Trading in Computer Chips for Gardening Tips - Loser Retires from Adams State College

(05-09-2005)

Marilyn Loser

There is not a doubt in Marilyn Loser's mind that it is time to retire as professor of Mathematics/Computer Science at Adams State College. "It's time, I have no second thoughts," she said.

There was no doubt in Dr. Kay O. Watkins', emeritus professor of Chemistry, mind when he hired her. He said, "I recommended that Marilyn Loser be hired as an assistant professor of computer science. Marilyn proved to be a diligent worker, excellent teacher and collegial staff member. It was my pleasure to work with her for many years."

It's the nature of computer technology to constantly change, and Loser is ready to step off that drive and devote more time to the science of gardening, cooking and traveling.

"I earned my first Bachelor of Arts degree from Colorado College, in Economics, 1971. "I lived in the city, and held a variety of jobs when I was younger including a Youth Marshall, but found my niche in the San Luis Valley at Adams State College in Computer Science."

Chair of Chemistry/Mathematics/Computer Science, Dr. Matthew Nehring, has seen her commitment to her students, the department and the college.

He said, "From my perspective, Marilyn has served the institution as an excellent instructor and a tireless worker for years and years. She has worked hard to insure the technology needs of the campus are met. Furthermore, I'm particularly grateful to Marilyn for all her service to the department this past year as she has been going full throttle to the bitter end, serving on search committees, redesigning courses, and volunteering for many thankless tasks."

When she first moved from the urban to rural area Loser worked as a newspaper editor in Monte Vista. "I didn't want to spend the rest of my professional career as a journalist or editor and decided to return to college and become certified to teach math in the public schools. Taking classes, I realized computer science suited me. Even though I hadn't even touched a computer until I was 35 years old," she said.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts, in Mathematics, 1986; and a Master's of Art in Secondary Mathematics Education 1987 (also licensed to teach mathematics/computer science 1987-1997) at Adams State College.

Loser taught part-time after receiving her first master's degree from ASC, "I was an Instructor of Mathematics for three years, and then continued my education in computer science. I earned a Master of Science in Computer Science from New Mexico State University in 1988, and also completed a Ph.D. in Organizational Learning and Instructional Technology, from University of New Mexico in 2001, with a focus on distance learning and human-computer interaction. While at UNM I received the Outstanding Achievement Award for 200l."

While she worked on her Ph.D., she was also a professor at Adams State College, "I got tenure in 1989, and took leave a couple of semesters to finish the doctorate. It was worth the commitment and sacrifice."

Computer Science is ever changing. "The biggest challenge in my professional career has been teaching 20 different classes. It's never been boring but it can be overwhelming at times. Computer Science has so many different languages, hardware and software; all of it always changing. While it has been wonderful, I know I'm ready to step aside and retire," Loser said. "I will miss the enthusiasm, creativity, hard work, sense of humor and dedication of so many ASC students."

She is looking forward to pursuing her ever changing garden, "I want to create a flower garden website specific for this region. I can include what grows here, and when to plant, what works best in alkaline soil and gardening related events."

Even in the dry, arid climate of the San Luis Valley there is a variety of vegetation that thrives, "I began a garden at my home 16 years ago, and it's now quadrupled in size, comprising about 3/4 of an acre, and has as its centerpiece an enclosed gazebo. I needed some free form. It is my oasis," she said.

For her, gardening is like a concert, "The land was all sand and Chico brush when I started. I brought in soil and dirt and began the process of developing the garden. It is a passion and it never ends. I get a thrill out of the tiny flowers and bulbs, I just love it. It is like listening to an orchestra. It starts out flat, builds to a crescendo and then falls back into silence with the returning winter snow."

For some, mathematics is worse than pulling all the weeds in all the gardens of the world.

Loser doesn't tend to that view, "It really bothers me when I hear someone say, 'I'm not good at math,' and it is an accepted statement. I've heard professionals in high profile careers make that remark, and everyone seems to think that's okay. What if they said, "I'm not good at reading,' it would be an outrage. The invisible barrier of fear and loathing for math and computers needs to be eliminated. Math and computers are tools that help us experience, explain and succeed in the world."

She has picked her battles when it comes to educating the public about math, "I have developed a sense of humor. It used to be a pet peeve to see .50 cents. I would tell the clerk, okay here's a penny, give me half of it back. I've had arguments about it, to me it is important. If the sign had a misspelling I would ask that it be corrected. I hope someone else will pick up the torch for the decimal police."

As technology increases, Loser sees the world's use of computers becoming even more diverse, "I believe computer design will become even more ubiquitous. I can see a future of people wearing computer chips to sense body temperature and regulate it for patients under medical care. Computers may start being in smaller devices, little sensors that work together as a collective. The potential is unlimited and I'm pleased to see a stronger connection between humans and computers."

During her tenure at Adams State College, Loser has served on many committees including: Instructional Technology Policy Committee, fall 2003 to present; Academic Instructional Technology Committee Chair from 1996 to 1998, and 2000 to Spring 2003; and the Technology Proficiency Committee from 2000 to 2001.

Marty Jones, professor of Chemistry, appreciates her effort in the classroom and on campus. He describes Loser as professional, collegial and graceful.

He said, "Marilyn treated her students with respect, and demanded success from them. Numerous students stay in touch with her, and she remains a part of their lives (including attending weddings, etc.).

My increase in comfort with the use of computer-based technology in the classroom is directly attributable to a summer course I took from Marilyn in 1997. After that course, I started using the Internet and PowerPoint in class, and became a more effective classroom teacher.

Marilyn was a principal driving force for the establishment of technology proficiency on campus, both for students and for faculty, staff, and administration. When the faculty voted to add a technology proficiency requirement to our general education program, Marilyn quickly volunteered to serve on the committee to develop appropriate guidelines. She was a calming influence on the committee, and largely through her efforts, we were the first campus in the state to have a working technology proficiency policy for all students.

I'm pleased to have had the opportunity to work with Marilyn for 16 years. She's taught me a lot about what it means to be a professor at a small college (and not just in terms of technology). Thank you, Marilyn."

Loser is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery and the International Society for Technology in Education. She has been published in "Computer Conference Message Navigation, Structure, and Organization: Usability Evaluation of a Spatial Interface." Dissertation, 2001; and "Quadratic Grapher: An Intelligent Tutoring System for Graphing Quadratic Equations."

Her interest in computers and math also led her to a more personal interest, "I met my husband Ron while I was a student. Our relationship endured even the long absences while I pursued my second masters' and Ph.D. He has always been supportive."