Craig Disselkoen ('15)
For 2015 graduate Craig Disselkoen, adding a math major to his pursuit of a computer engineering degree meant more than versatility; it meant an alteration of his future plans. Currently doing research for Dr. Nathan Tintle and assisting Dr. Douglas De Boer with teaching responsibilities at Dordt, Craig would not have found this employment opportunity without the addition of a math major.
In his research role, Craig is involved in developing and evaluating new statistical and mathematical methods for use in bacterial genetics. He draws on his mathematical training at Dordt to use logical, analytical thought processes to build these methods and implement them into computer code. Working very closely with Dr. Tintle, Disselkoen attributes his acquisition of this position to the relationship he built with Dr. Tintle during his independent math study, a semester-long requirement of the math major.
Craig did not begin his career at Dordt as a math major. In fact, he did not even declare it as a minor until his sophomore year. He was primarily focused on computer engineering, but his love for math led him to take more math classes, eventually culminating in the addition of the major. He says he enjoys the thrill of problem solving and seeing how much more there is to math than the textbook exercises in algebra or calculus. “Not that I dislike algebra or calculus, but as a math major you get to see a much wider variety of types of math that are much more than just pushing numbers around.”
Disselkoen is about much more than pushing numbers around. After each of his years at Dordt, he obtained very competitive internships that used his math skills while focusing on his computer engineering training. After working as a Software Engineering Intern at Wabtec Railway Electronics in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, post-freshman year, Disselkoen pursued research opportunities for the following two summers. The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) is a highly competitive program that accepts approximately a dozen applicants from a candidate field of about 300 students. Craig was accepted after both his sophomore and junior years (at Iowa State University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, respectively), and believes the math major on his resume played a role in his acceptance.
The problem-solving and analytical-thinking skills of a math major carry over very well into the realm of computers, according to Disselkoen. He saw those skills at work in his internships, and they are now being further utilized in his role at Dordt. Furthermore, majoring in math was one of the biggest factors in his decision to apply to graduate school for a Ph.D. in computer science rather than computer engineering. He describes computer science as the middle ground between computer engineering and mathematics, incorporating the rigorous, abstract mathematical ideas and formal proofs into the world of computing. Nonetheless, Craig maintains that the skills he developed as a math major will be indispensable in any technical field.
Because of his positive experience as a math major, Craig has several pieces of advice for anybody considering pursuing a math degree. First, he suggests having fun with it. “I had a lot of fun in my math classes – more, in many cases, than I did in my engineering classes,” he says. Upper-level math courses often give fun challenges as homework, and solving the problems, though difficult, is very rewarding.
Second, he recommends focusing on conceptually understanding the material, which holds true for any major, but is particularly relevant to math majors. Instead of focusing on memorization and number-pushing, Craig advises always asking the why behind a certain idea or process. It leads to greater understanding, better retention, and excellent preparation for future learning and development.
Finally, Disselkoen wants to encourage people not to worry about future opportunities for math majors. Whether this means pursuing graduate school or finding one of the many employment opportunities available, he knows that the options are many. “Not only do [career prospects] exist, but actually, math majors are quite in demand in a variety of fields and places you wouldn’t expect,” he says. Craig has worked hard and taken full advantage of the opportunities he’s been given and he recognizes the importance of his math background in his current and future endeavors. As someone who has seen the benefits of majoring in math, he knows the opportunities associated with such a rewarding degree are great.
Dash De Groot ('15)
“If you love math, major in it.”
When Dash De Groot started his college journey, he had no idea what to major in. He had always been good at math but wasn’t sure if it was realistic to pursue a degree in it. From what others had told him, it would have been a better idea to major in something more “applicable,” like engineering or business, because it would be easier to find a job in those areas. But Dash didn’t want to do the easy thing. He wanted to do what he loves in a career where he could have fun and enjoy the daily work, and that meant majoring in math.
Looking back, it was a good choice. “If I hadn’t majored in math, I wouldn’t have gotten the job that I have now,” he says. Dash is currently working as a financial analyst at ReliaMax, a Sioux Falls based company specializing in private student loans. Prior to his full-time role as financial analyst, he was an intern with the company beginning in May 2015. When looking for candidates for Dash’s current position, ReliaMax wanted someone who was both analytically and mathematically oriented. Dash employs both of those qualities.
De Groot’s positive and successful experience at ReliaMax is largely due to his extensive math education at Dordt. His responsibilities as a financial analyst include building mathematical and financial models with many moving parts or variables, something for which his math classes prepared him well. Dash says that while this complexity might seem daunting to others, he is confident in his skills because of his practice in math courses.
In addition to developing his mathematical abilities, Dash believes his courses at Dordt also gave him the teamwork skills that will help him progress throughout his career. The small, intimate upper-level math classes were conducive not only to quality technical education, but also to building leadership qualities that will help him in the future. De Groot plans on being a Christian leader in a business setting where greed and dishonesty seem to be the norm. That reason, among others, is what sets him apart from others in the corporate world.
Many of Dash De Groot’s colleagues shy away from math, but he embraces it. He enjoys it, finds the mental challenge fun, and relishes the opportunity to solve problems. Because of his decision to major in math at Dordt, Dash’s love for mathematical thinking is put into action every day.
Kaitlin Bell ('13)
A focus on spreading and showing Christ’s love to her students is what gives Kaitlin Bell fulfillment in her everyday interactions. Currently teaching 7th grade math and pre-algebra at Sidney Middle School in Sidney, Montana, Bell believes her rigorous education at Dordt prepared her well for the challenges she faces each day.
Arriving at this point in her career involved a unique journey. After graduating in 2013 with a degree in secondary math education, Kaitlin and her husband, Devin, spent six months in Honduras through a WGM mission trip before settling in Montana.
“We felt God calling us to step out of our comfort zone and use our gifts to serve.”
That selflessness is what led the Bells to work at El Sembrador, a Christ-centered ministry dedicated to “educating, discipling, and challenging the future leaders of Honduras.” Many families in Honduras struggle to afford education past the elementary age, and El Sembrador aims to make further education more accessible. While serving, Kaitlin used her experiences at Dordt to enhance the educational experience of Honduran students by helping them learn math while also shining Christ’s light. “Teaching definitely involves more time, emotions, and effort than one would presume, but God’s children and our future are worth the effort!” she says.
Kaitlin recognizes that Dordt has been integral in her teaching endeavors in both Honduras and the U.S. Beyond her degree in secondary math education, she also pursued endorsements in middle school math, middle school science, and coaching. Bell was very active in the Dordt community and loved her experiences in athletics, playing volleyball for three years and running track all four. Her coaches and fellow athletes encouraged her to be the best she could be and celebrated her accomplishments. Kaitlin takes that positivity and applies it to her teaching and volleyball coaching at Sidney.
“It’s showing them that you care about them as a person,” Bell says. In addition to her love for interacting with and helping youth, she chose math education because she understands the struggles students face. Math did not always come easily to Kaitlin while she was in middle school or high school, but she enjoyed the challenge. She wants her math students to be able to have a similar experience.
“I appreciate beyond words the Christian focus on education that was impressed on me at Dordt.” Kaitlin has used that impression to provide positive opportunities for students across the world. Whether it’s challenging students in Honduras or challenging students in Montana, she constantly adheres to her focus on spreading and showing Christ’s love.
Shirley Kaemingk ('87)
“Teaching is so rewarding because I have the opportunity to interact with so many different students each day of the year.”
For Shirley Kaemingk, 1987 math education graduate, teaching math is about far more than the numbers, formulas, and equations. It’s about serving God and serving others, and teaching students to do the same.
Kaemingk is currently in her 25th year of teaching at Unity Christian High School in Orange City, Iowa. In addition to teaching Geometry, Applied Geometry, and Algebra II at Unity, she also coaches softball as another way to interact with students. While at Dordt, she met her husband, Karl, who was also in the math education program. After graduation, Shirley and her husband moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they both taught math at Westminster Academy for three years. They then moved back to Sioux Center, where Shirley began teaching PE at Sioux Center Christian and Karl taught General Math at Unity. Within two years, Mrs. Kaemingk found herself back at the same school as Mr. Kaemingk. The two have remained at Unity since then.
Math and education are in the family for the Kaemingks. Two of their four children have chosen education as their career focus. Their oldest daughter, Sarah, graduated from Dordt in 2013 with a degree in math education and is currently teaching math at Western Christian High School in Hull, Iowa. Their son, Andrew is a freshman in the education department at Dordt. They all employ a similar philosophy to Shirley’s: to impact students by creating a positive learning environment, forming relationships, and communicating God’s gifts through teaching.
“I love teaching math because God has given us this gift of mathematics to use in so many different ways, and it is a privilege to share that gift with my students,” she says. One of Shirley’s favorite parts about teaching math is when students reach that “aha” moment. Watching students grow through their high school years is important to her, partially because high school was when Shirley began to consider pursuing teaching. She enjoyed school and working with people, so it seemed like a good fit.
As Kaemingk took her first education class at Dordt, she realized God had been guiding her in the direction of teaching for her entire life. Jeremiah 29:11 is particularly influential to her: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” God’s plan for Shirley’s future in math education became evident while at Dordt. She has taken that plan and made the most of it over the last 30 years, impacting many students and hoping to make their future evident as well.