When Victoria Woodard was a child, she was always a little envious of her older brother and felt that she had something to prove.
“My brother outshined me in everything, and I hated it,” Woodard said. “When I was a kid, I would hear people say that girls are not good at math, and I have always loved a good challenge.”
As soon as Woodard discovered that she was better than her brother in math, she did not turn back. “I just stuck with it, and for as long as I can remember, math has always made sense to me,” Woodard said.
That competitive drive propelled her through a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, and a doctorate. Now, Woodard is an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics (ACMS).
A native of Olmsted Falls, Ohio, Woodard completed her undergraduate degree in actuarial science and master’s degree in mathematics from Ohio University. While a student, Woodard spent a lot of time tutoring. Participating in a program called Supplemental Instruction, Woodard led groups of students and helped them solve problems together. “If they asked me a question, I would reverse the question on them to try and lead them toward the answer,” Woodard said. “I found it fascinating that a student could ask me a question and that I could get them to the answer.”
Her experiences at Ohio University confirmed her aspirations to teach. For three years after she completed her first master’s degree, Woodard spent time teaching at Surry Community College in Dobson, N.C., after which she received her second master’s degree in statistics from North Carolina State University.
Woodard knew that she wanted to be a professor and teach more advanced math, so she pursued a Ph.D. in mathematics and statistics education at NC State while concurrently teaching full-time at Meredith College, with the hopes of landing a teaching faculty position after graduation. “It is really cool when you can plan a lesson or activity where the students say, ‘Oh I get it!’ I really like getting that moment out of students. That aha moment,” Woodard said.
Having earned her doctorate in October 2017, Woodard has been at Notre Dame sharing her love for mathematics and teaching with her students. In addition to teaching statistics courses to business students, Woodard also teaches a course on probability and another on regressions for ACMS students. “Teaching ACMS majors has been amazing because they are incredibly excited to do statistics. They just really care and are amazing students,” Woodard said.
When asked what impact she wants to have on her students, Woodard, somewhat jokingly, said that she hopes to persuade at least one of her business students each semester to switch his or her major to ACMS. “I hope I can instill at least a little bit of passion into somebody in my intro classes,” Woodard said.
Ultimately, Woodard wants all of her students to see how statistics can be useful in everyday life. “Whether that be in their careers or having fun predicting March Madness brackets, I hope they can find utility and enjoyment in learning statistics that they can use in their future lives,” Woodard said.