Davis cites academic challenges and social camaraderie as rewarding at Texas State By M. Yvonne Taylor, University Marketing
Every year, more than 1.5 million students take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, commonly known as the PSAT. Of those, only the top one percent of students who take the exam are named National Merit Finalists. In fall 2008, one of those 15,000 students, Joel Davis, decided to begin his journey into higher education at Texas State.
Davis, a 2009-10 Texas State sophomore, graduated third in his class at Lehman High School in Kyle, Texas, and considered schools like Yale and Harvard. But he decided to apply to Texas State and the University of Texas at Austin because he wanted to stay closer to home. Although he was accepted to both, he chose Texas State after spending time visiting and researching both campuses. “Texas State offered generous scholarships. I was able to get a full ride here,” he explains. “And Texas State is a really good school.”
Although the math major found that he was able to successfully complete most of his classes with ease his first semester, it was Calculus III that “blew him away,” he says. He’d taken AP classes throughout high school, so he entered the junior-level calculus class as a freshman. “It was my toughest class. Sometimes I spent five to six hours on one assignment,” explains Davis. “I was really glad, though, to have to work that hard for the first time in my academic career.”
University Honors Program Davis also really enjoyed being in the University Honors Program, geared toward high-achieving academic students. “The classes are capped at 17 students maximum,” he explains. “By the end of the class, everybody knows everybody. We’re talking to the teacher on a first-name basis — it just makes learning easier and more fun. I took three honors classes during first semester.”
He says that the camaraderie among his peers and with his professors makes learning more enjoyable. “Everyone is just going to school and being their own person. They don’t have to worry about gauging themselves off of anybody else,” he explains, a circumstance that differs from his experiences in high school in which students were competing for class rank.
He also really appreciates “the cooperation in learning, rather than getting lectured at all semester and doing multiple choice tests at the end. You learn, but it’s a different way to learn.”
Davis cites one class in particular as a perfect example of what goes on in the Honors Program. “It was an English class taught by Professor John Hood called ‘All the World’s a Stage,’” he explains. “By the end, the class had decided what direction it wanted to go, and we were producing our own original piece of a screenplay or TV show. Everyone was working together with the professor, and we were all equal.
“It was just a totally different educational experience than I’d ever had before,” he adds.
All Work and No Play? But Davis doesn’t keep his nose to the grindstone 24-7. He joined the Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity, and he is president of the Math Club. He is even an officer of the local chapter of the national mathematics honor society Pi Mu Epsilon.
Davis estimates that by becoming involved socially he’s “met 10 times more people,” and he keeps meeting more. “There’s always something going on in the Quad, like the Earth Day celebration, and lots of times, Phi Sigma Pi is involved in those, so I try to make it out.
“Texas State is just a really great place,” he adds. “You can just go out there, and people are really receptive. I found it really refreshing.”
What’s Next? Davis’ future is bright, says Professor David Snyder, whose calculus class required the student to burn the midnight oil on more than a few nights. “He has the talent and discipline to be an excellent scholar, especially in math, and I expect he will achieve distinction in his career.” Davis intends to continue his studies toward a PhD. And although he maintains a keen interest in math, he’s also considering double-majoring in music.
In fact, music is one of the interests he shares with Snyder, his admired professor. During a car ride to an event, he discovered that they shared musical tastes. “I was able to spend time in an academic and nonacademic sense with him, and we clicked personality and math-wise. It’s the small things and the ability to do that that makes a good professor,” which is what Davis hopes to become himself.
But the pursuit of a career will come later. His most immediate concern?
“I enjoyed staying in the dorms this year for the experience,” he laughs. “But I’m really looking forward to moving into my own apartment,” he says with a smile.
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Joel Davis file
Hometown: Kyle, Texas
Activities: president, Math Club; member, Phi Sigma Pi and Pi Mu Epsilon
Associate Professor David Snyder says: “Joel is an excellent student, in class and out. It is an honor for me to work with such a student."
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