Whether she’s teaching derivatives, exponents, integrals or the Pythagorean Theorem, math has always been easy as “pi” to savor for Dr. Tamela Randolph, chair of the Department of Mathematics and professor of mathematics at Southeast Missouri State University. After all, she chose her children’s names through a mathematical process, named her first cat, “Algebra,” and spends her rare idle time doing math puzzles like Sudoku and Traffic Jam.
“I have always loved math,” she says.
Randolph will present the address at Southeast’s spring commencement exercises planned for 2 p.m. May 14 in the Show Me Center.
The northeast Missouri native says the most rewarding part of her work is when students tell her, “I finally understand!
“That is why I teach,” she said. “I want to help others understand mathematics in a way that maybe they were never exposed to in their previous mathematics classes. That is why I teach at the university level — so I can help teacher candidates understand and appreciate mathematics, so they can pass this positive attitude onto their own students.”
Randolph joined Southeast in 1997 as an assistant professor of mathematics. Since that time, she has risen through the academic ranks, serving as associate professor four years before assuming the role of department chair in 2009. During her tenure, she also has served as interim dean of the College of Education and interim associate dean and acting dean of the College of Health and Human Services.
She holds a doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction—mathematics education from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, a Master of Natural Science in mathematics from Southeast Missouri State University and Bachelor of Science in Education, secondary mathematics education, from Truman State University.
She credits her high school math teacher for encouraging her to study and do well as the impetus for pursuing a career in mathematics. Her interest in teaching was sparked as a high school freshman when she was tapped to teach eighth grade advanced math students, a role she continued throughout her high school years. Now, she’s passing her passion for mathematics on to the next generation.
As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, Randolph takes pride in the Girls Go Green STEM Summer Academy she co-founded at Southeast for underrepresented girls from five school districts in the Missouri Bootheel. Southeast will host the academy for the fourth year June 16-19, offering a fun-filled week of innovative activities to spark a more profound interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“The Girls Go Green STEM Summer Academy is something I am very proud of!” she said, adding she dreams of a foray someday into the international education of women. “This is such a passion of mine and would be a great venue to impact change on a large scale.”
Randolph also is the founder of the Student Association of Mathematics Educators (SAME), a mathematics education organization at Southeast.
During the spring 2016 semester, she co-taught the annual course in which students spend a week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a policy think tank in Washington, D.C., during spring break. There, 30 select Southeast students, President Carlos Vargas, Provost Karl Kunkel and four faculty members, along with national scholars and policy experts examined global issues in foreign policy, food security, global health and challenges in civil society.
In 2013-2014, Randolph led a redesign of the math curriculum at Southeast in an effort to help students graduate more quickly. The redesign followed the University’s participation in the Missouri Completion Academy through the support of the Dana Foundation and Complete College America which offered participants recommendations on reducing time to complete a degree, tackling developmental education and implementing flexible strategies to ensure student success. With the math curriculum redesign came the opening of a new math center in Memorial Hall in fall 2014 at Southeast.
These efforts led to Randolph’s statewide involvement on the Executive Team for the Missouri Math Pathways Taskforce, an advisory group to the Missouri Department of Higher Education. She also spearheads a subcommittee to develop course objectives for the education pathway. These have been shared with institutions across Missouri and are being submitted to the Missouri Department of Higher Education and the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education for their endorsement.
In addition, Randolph recently was invited to co-chair the Missouri Math Co-Requisite Taskforce. This statewide committee has been established to determine how best to offer developmental and gateway mathematics courses in Missouri so students can be successful and graduate more quickly. The subcommittee will establish recommendations for universities to follow when creating their co-requisite mathematics models.
She is a member of the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Missouri Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Mathematics Educators of Greater St. Louis.
Randolph has been honored with the Faculty Appreciation Award from the Office of Admissions, the Jane Stephens Honors Program Faculty Exempli Gratia Award, the Success in Scholarship Sports Service Award from Southeast’s Department of Athletics, the Leroy Sachs Award for outstanding leadership and direction in mathematics education in Missouri from the Missouri Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and both the then College of Science and Mathematics Teaching Award and PRIDE Award. She has published and presented regionally and nationally in the areas of mathematics, mathematics education and technology in education.
Grounded in mathematics, Randolph’s interests are eclectic. A prolific yard saler, she enjoys mushroom hunting, identifying wild flowers and birds, and camping. She nurtures 10 rescue cats, is a fan of the Peanuts comic strip characters and has an extensive Snoopy collection. Perhaps she reflects Snoopy’s persona – fun, loyal, good-natured and kind to those around him.
“I think Snoopy became my favorite because he was always his own dog, never worrying about what others thought of him,” she said. “Also I loved the way he teased Lucy and took such great care of Woodstock and his bird friends.”
Randolph is the mother of two children, Kyle and Lacy.