Department News

Teaching Excellence Award Winner 2019

Danny Arrigo earned his PhD from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1991.  He has been on staff in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Central Arkansas since 1999 and is currently Professor of Mathematics. He has published over 30 journal articles and three books. His research interests include the construction of exact solutions of PDEs and symmetry analysis of nonlinear PDEs.  His research is also active regarding solutions to physically important equations, such as nonlinear heat equations, governing equations modeling granular materials, and nonlinear elasticity.  Dr. Arrigo received the Oklahoma-Arkansas Section of the Mathematical Association of America’s Award for Distinguished Teaching of College or University Mathematics in 2008.  In that same year, he was awarded UCA’s award for excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creativity.  In 2011 he was a finalist for UCA’s Teaching Excellence Award and won that award in 2019.

Dr. Arrigo integrates his research into his teaching and vice versa.  He has worked with many students while at UCA; more than 30 of his undergraduate students have presented their work at regional and national conferences, where several have been recognized with awards.  In addition, Dr. Arrigo has mentored 10 graduate student theses with two currently underway.


Faculty Corner – Mrs. Hailey Hurley

 1.  Please tell us a little about yourself?

I am a product of UCA! I was an undergraduate student here from 2009-2013, and then a graduate teaching assistant from 2014-2016. I have been teaching at the high school level for 3 years, but I have been teaching for 6 years total. I got married in November 2017 and we currently live in Maumelle, Arkansas. I am addicted to traveling – 12 countries and counting! I bake – get ready for a bunch of cakes and stuff in the break room. I love Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, so I’m up for a discussion on that any time. And I love board games, especially Settlers of Catan!

  1. Tell us about the courses that you would like to teach at UCA?

I would like to teach calculus-focused courses, but I also enjoy teaching courses such as College Algebra, Quantitative Literacy, and Trigonometry.

  1. What are your teaching philosophies?

My teaching philosophy is that anyone can learn math, even if they are not very passionate about the subject. My job as an educator is to help students realize their potential and give them the proper tools and support to reach their goals. If students have a hard time understanding a problem, I try to think of 3 or 4 new ways to explain or approach the problem. It’s all about meeting students where they are at, and bringing them up to the level where they need to be.

  1. What is your favorite part of your transition to UCA?

My favorite part of transitioning back to UCA is being able to see all my old professors and be in my old classrooms again. UCA feels like home to me, so it was really easy to come back and be part of it all again!

  1. What is the most challenging part of your transition to UCA?

The most challenging part is remembering that I am a faculty member now, and that I am not a student (or grad student). Mostly I have to remember to call my fellow colleagues by their first names, because it seems strange to be so informal!

  1. What are your future goals or plans?  

I hope to pursue a PhD at some point. I don’t have those plans figured out yet, but I can foresee that I will pursue something like that in the future.



Faculty Corner – Dr. Yeil Kwon

Last fall Dr. Yeil Kwon joined the mathematics department as an assistant professor in data science. He received his Ph.D. in statistics from Temple University.

(1) Please tell us a little about yourself.

My academic background is Statistics. I earned BS/MS in Statistics from Korea University, MS in Operations Research from Columbia University and PhD in Statistics from Temple University. I have worked for 9 years as a quantitative analyst at credit bureau, insurance company and hedge fund in South Korea and United States. I worked on mostly developing mathematical/statistical modeling for predicting specific events based on the financial data.

(2) Tell us about the courses that you would like to teach at UCA.

I am teaching three courses in Fall 2018. Introduction to Probability Theory covers core theories on probability, random variable and probability distribution functions. The highlight of this course is the limit theorems of random variables, which are used for a number of applications in data analysis. Another course is Statistical Methods, which includes basic topics on probability and statistical inference with R. This course provides students with general understanding of statistics and some applications of data analysis.

(3) Tell us a little about your research.

My main research interest is developing methods for simultaneous estimation under empirical Bayes framework. In particular, I am working on the variance estimation problem with high dimensional data under arbitrary prior assumption. High dimensional data analysis is one of the popular topics in modern data science area, but it is well known as a quite challenging problem. Empirical Bayesian methods can be one of the alternatives for approaching this topic and I proposed a new method for simultaneous variance estimation based on the empirical distribution function of the marginal distribution based on the data with a number of populations.

(4) Can you give us an example of an application of this research?

One of the representative example of the high dimensional data is microarray gene expression data. Finding the difference of gene expressions on DNA is one of the crucial problem in bioinformatics or genetics. While it includes very large number of parameters to estimate, the sample size of each population is extremely small. It means we do not have sufficient information on the parameter in each population. Using the empirical Bayesian methods, we can obtain much better estimator for each parameter by using the information across the populations.

(5) What is your favorite part of your transition to UCA?

I have precious opportunities to communicate with a plenty of faculty members having different academic and cultural background. It really helps me, in various ways, not only to extend my point of view on the issues of the ongoing research but to guide the students in my class.

(6) What is the most challenging part of your transition to UCA?

I have lived in the Northeastern part of the United States for a long time and I am adjusting me to the life style of the Southern part of United States. I like the atmosphere of Arkansas, but since I am kind of sensitive to the change of the environment, it takes longer time to get used to new place than other people.

Richard and Teri Jackson Scholarship in Mathematics

The Department of Mathematics is pleased to announce the new Richard and Teri Jackson Scholarship for students majoring in mathematics, particularly the first-generation college students.  Preference will be given to women. The scholarship was funded by a UCA Math alumnus Ms. Tara Burton, currently COO of FedEx Employees Credit Association in Memphis. The recipient of the scholarship should be an Arkansas resident with preference given to a graduate of Wynne High School. The scholarship will be awarded in two equal installment on the dates of registration for the first and second semesters of the academic year. For more information about the scholarship, please  contact the Chair of the Department of Mathematics at 501-450-3614  or the UCA Foundation at 501-450-5288.

Mathematics Students Presented Project at the MAKO Undergraduate Mathematics Research Conference

Two mathematics  majors  Monica DavanzoJonathan Zluticky, and a graduate math student Demitrius Moore presented research projects at the 2018 MAKO Undergraduate Mathematics Research Conference in Spring Field, MO on November 10th. MAKO is a regional mathematical conference representing universities from Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Monica’s presentation was entitled “The Buffered Fourier Spectral Method.” She was mentored by Dr. Yinlin Dong. Jonathan, mentored by Dr. James Fetterly, presented on “Problem Posing Project: A Serious Fibonacci Fiasco.” Demitrius’s presentation was titled “Divergent Thinking or Problem Posing: Creativity at its Best” and he was mentored by Dr. Fetterly. Travel funds for the students were provided by the Mathematics Department.


Calculus Tournament 2018

The fifth annual calculus tournament took place on November 15th, 2018. Held in the Math Resource Lab, nine teams competed for the title for the  best calculus students of the year. The winning team, from Dr. Fred Hickling’s calculus class, consisted of Madeleine Peters, Rachel Barnhardt, and Jessica Allred. Each member of the winning team will receive a $15 gift card, a copy of The Code Book, and an invitation to represent the  UCA’s Mathematics Department at the Mathematical Association of America’s Math Jeopardy Contest in the Spring’19 to be held  on the Northeastern State University in  Tahlequah, OK.

2018 Summer STEM Academy @UCA

Nineteen students from Conway and Little Rock middle and high school students attended 2018 Summer STEM Academic at UCA from June 25 through June 29, 2018. The academy was organized by the Department of Mathematics and the UCA STEM Institute.   Students participated in three inter-connected activities in biology, statistics and computer coding. The activities started at 9:15 AM and concluded at 3 PM every day with 1-hour lunch break.

The Data Analysis & Visualization activity, taught by Dr. Mark Doderer from the Computer Science Department, helped students develop computer programming skills and tools to analyze and visualize the data.   Empirical Modeling Analysis, instructed by Dr. Todd Abel of the Mathematics Department, introduced students to statistical modeling and helped them utilize the tools to develop and carry out experiments.  Biology faculty Dr. Krista Peppers taught Toxicology & Microscopy to help students develop microscopy skills and implement their own investigation into whether ethanol impacts the heart rate for Daphnia magna, the water flea.

Students implemented the knowledge and tools gained over the course of the week, to conduct experiments and come up with resolutions based on the data found.  On the last day of research, the students divided up into groups and presented their findings to their peers, parents and faculty/staff.    All four groups agreed that the introduction of ethanol slowed the heart rate of the Daphnia magna and the higher the concertation of ethanol, the slower the heartbeat.  Once the water fleas were reintroduced into water without ethanol, the heart beat quickly recovered and returned to normalcy.

The students stated they had an amazing time and learned interesting things about water flea.  The students hope to use the knowledge, tools and experience gained from this program to help them in future discoveries.Math Admin Assistants Mrs. Jennifer Jones and  Mrs. Leitha Smith, and a  math graduate student  Eddie Gallarno provided additional support for the program.  For information about the future Summer STEM Academy or  similar programs, please contact the organizer Dr. Ramesh Garimella, Chair, Department of Mathematics at

State Math Contest Held on UCA Campus

On Saturday, April 28, 2018, the UCA Department of Mathematics hosted the annual State Mathematics Contest. It  was sponsored by the Arkansas Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ACTM).  There were 235 students from high schools across  Arkansas competed in one of six exam categories -Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Trig/Pre-Calculus, Calculus and Statistics.  Dr. Charles Watson, Associate Professor of Mathematics, served as the director of the state contest  and was assisted by mathematics faculty members,Dr. Garth Johnson, Dr. Carolyn Pinchback, and Ms. Loi Booher, and graduate student Kayla Waters.  Exams were proctored by the UCA math graduate teaching assistants.

All students participated in the state contest  were top ten finishers in one of the 11 regional contests that were held in colleges and universities across the state on March 5, 2018. All students who placed in top three at the state level were awarded trophies.  Algebra I and Geometry winners received TI-84 calculators and the other contest winners received scholarship awards to a future college of their choice. Awards were presented by Dr. Watson and Ms. Kim Hughes, president of ACTM.


Math Modeling Competition at UCA

 2018  Student Competition Using Differential Equation Modeling  SCUDEM 2018) took place at the UCA Math Department on April 21, 2018. UCA is the host campus in central Arkansas for SCUDEM 2018. . Three student teams from UCA and UALR participated in the competition. Students built a mathematical modeling using differential equations and shared with others. Dr. Yinlin Dong organized this event and facilitated a faculty development workshop consisting of five faculty members from UCA, UALR, and University of Tulsa. Dr. Matthew Donahue , a math faculty member at the  University of Tulsa gave a talk on teaching and learning differential equations through modeling. The student competition culminated with an award ceremony. The team from UALR came in first place.


Cowboy/Western Math Night

On March 8, 2018, Dr. James Fetterly, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, organized a math outreach activity at Carl Stuart Middle School based on a Cowboy and Western theme. Dr. Fetterly’s two spring classes (MATH 4335: Concepts of Advanced Mathematics, and STEM 1301: Knowing and Learning Mathematics and Science) joined forces to involve parents and their children in activities that focused on mathematics and science. Carl Stuart faculty and UCA students dressed up for the Wild West. Hands-on and conceptual activities were presented to the community. Parents and children experienced mathematical activities that emphasized algebraic thinking and proportional reasoning. Science concepts were explored using probes and iPads.