“I am so pleased to have gone to ASU for my undergraduate degree. I have learned that education is what I make of it, regardless of where it happens,” said Carpenter. “I plan on taking the rich, varied experiences ASU has offered with me to Boulder, Colorado, in the fall and start the next stage of my educational career.”

We asked Carpenter to share more about his journey as a Sun Devil.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: It may seem cliché, but I knew math was my favorite subject since early elementary school. It was the subject that I knew I was the best at and it was always the homework that I wanted to do first when getting home from school. In high school, with more of a perception of what college was, I knew that math was the subject that I wanted to focus on and learn more about.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: My half-semester — thanks to the pandemic — of studying abroad in Mexico City was one of the most eye-opening experiences I had studying math. As all of my math classes were given in Spanish, I was able to truly test my skills in math but also my Spanish fluency. What I took away from this experience was understanding the universality of mathematics. Language and geographic boundaries had no effect on the mathematical aptitude of the friends I made while abroad. I gained a much wider perspective of math in an international context.

Q:  Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I'm not sure this was a lesson he ever explicitly taught, but Dr. Don Jones always presented material formally but never without a fair share of levity. I would like to think Dr. Jones has informed my teaching style while tutoring and how I approach learning math in general: while still formal, mathematics does not need to be boring.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Don't be afraid to reach out for help, whether that be to friends, professors, advisers, tutoring centers, etc. Asking for help is by no means an admission of weakness or stupidity. Sometimes a different person's perspective or understanding of a topic may sync better with how you learn.

Q: What is most misunderstood about mathematics by the general public? 

A: I think that most people easily write themselves off as "not good at math" and abandon any attempt at learning it. Math, like any sport or activity, takes effort and practice in order to become proficient. I would like people to understand that no one understands difficult math concepts instantly.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I always enjoyed sitting in the breezeways of Wexler hall working on homework or studying between classes. Seeing friends and professors milling about solidified the feeling of community in the department. My favorite place on campus is probably the Social Sciences building just south of the LL building. Its greenery and cool, shaded environment was always a nice escape from the heat. 

Q: Do you identify as part of any underrepresented group in mathematics? If so, how has that impacted your experience?

A: I do identify as part of the LGBT community, and although it didn’t make much of an impact in my studies or work environments, mainly because I never brought it up, I would like to see more queer representation in STEM in general. I hope to be a bit more vocal about my sexuality in the future and show other queer mathematics students that there are people like them out there.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time, when not studying or doing school-related tasks?

A: Playing the clarinet was always a creative escape for me during high school and college. I intend to get involved in playing music again in grad school, hopefully after things are "back to normal" pandemic-wise. During the pandemic, I've been trying to keep up with all of the Netflix original series coming out, some of my favorites being “Ratched” and “The Queen's Gambit,” for sure.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: After hearing the tragic news of Arkansas banning treatment for transgender youth, I would like to focus on providing support for the vulnerable trans communities across the country, whether through legislation reform or providing free treatment and hormone therapy.

Rhonda Olson

Manager of Marketing and Communication, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences