Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Deborah White
Deborah White loves math! “Sure,” she says, “I get a lot of enjoyment from math, but mostly I love trying to get other people to find at least a little pleasure in it, especially those who feel they're no good at math and who don't like it. Most people hate math,” she continues, because they had a bad experience trying to learn it. They suffered Math Abuse,” she says. White considers this very sad, because she derives so much pleasure from math. “I try to transfer some of my enjoyment to them,” she says. One way she does this, is by running a weekly math contest open to all Mendocino College students. According to White, “It has attracted a certain following, and is a real addition to the lives of the students who take part.” She shared a sample problem: A block of wood is 3" x 8" x 12", and all its six faces are painted pink. If the wooden block is cut into 288 cubes of 1" x 1" x 1", how many of these would have pink paint on them? (Answer: 228)
White grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics in 1967 from Swarthmore College, a small liberal arts college near Philadelphia, and a Master of Science degree in statistics in 1968 from Stanford University. She has taught math at both the high school and middle school levels, but for the past 30 years she has taught mathematics at local Community Colleges: first at College of the Redwoods in Fort Bragg, then at Mendocino College in Ukiah, where she, her family, and her students have thrived for the past 10 years. She loves teaching college students: “They are so fun,” she says. “They like to feel they are using their brains, and they have interesting lives they will tell you about, if you let them know you are interested.”
In addition to her life as a math professor, White is both a past and a practicing journalist! She wrote obituaries and meetings for the Ukiah Daily Journal in the 1970's, before she was hired to teach math at College of the Redwoods. She has worked as an editor and proofreader of both newspapers and textbooks, and she authored a set of solutions manuals for a College Algebra textbook. She has also recently written textbooks (unpublished) for use in her Statistics and Business Calculus courses.
A self-described “sports nut,” White recently received a special Staff Award from the Mendocino College Athletic Department for being a faithful fan. She enjoys all college sports, especially basketball, and says she believes watching her students in a game and talking with them about it afterwards enhances the student-teacher relationship. She has been particularly pleased to watch the development of women's basketball and women's soccer as part of the Mendocino College athletic program.
One of the founders of the MC faculty union, White served as the organization's first president. She is proud that the union has clarified relations between the administration and the faculty without becoming adversarial. “Our whole College is a team,” she says, “unlike many others. We are lucky,” she continues, “as our administration is about as good as it gets.”
White has two grown children and two grandchildren, all of whom live locally. “I am one lucky lady!” she enthuses. Besides teaching math and watching sports, she likes to garden and read novels.