Camarillo, Calif., Jan 12, 2012 – CSU Channel Islands (CI) Professor Dr. Cynthia Wyels has earned one of the nation’s top honors for a math professor.

Wyels recently accepted the Mathematical Association of America’s Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics while in Boston.

The award is given each year to three college or university teachers who have been widely recognized as extraordinarily successful and whose teaching effectiveness has had influence beyond their own institutions. Winners receive $1,000 and a certificate of recognition from the MAA.

“I’m stunned and honored,” Wyels said.  “It’s provided a wonderful opportunity to look back on my career and recognize how fortunate I’ve been to work with the people I’ve worked with and have had the students I’ve had.”

Wyels, a CI faculty member since 2005, is director of the graduate mathematics program and an avid promoter of undergraduate research opportunities for underrepresented students. Through her summer undergraduate research programs, she has mentored and encouraged 67 students – more than half of them minorities – to pursue higher education and careers in mathematics. 

Wyels has also earned a reputation for transforming unsuspecting students into mathematicians. 

Michael Nava, a first-generation college student, planned to become a high school teacher before he met Wyels in 2007. Today, he is a Ph.D. candidate in UCSB’s Applied Probability and Statistics department.

“Dr. Wyels changed my career outlook and opened the door of opportunity for me,” Nava said.  “She made CI a home for me which was at first a strange and foreign place for a first-generation college student.  Her guidance gave me the confidence and abilities to apply and compete in graduate school.”

Wyels developed her appreciation for math as an undergraduate at Pomona College, after realizing that “the challenge of mathematics made the payoff greater.”  She then embraced the challenge of getting others to love – or at least not fear – math.  After earning her Ph.D. from UCSB, she held positions at the United States Military Academy and Weber State University before spending nine years at California Lutheran University. 

Her interest in broadening access to higher education led her to CSU Channel Islands in 2005. Over the years, she has focused increased efforts on supporting students from low-income, first-generation and historically underrepresented groups.

Wyels was asked to speak at the MAA awards ceremony about the importance of undergraduate research opportunities. She told the group that more educators need to focus additional research efforts on the “overlooked” students.

“My message is give the other kids the opportunity – the kids who are in the back of the class, who may be first-generation college students, non-native English speakers or community college transfers,” Wyels said.  “If you look beyond the ones you traditionally invite to do research, you’ll find students with a lot of potential.  You’ll provide them with life-changing opportunities they wouldn’t have dreamed of, but that they’re definitely capable of.”

For more information on the MAA’s Haimo Award, visit

For additional information contact Dr. Wyels at 805-437-3260 or

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CSU Channel Islands 
(CI) is the only four-year, public university in Ventura County and is known for its interdisciplinary, multicultural and international perspectives, and its emphasis on experiential and service learning. CI’s strong academic programs focus on business, sciences, liberal studies, teaching credentials, and innovative master’s degrees. Students benefit from individual attention, up-to-date technology, and classroom instruction augmented by outstanding faculty research. CI has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is committed to serving students of all backgrounds from the region and beyond. Connect with and learn more by visiting CI's Social Media.