Fairfield University has enjoyed the professorship of Shawn Rafalski for the past six and a half years.
Rafalski has taught courses such as Calculus and Complex Analysis over the course of his time here at Fairfield.
Rafalski has not, however, always known that mathematics was his calling. In fact, he was originally a Philosophy and English double major. It was not until he transferred to a state school from his small liberal arts college in Michigan that he became a Math major. He later obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois Chicago.
“I decided some time in my junior year of college that I wanted to work in academia. I was a tutor in my school’s mathematics learning center, and I realized that I liked discovering new math and teaching math to people more than I liked most other things.”
According to Rafalski’s former student Rebecca Hyatt ‘17, Rafalski not only helps students improve in math; he also changes the way they see the subject.
“Professor Rafalski was an engaging professor who found unorthodox ways to help us learn,” said Hyatt. “From seeing Calculus the Musical to having us create videos integrating mathematical concepts, he would not let us settle for the standard perception of math as boring.”
For Rafalski, his favorite thing about teaching “is seeing that moment when a difficult concept ‘clicks’ for my students. The ability to discover and comprehend is how the human race develops.”
“This is the purpose of an education: to learn how to explore, how to question, how to better understand both ourselves and the world around us,” Rafalski continued. “Seeing a student understand something is like watching the human race grow.”
It is clear that Rafalski concerns himself with the well-being of his students.
Dana Saad ‘18, a former student of his, said that “Professor Rafalski will always want and do the best for his students. He is a great professor, and I would definitely take him again, if the chance arises.”
Along with teaching calculus, Rafalski is an avid fan of science fiction of all kinds, and even wrote a novel of his own when he was in high school. He was also the editor of his high school’s literary magazine and considered being a fiction writer and astronomer before he decided to go into academia.