SMWC Faculty Profiles

Q&A with Patty Butwin, Adjunct Mathematics Professor in Woods Online
Butwin, a former junior high mathematics teacher and in management in AT&T locations across the U.S., has used her talents, skills and business to encourage students of all ages in mathematics. She has led a variety of volunteer initiatives at Hendricks Regional Health, Providence Cristo Rey High School and the the Money Bus- Financial Literacy Program sponsored by ISU Networks Financial Institute. Currently, she volunteers for math-related projects with the ISU Center for Mathematics Education, St. Susanna Church in Plainfield, Ind., Religious Education Program, the Indiana State University Foundation and the Terre Haute Children’s Museum. Her motto is "Show up, listen and try to laugh."

Q: What first drew you to mathematics?

A: Mathematics is in my genes. I have always loved numbers and I am “addicted to” solving problems. I have very large extended family with lots of engineers and mathematics majors; therefore I had great STEM role models and lots of friendly competition from my siblings and cousins to keep me on top of my game. I also was fortunate enough to have had some terrific math teachers along the way, including Sister Joseph Andre’ SP (Margaret Sullivan ), Mr. Mark La Grange, Dr. Robert Rector, Dr. Robert Kellams, Dr. Earl Zwick and Dr. Richard Easton, who helped harness my “raw” talent so that I could put it to good use.

Q: How do you think you've grown as a teacher?

A: Teaching was my first career (for 7 years) out of college, but now it’s my mission in retirement.  In the interim, I spent 27 years in the business world (with AT&T and as a consultant) using problem solving skills I've been honing since elementary school. My practical life experiences have helped me to grow as an educator. In the classroom or online today, I help students discover how they will experience the wonders of mathematics daily in the real world.

Q: What are some common fears about math and how do you help students overcome them?

A: The biggest fear my students experience is fear itself.  They think they can’t do math and each one thinks that his/her fear is unique, or that others are fearless. My first line of defense is to get them talking about the fear and sharing “war stories." That activity works wonders to break down the barriers. I then focus on “incrementalism;" we learn some basics and then keep adding new concepts to the mix. I also use lots of real life examples – including planning a budget, making a meal that requires a recipe adjustment or preparing their income taxes. The goal is to get students thinking positively and to understand that math is a component of their tool box for success!

Q: Who are your heroes?

A: My father and my mother played key roles in my life. Mom was the one who could get things done. She managed the household and raised six kids, while Dad worked railway mail and was away from home for seven days at a time. Mom was the handyman, the cook, the nurse, the banker – you name it, she was right there getting it done. Unfortunately, she left us way too soon when she suffered a stroke and died at 52 (I was 25 and my youngest sibling was only 13).  

My Dad was a man of faith who left my siblings and me with a few basic values.  The most important was to get an education – all six of his children graduated from college and have pursued successful careers in business. Dad also reminded us often that we must never “miss an opportunity." Some of his old words of wisdom included – never overstaying your welcome, pay yourself first, share with those less fortunate and take care of your teeth. All very simple messages that contribute to a successful life.

Q: If your life was a book, what would the title be?

A:“Everything You Ever Wanted To Know about Patty Butwin but Were Afraid To Ask”

Q: What do you like to do on a Saturday afternoon?

A: If it's sunny, I like to be in the fresh air taking a long walk. If it's a rainy one, I would be inside reading a novel.

Q&A with Christine Wilkey, Associate Professor of Human Services
Wilkey has been teaching at The Woods since the mid-1990s. She is currently on part-time sabbatical to work on her post-master’s certificate in equine assisted mental health. She teaches courses in casework methods, group and community methods, ethical and legal issues in helping professions and in the Master of Leadership Development program. She earned her bachelor’s master’s from the Indiana University School of Social Work.

Q: What first drew you to social work?

A: The same thing I hear from human services students – I wanted to make a difference.  I chose social work specifically because it is concerned with social justice, as much as with individual problems. It has a dynamic understanding of human behavior that I find useful and hopeful.

Q: How do you think you've grown as a teacher?

A: Right now, my whole concept of teaching is changing radically because of my involvement in equine assisted learning and therapy. Instead of teaching at students, my aim is to facilitate the learning process. There’s a world of difference between those two things. 

Q. What is your favorite course to teach and why?

A: It’s hard to choose! I enjoy the practice skills courses in human services very much because they are the heart of the major. Students make big strides in these courses.  Another favorite is ID 440 Women, Values and Leadership, especially in alternative format.  I call it “Finding your Inner Leader” because that is what students often do in the course.

Q. Who is your greatest inspiration?

A: I have to say that I draw more and more inspiration from Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.  She really understood power at a deep level. I traveled to France with the SMWC Madrigals last May and visited her birthplace and the original convent of the Sisters of Providence. It was a wonderful experience. When I drive into the campus I think of her and the enduring legacy of her life.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon?

A: I am a homebody. I like reading and enjoying the good company of cats and friends.  Ideally, there would be rising bread and simmering soup.  I need more Saturday afternoons like this!

Q: What does Pomeroy Pride mean to you?

A: For me, Pomeroy Pride is being proud that I’m part of this extraordinary enterprise we call The Woods. The quality education we offer, our spirit, our sense of ourselves as a force for positive change in the world – I feel pride in all of this when I say, “I teach at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.”