The secret lives of our profs

Lauren Mimms

(mimms, lauren)

Mimms: How long have you been at Lawrence?
Joy Jordan: This is the start of my 11th year. I’m in the math department but my doctorate is actually in statistics, and that’s why I’m an associate professor in statistics as opposed to math.Mimms: Where did you grow up?
Jordan: Iowa; I grew up in a little town called Mt. Vernon, which is where you may have heard of Cornell College? My dad was a chemistry professor there.

Mimms: Where did you go to school?
Jordan: I got my undergraduate degree from Indiana University. The reason I chose that instead of a small liberal arts college – which is where both my sisters went and where my dad would’ve loved for me to go – is because I was given an athletic scholarship to play volleyball. I knew that I wanted to [continue playing volleyball] if I had the opportunity. Then, I went back to the University of Iowa for my doctorate.

Mimms: How did you first become interested in your field?
Jordan: I didn’t have one of those “aha” moments like “oh this class really turns me on.” As far as I can remember, I just liked math and was good at it. When I went to college I wasn’t sure what to major in yet; I was taking a math class every semester just because I figured that’s what people did. I didn’t think people actually majored in it. It took my dad to point out “you seem to do well in math and you like it, why don’t you major in math?” So that was actually pretty cool to realize that I could major in mathematics, and all of my upper-level courses – because I was more interested in the applied side than the theoretical side – were improbability and statistics. That part and the implications interested me and that’s what prompted me to go to graduate school for statistics.

Mimms: What brought you to Lawrence?
Jordan: Pretty quickly into my doctoral program, I knew I didn’t want to go to a Research I university. That would drive me nuts! But teaching was my total passion and it would be my passion no matter where I went. If I went to a Research I Institution then I’d also have to work 80 hours a week because I’d have to be publishing like crazy. Now, Lawrence has expectations of publications, but the primary mission is teaching students, so I knew I wanted to go to a small liberal arts college. When I came out here, there were only a few positions available at liberal arts colleges like Lawrence. I just came down here and fell in love with the place.

Mimms: What’s your favorite part about your job?
Jordan: The interactions with the students, both in and out of the classroom, and how that’s available and important here at Lawrence.

Mimms: Are you currently working on any projects?
Jordan: Yes! I am part of a collegium of other faculty at ACM colleges. It’s a grant-funded group called the Collegium of Student Learning. We’re all teachers from different areas testing out pedagogies in class to find out how effective they are under the big umbrella – metacognition – which means thinking about your thinking. It’s very cool. If I had the time to go get a second doctorate it would be in metacognitive psychology. This year I’m implementing what I’ve learned about metacognition in two different activities for two concepts that are typically difficult for students in statistics. I’m getting feedback from students and an assessment for how it helped them with metacognitive skills. I also consider another very fun project to be my blog. This is clearly not research-oriented but just a general life-project of mine: the importance of each one of us to find a sustainable path that we can be on for a while in terms of our general wellness and mind-body connection. My blog is called Teaching, Learning and Life Reflections, at http://joyofstatistics.blogspot.com, where I write my musings about things that I learn from students or other people, and that’s been really fun for me too. It’s been a really fun creative outlet for me, to bring the things I’m doing outside of school into the academic realm.

Mimms: What else do you do in your free time?
Jordan: Well, I love spending time with my close friends and family. I’m very close to them so any chance I get I enjoy playing with my nieces and nephews. I also love doing Pilates and yoga.
Mimms: Do you still play volleyball?
Jordan: I don’t. I probably haven’t played for 2-3 years. I played when I first got here and was a Volunteer Assistant Coach for 7 years for the volleyball team and then it just became too much. But, I haven’t played in a long time. I do love sports though.

Mimms: What’s your team?
Jordan: I’m a college sports fan and I love watching college basketball and volleyball. I love Indiana basketball – because that’s where I went to school – and Iowa too.

Mimms: You mentioned that like reading and watching movies. Can you tell me some of your favorites?
Jordan: Favorites are always so much pressure! I do a lot of spiritual reading in meditation and Buddhist dharma. I also love to read fiction set in modern day. It’s hard to name only one book to call “a favorite.” As for movies, I have become averse to violent films – I can’t do those anymore. But, I love a good drama that’s well acted and well directed. That’s often a Friday-night thing for my husband and me.

Mimms: Is there anything else you want The Lawrentian to know about you and your secret life?
Jordan: I love the Pilates class offered here at Lawrence. Wendy is a wonderful instructor! Lawrence students might know me from class as the person who leads the spider exercise. I’m happy to model for students that it’s important to clear your mind and help your body. The whole sustainable path thing, which is different for everyone, is very important. I think that at Lawrence we’re not on that path right now; we’re on a path to burnout. I think it’s important to talk about it and leave space to clear your mind.

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