December 12, 2014

Budzban earns ‘First-Year Student Advocate’ honor

by Pete Rosenbery

Gregory BudzbanCARBONDALE, Ill. -- Gregory Budzban, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is receiving national recognition as an outstanding advocate for undergraduate first-year students. 

Budzban is one of 10 recipients in the nation chosen as “Outstanding First-Year Advocates” for 2014-15 by the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.  Budzban, who has been with the university since 1991, was selected from a group of 116 educators nominated by their respective institutions from across the nation. 

Budzban will be recognized for his commitment to student retention at the 34th annual “Conference on the First-Year Experience,” Feb. 7-10, in Dallas, Texas. The recognition luncheon is Feb. 8. More information on the conference is available at

Budzban “serves as a model of proactive leadership for his department, the campus and the state in his total re-formation of our first-year mathematics program,” Susan M. Ford, acting provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said. 

Ford said students’ success rate in introductory mathematics has increased from 45 to 65 percent in the last three years in all categories. That includes students who are in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors and those in non-STEM fields, and provisional and non-provisional students.  She cites Budzban’s leadership of a team that implemented transformative teaching techniques and a university-wide intervention system through advisers. In addition, he encouraged and fostered a climate of academic innovation and experimentation among faculty, resulting in online classes and undergraduate research opportunities, she wrote. 

“It’s gratifying to be recognized for the work, but none of these results would be possible without the immense dedication of the faculty and staff in the Department of Mathematics,” Budzban said. “They are an amazing group of people, and I’m extremely fortunate to have them as colleagues.” 

The overhaul of the first-year mathematics program includes a redesign that utilizes both lecture and computer-aided instruction with dedicated lab time and tutoring support structures. The 20 percent increase in passing rates for introductory mathematics means at least 200 more students succeed in these courses each year, positively affecting every college on campus, according to the nomination documents. 

The early warning system in all freshman math classes expanded to include several courses within the core curriculum. Advisers and student mentors know by the fourth week of classes whether a student is struggling and those students can then receive the help they need. The Illinois Board of Higher Education is proposing to use a program Budzban developed, the “Transforming Math Pathways” project -- designed to eliminate remedial mathematics and improve retention rates of first-year students in introductory math courses -- as a pilot for every higher education institution in the state. 

Budzban also created “Little Egypt Math Week” to help promote mathematics in the Southern Illinois region and the STEM Education Research Center, recently approved by the state’s higher education board. 

Budzban started at SIU Carbondale as assistant professor in 1991, and he is a three-degree graduate of the University of South Florida. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1980, a master’s degree in theoretical computer science in 1985, and doctorate in mathematics in 1991.