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KCC Faculty on Teaching

KCC Faculty on Teaching

Shoshana Friedman

How did you get into teaching?
I’d intended to follow a research path when I entered into the mathematics PhD program at the CUNY Graduate Center. While in the program, I was fortunate enough to receive a graduate teaching fellowship that required me to teach. The experience was eye-opening. I guess you can say I found my calling in this experience. It changed the trajectory of my life and the rest is history.

What career did you imagine for yourself when you were in college?
Looking back, my career path has been a process of evolution starting from a childhood interest in math and science. As a child of immigrants, education was always emphasized and prioritized as a way for us to achieve the American Dream. The career options presented to me, however, were rather limited and I set out originally to become a doctor. In the course of pursuing that goal, I was exposed to research and switched gears.

What do you love about teaching?
As a math professor, there’s probably nothing more rewarding to me than the moment when a student realizes that the impossible is, in fact, possible. Too often, students approach math with a phobia – as if there is some inherent lack that prevents them from learning math. It’s that moment when you see the lightbulb go off, when the student has not just the knowledge but the confidence to go further.

What’s your favorite teaching experience?
It’s hard to nail it down to just one thing. The moment when the student’s lightbulb goes off is always rewarding. Given my background and the fact that many of my students are immigrants or first-generation Americans, the opportunity to introduce them to potential career paths is also something I value. If I had to pick one specific thing, I am very proud of developing an introductory set theory course. Set theory is my field of research and I am honored to have the opportunity to expose students to concepts that they may not otherwise come across.

In what ways do you bring your professional experience into the classroom?
I have had many different types of jobs during my professional life but the majority of them have been in academia. In particular, I have been at CUNY in some capacity for most of my adult life, as an undergraduate student, as a graduate student, and as a faculty member. I have a lot of insight on how to access all of the benefits that CUNY makes possible and how to navigate the pitfalls.

What advice do you have for current students?
Be open-minded and learn as much as you can.  Challenge yourself and go outside of your comfort zone. Most of the limitations we perceive are, in fact, just our own perceptions, placed by ourselves. See the possibilities and make them a reality.