In the process of deciding which things to take with me to Michigan, I came across something really really cool! It was a print-out of an email from July 26, 2013 that I had sent to my mom, asking for comments and suggestions on an essay I had written for the MetroDukes Scholarship at JMU. Reading through it was such a shock for me! What do you think?

When I was in 11

^{th}grade, people would often ask, “What do you want to do when you get older?” and I couldn’t come up with an honest response. I just didn’t know. But at the end of that school year, we began to look at an intro to calculus, and I was hooked. This slight exposure to a new type of Mathematics sparked an interest that I heavily explored. By the start of 12^{th}grade, I had already looked through and learned everything that would be taught in my AP Calculus BC class that year.Now I know what I want to do: study mathematics. But I couldn’t have figured it out without the help of Mr. Baird, my 10

^{th}and 11^{th}grade math teacher. He constantly encouraged me to explore the math I was interested in, even if he wasn’t teaching it at that moment. But as my love of math continued to grow, I had a realization: Most others don’t possess the same love I did.I attempted to talk to others about the amazing properties of Gabriel’s Horn or the innumerable applications Calculus has on the real world and on all of mathematics before it but no one was really interested. I continued to console in Mr. Baird as my explorations took me into Multi-variable Calculus, Set Theory, and Topology. As I learned more and more, however, it continued to trouble me that others didn’t enjoy math as much as I did. I joined the Math Honor Society and began to tutor students to try and expose them to the true and intuitive beauty of mathematics.

It worked! The happiness that shown on their faces as they finally understood various concepts quickly became addicting to me. I needed that feeling, and so I began to look at Mathematics in a way that would help me teach it later. This let me gain a deeper understanding of the material and accelerated my learning greatly. I became positive that the reason the love of math is so sparse is because of the lack of good teachers. It was in that moment that I became positive I wanted to study math. I planned then to get a BS in Math, continue in my Master’s, and even work to enter a PhD program in Mathematics.

And James Madison University has already enabled me to explore my dream. With the help of my advisor, I was able to take Calculus 3 and Discrete Mathematics in my very first semester at JMU. Because of this, I can take Linear Algebra and Differential Equations my second semester, and begin focusing on higher level math my sophomore year at JMU. The fact that this opportunity is open to me makes me ecstatic. JMU has helped me accelerate my learning, and set me on the course to help others in their learning. And for that, I am proud to be a Duke!

I want to again thank Mr. Baird (though I’d be surprised if he ever saw this post…) for inspiring me to study mathematics. Before I even started at JMU (remember, July 26th, 2013 was the summer before my Freshman year), I knew I wanted to major in Math and even get a PhD in Math. Little did I know, I’d be skipping the Master’s part altogether!

And wow, the last sentence of the second paragraph might be something I’ve said word-for-word four years later while discussing Math 167 (something certainly deserving of its own blog post). Back then, I had no idea what the next four years at JMU would be like, but I’m pretty happy with what unfolded – I can’t wait to see where the next five take me!

Thanks for reading,

Jonathan Gerhard

P.S. I know you’re curious, did I get the scholarship?? Nope. It was good practice for the next hundred or so scholarships I applied to though!