Hwayeon Ryu recognized for exceptional teaching by Mathematical Association of America

Ryu, an assistant professor of mathematics, won the 2024 Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College Mathematics Faculty Member at the Mathematical Association of America Southeastern Section conference, held March 14-16.

Hwayeon Ryu, assistant professor of mathematics, was recognized for excellence in teaching by the Southeastern Section of the Mathematical Association of America at its recent annual conference.

Ryu won the section’s 2024 Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College Mathematics Faculty Member at the organization’s 103rd Annual Section Meeting held March 14-16 at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. The annual award recognizes early career teachers whose success and effectiveness in teaching undergraduate mathematics exceeds the bounds of classroom teaching.

View through a glass board of a professor writing an equation with four students looking on
Assistant Professor of Mathematics Hwayeon Ryu, with marker, and students, left to right, Carissa Potter ’24, Mary Hermes ’24, Ayesh Awad ’24, and Rony Dahdal ’26 review an equation in their mathematical model of the human immune response to COVID-19.

“We are delighted to present Dr. Hwayeon Ryu of Elon University with this year’s Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College Mathematics Faculty Member,” Emily Hynds, Award Committee chair and Associate Dean of Samford University’s Howard College of Arts and Sciences, said in announcing the award. “Her passion for teaching, commitment to enhancing educational experiences, and active mentorship, which educates outside the classroom, make her an exemplary educator.”

Ryu was nominated by colleagues in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and several former students wrote testimonials supporting the nomination. Since joining Elon in fall 2019, Ryu has taught introductory and advanced applied mathematics courses. Faculty colleagues noted that Ryu’s teaching promotes a growth mindset and leads students to “explore the power of mathematics through real-world applications arising from various disciplines, grow as future leaders, and develop their passions and skills — thus enhancing understanding of and impact upon the world.”

That approach surpasses the classroom. Through expertise in areas where math and biology intersect, she has mentored 13 Elon students in undergraduate research projects. Those have included research in a three-year, $300,000 National Science Foundation-funded project to mathematically model the human immune response to COVID-19, which currently involves four undergraduates in its second year. Teams Ryu mentored in that project were accepted to present at the 2023 and 2024 National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

Working with faculty at Wake Forest University, she also mentored a collaborative research project conducted by undergraduate students both at Elon and Wake Forest in 2021-22, and co-organized the 2023 Integrating Research in Science (IRIS) conference on Elon’s campus. IRIS drew students and faculty from 15 regional institutions to Elon in April for greater collaboration and community around STEM research.

Earlier this spring, the Board of Trustees approved Ryu’s promotion to associate professor concluding the 2023-24 academic year.

The Southeastern Section of the Mathematical Association of America includes educators and mathematicians in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.