New Mathematics Space Brings Professor's Vision to Life

New Mathematics Space Brings Professor's Vision to Life

The Department of Mathematics at the University of San Diego, located on the ground floor of Serra Hall, has been redesigned. Make that reimagined. On October 17, the department held a celebratory event to introduce its new dynamic, state-of-the-art environment for student collaboration, faculty research and community gathering.


The centerpiece is a new Math Studio, which is expected to serve as an incubator and promoter of a radical, physical experience in mathematics research, borrowing ideas from manufacturing, art studios and design thinking. Glass walls, open spaces, and easy navigation are part of the design, allowing fresh new pedagogical approaches and environments that can better reflect and advance mathematics for the 21st century.

Construction of the new space, which happened this past summer, occurred with the help of a generous $1 million grant from The Fletcher Jones Foundation.

“Our goal with the re-design is to use space effectively and allow the beauty of mathematics to shine through unhindered,” said Satyan Devadoss, PhD, the USD Fletcher Jones Endowed Chair in Applied Mathematics. “Through the glass walls of the math studio, students will see some seriously cool, playful investigations, and constructed models, illustrating what mathematics looks like when it’s embodied beyond a textbook or chalkboard. The work happening throughout our department will highlight mathematics as something that is exciting and alive, constantly being created and molded through experimentation.”

Before the grant proposal was approved, though, Devadoss met with Fletcher Jones Foundation Executive Director and Treasurer, Mary Spellman.

“Satyan and I had a fabulous conversation about math, about the beauty of math and the things that could happen here if only we could change this space,” said Spellman, who attended the Oct. 17 celebration.

She did a site visit to better understand what USD wanted to do with a reimagined space. “There was this incredible energy among the faculty. I met several faculty members and asked about what could happen here, the changes you were doing in your major, the work that Satyan and Lynn (McGrath, math department chair and associate professor) were doing and I was really excited about the project.”

When the proposal came before the foundation’s board for review, they, too, were excited about the possibilities, she said.

“One thing they were particularly pleased about with this project was that it would amplify the gift they had already given to allow USD to bring Satyan here and to see how that changed how you’ve been thinking about math at the university and how this space could allow you to dream even bigger,” Spellman said. “I’m so honored to be here today to see it come to life and I get to go back and tell the board that, in fact, your vision and their support of it has come to life even bigger than I think we could have imagined when we first read the proposal.”

With the latest gift, The Fletcher Jones Foundation has given USD more than $5 million in recent years, including funds for the mathematics chair, Donald P. Shiley Center for Science and Technology and the School of Leadership and Education Sciences. The Fletcher Jones Foundation, based in Pasadena, Calif., was endowed from the estate of Fletcher R. Jones, Co-Founder of Computer Sciences Corporation. The primary mission of the Foundation is the support of private, independent nonprofit colleges and universities in California.

College of Arts and Sciences Dean, Noelle Norton, PhD, congratulated Devadoss for his vision to bring the reimagined math space to life and thanked Spellman, to whom she said, “I think you understand USD at a deep level and really felt good about the kinds of things we wanted to do here.

“The gift has already transformed USD,” Norton continued. “This is a gift for all students at USD, regardless of what school they associate. Math is part of the core (curriculum) and because of that, all students are going to be able to take advantage of this particular space. Already you’re inviting different units in here; you’ve been working with art, theatre, architecture and philosophy. This space underscores and is a symbol of what the liberal arts can be at USD.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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