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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

'A Time to Become My Own Person'

Emily Dyckman '19 revels in beauty of mathematics

Feb. 26, 2018, by Renee K. Gadoua

Emily Dyckman
Emily Dyckman

Emily Dyckman ’19 describes her high school self as “terrified of the future.” Since then, she has “bravely embarked on solo flights for business interviews, driven four hours in a cramped car with my best friends to who knows where and, most importantly, developed a strong dedication for my work.” Soon after the Charlotte, North Carolina, native arrived at Syracuse University, her plan to study acting took a dramatic turn. On the very first day of classes, she changed her major to applied mathematics.

Her shift to mathematics may not have come as a complete surprise, though. Her father worked as a financial analyst, and she encountered math as a young child while learning to read music and play piano. This summer she’s taking on a new role: interning as an analyst at Bank of America in Orlando, Florida. Here are Dyckman’s thoughts about her college journey.

Why did you choose Syracuse? What other institutions did you consider?

I chose Syracuse for its stellar acting program. However, on the very first day of my core, I decided that acting wasn’t for me and I was truly passionate about math. It was one of the best decisions of my life. In addition to Syracuse, I applied to New York University, Elon University, Virginia Tech and UNC Chapel Hill. Syracuse felt like home right when I stepped on campus. I knew that my next four years would be best spent at Syracuse, even if it included painfully numbing winters and a mall the size of Jupiter that I probably would never finish exploring (I still haven’t).

What do you like most about mathematics?

Mathematics is, frankly, the foundation of life. I dare you to find any simple object or activity that you partake in and find it lacking mathematics. We are surrounded by derivatives, models and graphs from the second we enter the world. From very early on, humans have been defining the world around them using numbers, symbols and operations, and I am simply following in their footsteps. I want to show people that while math seems like a foreign language that you will never understand, it can be truly beautiful and inspiring.

What do you plan to do after graduation?

I have always been interested in becoming a professor. It would be a creative way to combine my passion for performing with my mathematical interests. As an economics minor, I am also fascinated by the financial markets. I like the idea of utilizing my math skills to give back to the financial world or to help people make financial decisions.

My internship suggests that my future will include financial analysis and planning. Graduation is my fork in the road and, eventually, I will have to choose which path on which to embark. For now, I am going to enjoy the student life.

Would you elaborate on some of your hobbies and interests?

I have always had very artistic hobbies. I love to act and have been very involved on campus in theater clubs. I also have been playing piano since I was about 5. In fact, I believe that music theory is what started my mathematical preoccupation. Music is quite literally composed of sine and cosine waves, so it was pretty much destined that I would improve on my math skills while learning to read and play music.

I have also always been very athletic. Until I was about 12, I took part in competitive gymnastics, and in high school I was on swim team. While these activities might not have added to my mathematical toolbox, I thoroughly enjoyed them. I have always believed that life isn’t just about work and school. People need outlets, whether they relate to their work or not, and my outlets have made me who I am today.

How has the College of Arts and Sciences—and Syracuse, in general—made you a better person?

Going into college, I was turned off, to say the least, by a liberal arts education. However, once I decided to study applied math, I couldn’t ignore core requirements. Much to my surprise, as soon as I started taking humanities, social science and natural science courses, I understood the importance of and fully welcomed a liberal arts education. I didn’t come to college to focus on one idea or area of study and remain planted in that field the rest of my life. College was time for me to become my own, well-rounded person and the College of Arts and Sciences gave me the education I needed to not only excel in my future career, but also to further express and expand my knowledge as a human being.