know their perspectives and saw how much impact a professor can have on a student’s life. I found myself really teaching the whole person, hearing about the students’ struggles, and seeing them grow. We had a fabulous time.”
- Ph.D. Applied Mathematics, Michigan State University
- M.S. Statistics, Michigan State University
- B.S. Applied Mathematics, Wuhan University, Peoples Republic of China