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Faculty Spotlight: Terry Bridgman

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Written by Zach Snyder

Posted on 08 September 2013

All students at Mines need to master the fundamentals of Calculus to succeed. While some students gobble up math problems for breakfast, others absolutely despise it. Mr. Bridgman, a math professor here at Mines, had a few things to say about teaching here in Golden.

[Oredigger]: First, thank you for doing this. Let's start with some background information- where did you go to school? What did you major in?

I did my undergraduate at a school called Furman University, which is the size of Mines, in Greenville, South Carolina. I got my undergraduate degree in math and a minor in computer science. I received my masters in math at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

What prior work experience did you have? It could be anything from cleaning dishes at a Mexican restaurant to working at an engineering firm.

Before college, I did a lot of outdoor labor: lawn care, gardening, that type of thing. Once I graduated from college, I went into computer science doing software development. That was my first career, working on that for 15 years. I worked in Alabama and then eventually moved to Denver. My last company was called Digital Globe and they did satellite imagery. In 2001, the software industry had a big crash and I was laid off. After that I looked into teaching, as I did that on the side and always enjoyed it.

So what inspired you to teach? Did you wake up one morning and say, "I'm going to bring calculus to the world!"

Ha, yeah bring calculus to the masses. No, actually, the difference between teaching and software development is the feedback you get. In software development you can write code to do something and then your company sells it. You never really know if the consumer likes it or not, you just assume they do if it sells a lot. With you guys, when I'm teaching, you can tell instantly if you're doing it right or not.

Why teach math as opposed to physics or chemistry?

I've always enjoyed math. I like doing puzzles and solving problems.

How long have you been teaching at CSM?

Since 2002, so this is the start of my 12th year.

How did you hear about the position at Mines? Did you see an ad in the journal or did someone approach you?

I was unemployed and actually taking an art class. One of the students in the art class was also a teacher out here and she told me about the opportunity at Mines.

You said you went to school in South Carolina, where are you from originally?

Originally from North Carolina, the other mountains.

What is your favorite part about living in Colorado? Do you ski or do outdoor activities?

I do not ski, and have no desire to, but I like the summer stuff. Lots of biking, lots of hiking. The climate is good, even the hot isn't that bad, compared to the south. I don't really mess with the winter sports.

What advice do you have for freshmen at Mines, knowing that for most people this is their first time in college?

Couple of things. One is the friends you make in college are probably going to last, potentially more than the high school friends. Make sure you go out and meet people. Make good friends because those will be what I think the strongest friendships you'll have. I had some of my best friendships from college. Second, don't be afraid to try something new. Don't be afraid of trying a major you didn't think about before. It's your opportunity, you were one person in high school but now this is like a whole new door so you can be whoever you want to be, even though it may not be the same person you were in high school.

Very useful. Alright, fun question, what's the deal with the earring? Is there a story behind it or was it to feel "cool" and "hip?"

I got this before they were, "cool" and "hip," thank you. I got this when I turned 30 and it hasn't come out since. A little old lady pierced it and she asked me, "Why in the world are you doing this?"

Favorite Movie?

Something by Monty Python. Probably Monty Python and the Holy Grail, that's a good nerdy movie.

Favorite book?

I don't have just one, but I like the early works of Stephen King.

Not "Calculus: Early Transcendentals?"

*chuckles* By Rogawski? No.

Favorite place you've visited?

The Canadian Rockies

Favorite food?

Thai food

Final Question: What's the best part about teaching at Mines?

It's got to be the students. You guys are a lot of fun. Every class, even if I've taught the same class for 6 or 7 years, is always different. Everybody always brings a different question. There are different personalities, some classes are quiet, some classes are a little more personable. It's always the students. There are good students who come to Mines.
Colorado School of Mines

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