VERMILLION, S.D. -- What happens when you combine inspirational faculty with a student’s love of math? For Doug Dailey, a student at The University of South Dakota, it all adds up to a 2010 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.
Dailey, a 2007 graduate of Elk Point-Jefferson High School, is one of only a handful of mathematics majors to receive the Goldwater Scholarship this spring. In fact, Dailey became USD’s 11th winner of the prestigious scholarship but his road to academic success wasn’t always paved with math, especially when he came to campus as a freshman.
“I knew that the Business School was one of the best around,” said Dailey, the son of Michael and Cathy Dailey of Jefferson, S.D. “But, as a freshman, I found that business wasn’t for me.”
In the back of his mind, though, was math. His high school mathematics teacher, Rita Ahmann, served as an inspiration when it came to numbers and calculations.
“She really inspired me to study math,” he said with a smile. “It was something I could do well and it seemed like a natural fit.”
But it wasn’t just help at the high school level that fueled Dailey’s passion for math. He credits Catalin Georgescu, an assistant professor in the department of mathematical sciences at USD, as both helpful and energizing when it comes to studying and researching math.
“Probably the driving force behind all these comes from his genuine excitement and curiosity for everything that is new,” Georgescu pointed out. “He has a perfect GPA, but he also found time to be part of the Math Team for Mathematical Association of America contest in the fall and to do research with me all year long.”
Susan Hackemer, Nationally Competitive Scholarships Coordinator, said students are often “in awe of Dailey’s mathematical abilities, yet he remains both helpful and humble.”
“It strengthened my resolve to study math,” Dailey described the experience of working with Georgescu. “At the time I was excited about doing math research, but he got me even more excited about it.”
Excitement was also a new addition to his personal life. In July 2009, Dailey married his high school sweetheart, Genevieve, who is also a student at USD. He was more than happy to share the good news of his Goldwater Scholarship with her.
“The Goldwater (Web) site said, ‘late March’ but I kept checking my e-mail every day,” he said with a shrug. “Then I got an e-mail from (USD) Provost (Chuck) Staben at home on March 31 saying ‘Congratulations on receiving the Goldwater Scholarship,’ so we got to share it with each other. That was pretty special.”
Special is how Dailey describes the math department at The U. Calling it one of the “treasures of campus,” he wants to use his experiences at USD as well as funding from the Goldwater to be a college professor and researcher to “influence students” in the same way professors at USD influenced him.
“Doug is a model student in that he is an initiator and looks for opportunities,” explained Dan Van Peursem, associate professor and chair of the department of mathematical sciences at USD. “He does not wait for them to come knocking on his door. He is the type of student that is continuously striving to do his best and get the most of his education.”
Education is obviously important to Dailey, who is taking 16 credits this semester. Since his freshman year on campus, Dailey has been a member of the Student Technology Fellowship program assisting faculty in the Beacom School of Business in the use of technology for instruction. He is also a member of the Math Club and German Club. He’s also assisted with research in the physics department and he recently presented math research, “Dynamics of a Cubic Map” at USD’s IdeaFest. But Dailey has also found time to stay busy outside the classroom. In addition to being a husband, he is also a member of the USD Concert Choir and last year he was part of the Chamber Singers.
“The Goldwater has opened some doors,” admitted Dailey, who will graduate next May. “My goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in math and, hopefully, be a college professor someday.”
“Undergraduates with plans for graduate school strive to become competitive for graduate fellowships and assistantships to pay for their advanced degrees,” Hackemer added. “Earning a Goldwater Scholarship as an undergraduate will most certainly improve Doug’s already good chances of securing funding for his PhD.”
Recipients of the Goldwater Scholarship receive up to $7,500 per year to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board. This year, 278 scholarships were awarded on the basis of academic merit. More than 1,100 mathematics, science and engineering students, nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide, applied for the scholarship program, which is designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields. In its 24-year history, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation has awarded 6,079 scholarships worth $58 million.
A photo of Doug is available for download at www.usd.edu/urelations/images/Doug_Dailey.jpg.