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2022-23 Eberly Scholars: Olga Hawranick

Major: Mathematics
Hometown: Fairmont, WV 

How did you choose your major?

I chose to major in mathematics because of how my parents grew my love for mathematics from a young age. We would conduct fun experiments and dive deep into some math topics that were relatable and that could explain the things around us. Also, I couldn’t imagine putting a stop to learning math after high school (that was where things started to get interesting), so I decided to rise up for the challenge and see where the curriculum would take me. It’s been extremely fun and enlightening so far, but not without a struggle.

  • Olga Hawranick assisting kid
  • Olga Hawranick with group on WVU field
  • Olga Hawranick at Poster Presentation

How would you explain your major to a new WVU student? What advice would you give them?

Mathematics is the study of patterns, change, and shapes which are present in the natural world.

Famous mathematician, Carl Gauss, calls mathematics the “queen of the sciences,” since it sheds so much light on the physical world. As a math major, you become a thoughtful and deliberate problem solver, examining different ways about a problem and taking particular care of maintaining consistent equivalence throughout your steps. The flexibility that comes with math is beautiful! Mathematics is not like recipe-following; you are able to come up with a totally different method than a peer, but both be completely correct. The connections between topics that you’ll cover is equally beautiful! You’ll begin to see (if you haven’t already) that math builds upon itself, algebra and trigonometry to calculus, introduction to basic proofs to applying them to prove more abstract concepts, etc. Seeing all of these connections was eye-opening to me and really allowed me to feel humbled about my understanding of mathematics.

To incoming students, I would recommend choosing a major that brings you joy! Yes, math has its ups and downs. We hear it all the time. But that’s the learning process. You must first go through a productive struggle for some time (in some cases, it may take longer than you would like). Then, things will begin to click from a mixture of your individual work, describing it in your own words, and collaborating with other peers to reach a more complete understanding. Learning is a process!

How has your major prepared you for your future career?

My career goal is to teach mathematics at either the high school or college level. After I’ve completed undergrad, I will have earned my certification through the WVUTeach Program to teach mathematics, grades 5 through 12. My student teaching experience, smaller placements in local middle and high schools, tutoring experience, and working as a Learning Assistant for the Math Department have filled me with newfound confidence that teaching is my gig.

I am currently serving as a long-term substitute teacher at East Fairmont High School until the end of their school year. This semester I was student teaching full-time at University High School, where I taught Math 1 and Math 3. The last 6 weeks of my last semester, I was placed at West Preston Middle School, where I taught 7th and 8th grade math. WVUTeach sparked my interest because I had been inspired by two of my math teachers and wanted to continue to spread my love for math. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to become the conglomeration of a person that a teacher is, especially as a shy and bashful freshman. How would one be able to multitask being able to present material in an engaging and retentive way, create and maintain a safe learning environment where failure is normalized, have quick alternative plans if needed based on how a lesson ran, and create equitable learning opportunities/accommodations for all students but especially those that have special learning needs? I hung in the program, still enjoying myself, but hesitant if I would be able to wear all of the hats at some point. My worries started to fade away as I met more of the kind and ever so accommodating Master Teachers, spent time with my hilarious peers in the program, and had small placements in classrooms where we taught 2-3 lessons to students. Shoutout to my wonderful and talented mentor teachers Ms. Nancy Stacy and Ms. Jessica Thomas! I am now glad to say that I am wearing an abundance of hats now and loving it! You begin to notice the work that you’ve done, that you have what it takes, and it may sometimes just require a small leap of confidence.

How have you changed since your first year at WVU?

My freshman year, I became involved in the Research Apprenticeship Program where I studied Math Education with Dr. Vicki Sealey in our department. When I thought of research at that time, I thought that it was only accepted that you stick to your major of study and that’s it. I thought that I would be at a significant disadvantage if I were to stray to another field, that I would have almost nothing to contribute. In my last two years at WVU, I became more interested in researching topics that interested me and where I may be able to see this intersection of mathematics more. I chose not to continue my formal math education research, but instead had the opportunity to explore other fields and observe what research looks like in different fields. My time in the WVUTeach Program prepared me for the detailed research required throughout their coursework as well as my preparation for the edTPA assessment where we conduct a fair amount of research within our classrooms while student teaching. My EXCEL Project focuses around the theme of student success as well, but with a more narrow view of underrepresented students coming to WVU from high schools around West Virginia. My work alongside Dr. Charles Shobe in the Geology Department, tied into my own research project and also was a part of my math capstone. I am glad to find out that research advisors are very accommodating and understanding if you come to a field with limited knowledge. They will work with you if they see you are invested, trying your best, and continuing to ask questions (no matter how silly you may think they are).

What was your most memorable moment at WVU?

I loved being with my friends at either the home football or basketball games screaming the fight song at the top of my lungs. (It’s such a catchy song!)

What was the hardest (Eberly College) class that you loved? Why?

In the spring of 2020, I took Phil 360: Truth, Proof, and Possibility. This was a course that satisfied my Philosophy minor and was a challenging one at that! I loved this course since we were applying a lot of the proof techniques and mathematical discourse as I normally would in a math class, but now applying it to the validity and soundness of propositions. This was an extremely challenging class for me as I had difficulty forming questions and even identifying what part of the proof or learning segment I was grappling with. I’ve had this professor before, Dr. Geoff Georgi, for its prerequisite class and he introduces these new definitions, new symbols with tremendous energy! The level of abstraction was equivalent to my upper division math courses and required a lot of out-of-class time to work on the homework exercises.

What do you want others to know about you that is not on your resume?

I have planned and “ran” three beneficiary 5ks on the Evansdale Campus over the past 4 years! We’ve donated to the local Ronald McDonald House, the Monongalia Chapter of Empty Bowls, and student scholarships for underrepresented health sciences and STEM majors at WVU. I’m an avid runner so I love to give back to our community in this way!

What makes you feel connected to WVU?

My familiarity with the campus and the hidden gems within the city makes me feel connected to the university. I grew up in Fairmont, WV, and my family took me up to Morgantown when I was young for dance classes in E. Moore Hall, the Morgantown Public Library, and some mommy and me gymnastics classes at the local gymnastics training center. It only felt natural to go to school at WVU because of how familiar I was with the campus. My favorite places to be include the rail trail system, Lincoln Hall, Krepps Park, and of course Armstrong.

What have been your keys to success?

I’ve tested my compartmentalizing skills more and more throughout my undergraduate years, adding more and more to my plate. Thankfully, my plate has never snapped in half. My reason for almost finding my limit to the things I can do in a day or a week is due to my goal to be efficient with my time and try not waste a second of it. Before you know it, four years are swept away. I’m looking back now with little to no regrets thanks to my somewhat insane mindset.

What does it mean to be a Mountaineer?

When I think of the Mountaineer, I picture the words “Climb Higher” in Blue & Gold. Yes, you see it alongside most every count of WVU advertising, but is not so simple of a phrase. There’s no comparison implied from those two words, which is one important thing I echo to myself a lot. There’s no good in comparing yourself to anyone regardless of the context. It may seem that everyone’s started at the same start line, is on the same path as you, has encountered the same barriers that you have, etc. Inequities lay hidden silently sometimes within the course of some individual’s life. Others come across more difficulty than their peers. A Mountaineer “climbs higher” by continuously striving for more and more, with no limit. There is no perfection, but there is always room for opportunity to improve!

Do you have a favorite professor or instructor? What makes them special?

I greatly appreciate and love my Calculus 3 professor, Dr. John Goldwasser. He is always so passionate about the math that he studies and finds joy in challenging his students. I had the chance to audit one of his higher level classes, Combinatorics, and wow! He definitely puts a lot of thought into how he should phrase an explanation, the common student misconceptions, hypothetical examples, and small jokes here and again.

What was your reaction when you found out you were an Eberly Scholar? How has this opportunity made a difference in your life?

I was in the middle of teaching a middle school class when I received the news from a vibration on my watch. I didn’t even need to break character and I just smiled a little bigger for the remainder of the school day. I’m so glad to be a part of such a high striving group of students and receive such a high honor from the Eberly College!

About Eberly Scholars

In association with the ongoing generosity of the Eberly family, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Board established the Eberly Scholars program in 1988. Each year, up to 25 students majoring in the arts and sciences are designated as Eberly Scholars. They are provided with scholarship support in recognition of their outstanding academic achievement. This award is the Eberly College’s most prestigious scholarship honor for undergraduate students.  

Meet all of this year's Eberly Scholars.