By Elizabeth Franks-North, Contributing Writer
Patricia Oakley, professor of mathematics, is a blogger for Goshen Commons, a yarn spinner, a knitter, a gardener, a vegetarian, a lover of sustainability and a modern day homesteader.
Oakley, who has been teaching at Goshen for 14 years, resigned earlier this semester to pursue her many hobbies.
“I have a lot of interests. I’m kind of eclectic,” Oakley said. “My goal for this coming year is to be in the exploring phase and to see where my interests lead me.”
In talking about Goshen College, Oakley says that she has really enjoyed being here. “It’s a little sad because I won’t teach the math/art course I had outlined,” she said.
Oakley attended Wheaton College and Northwestern University. As the only girl in her upper-level math class in high school and the only female physics major in college, Oakley continued to advance in the male-dominated field.
“I wanted to prove that I could do it,” Oakley said.
After graduating with her Ph.D. in low-frequency sound wave propagation, she worked first at North Seattle Community College and then at Seattle Pacific University as a professor. She also worked at the University of Washington in the applied physics lab.
Oakley didn’t know much about Goshen, but applied for a job when there was an opening. “I wanted to teach at a school that emphasized teaching, not research,” Oakley said on why she liked Goshen.
Oakley spoke on how important collaboration and learning were to her. Her favorite memory in college involved working together with other math students to solve an “impossible” equation.
“I just loved that feeling of us all working together as one,” Oakley said, “and I don’t get that much because the science and math fields are pretty solitary.”
Now, Oakley enjoys working together with her students. “I love it when students come up with ways to do a problem that I wouldn’t have thought of,” Oakley said.
Oakley had wanted to teach since graduate school, but she wanted to explore too. She continues to explore by integrating math and the arts together. She designed a course, Math World, for the new CORE curriculum that mixed the two. “Sometimes I think being integrative can feel a little forced,” Oakley said, “but I like using applied mathematics with everyday things for fun and I do like the connection of math, forms and art.”
Oakley also uses knitting to demonstrate complex mathematical concepts and figures. “I do like doing things differently. I can’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again,” Oakley said.
Oakley wants to see where she ends up and is open to any opportunities that present themselves. “I wanted to do something different,” Oakley said. “If I chose to explore another passion of mine, I wanted to be able to throw myself into it.”
“It’s nice to have a lot of different interests,” Oakley said about her pursuit of something new. “I don’t think I’ll ever be bored.”
Potentially, Oakley will be taking a farming internship somewhere. “It would combine my interests in education, being outdoors, and sustainable, small-scale farming,” Oakley said.