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Laurie Varecka

Assistant Director, Math Center

I oversee advising for Mathematics Majors and Minors, and coordinate activities of the Math Center.

image of Laurie Varecka


Room 222, Math Building


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Contact Info

  • Email (preferred):
  • Office phone: 520 626 9837
  • Dept phone: 520 621 6892
  • Postal mail: 617 N Santa Rita
    Tucson, AZ 85721

About Laurie

As a freshman at Bethel College (now Bethel University) in St. Paul, MN, I was not sure what I wanted to major in, or what career path I might choose after graduation. I had taken Calculus in high school, and though I had AP credit, I chose to repeat it during my first semester. I enjoyed it even more the second time and definitely understood it better (I remember particularly thinking that epsilon-delta proofs made a lot more sense the second time). For a while, I was considering either math or engineering, but a meeting with a math professor who later became my advisor and mentor swayed me to pursue math. As an undergraduate, I served as a teaching assistant for my advisor; in observing her interactions with students and assisting them myself, I eventually decided that I wanted to become a professor. I completed my undergraduate degree in math with a minor in physics, with the plan to attend graduate school in mathematics.

I first came to the University of Arizona as a graduate student, intending to complete my PhD in mathematics and then to move back to Minnesota and work at Bethel. As a graduate teaching assistant, I taught Intermediate Algebra or College Algebra each semester, and found that I enjoyed teaching more than I was enjoying my own studies. In the end, I realized that I was not as committed to the PhD as I thought (or as would be necessary to complete it!), but I had gained enough experience teaching to be hired as a full-time teacher in the math department. I should also mention that I had met my husband while we were both graduate students, and our upcoming wedding also factored into our employment choices!

I was a full-time part of the instructional faculty for the math department for 12 years; I taught Intermediate Algebra, College Algebra With Data Analysis, College Algebra, Elements of Calculus, Finite Math, Business Math I and II, Calculus I, and Understanding Elementary Mathematics (A). I even served as coordinator for College Algebra for a while. Supervising graduate teaching assistants was also a considerable part of my job: observing them, going over their syllabi and tests, and generally making sure they were meeting the needs of their students. I helped put on the annual training for new graduate TAs, and was a part of the instructional team for Math 597T - Professional Development Workshop in Teaching Mathematics - that is required for all new graduate TAs during their first semester of teaching.

In 2009, I was asked if I would be willing to change roles and take on advising of our math majors. It happened that I was feeling ready for a change, and accepted the position, which officially began in July. While I do sometimes miss being in the classroom, I still get to meet with a lot of great students! (And, I don't miss grading or writing exams...) I feel that having a background in math often helps as I talk with students about their course selection and career goals, so while I'm a bit rusty when it comes to some math skills, I am still using my math degree all the time! Advising has provided some new challenges and opportunities to learn, and I tend to be happier when I am challenged and learning new things.

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