Hailing from Enoch, Utah, James Wilcken is proud and honored to represent the College of Science and Engineering as Valedictorian.
"More than a good thing to put on a resume is the recognition I've received from professors through this academic achievement," says Wilcken. "Professors I've looked up to and respected, people who have taught me all the material I've learned, have turned around and compliment me on the hard work I've done. It means a lot to me."
As a math major with an emphasis in actuarial science, Wilcken has looked up to his older brother as a role model, especially for education. Sharing similar interests in math and engineering, Wilcken states that his brother's influence has helped him refine his interests in mathematics and his future aspirations.
"I have a sincere interest in how things work," says Wilcken. "That's probably why I like math as much as I do, is because of a love of understanding how things fit together and how different subjects connect. Being able to make those connections in my brain is one of my favorite things about learning."
Dr. Seth Armstrong, associate professor of mathematics and a mentor to Wilcken, says he has been at or near the top of every math class he has taken.
“Jim is one of the most humble young men I’ve ever met. He has completed the very difficult task of passing two Actuarial Exams while working in the Math Lab as ‘the best math tutor’, as I’ve been told from several students. He’s an outstanding, humble, talented young man for whom all math faculty feel the highest regard.”
He began his collegiate career with an unclear picture of what he wanted from school. Taking general courses, he found himself in Math 1050 the second semester of his freshman year. While lecturing, the professor explained where the quadratic formula comes from and derived the equation.
"It was so interesting to me," says Wilcken. "I felt that in high school I never was taught why equations are the way they are. So to have someone explain the reasons why we have an equation and how it works was fascinating."
In his spare time, Wilcken enjoys playing basketball and watching movies projected on canyon walls, but mostly he spends time with his future wife and fellow math major Katelyn.
Working as a tutor for three years, Wilcken has helped teach math at a variety of levels - from math 1010 to calculus II. He has also been a member of the Math Club, serving this past year as the club's secretary.
With an emphasis in actuarial science, Wilcken will most likely end up in an insurance company. Working behind the scenes, he wants to help set rates for the company by using probabilities and statistics in the effort to maximize profit and increase clientele.