National Teaching Excellence Award for Mathematics Professor

Published: February 27, 2018

Professor Dona Boccio of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science is one of eight educators nationwide to receive a “Teaching Excellence Award,” from the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC).

Her impressive research has inspired her teaching, according to the association. Much of this research was conducted at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She has investigated the tracking of orbital debris, mathematical modeling of systems that support human and robotic exploration of space and the modeling of atmospheric pressure on Mars.

“Increasing our understanding of these aspects of space, space travel and the solar system is crucial as NASA plans future missions to the Moon and Mars,” Boccio says.

Boccio, who has taught at the College since 1980, was nominated for this award by Mary Beth Orrange, who taught for many years at Erie Community College and is now a State University of New York Distinguished Professor Emeritus.  Orrange’s nomination letter noted that Boccio has “crafted innovative teaching strategies that improve learning for students at her campus and beyond. She has made an impact on her students, colleagues, institution, state and her nation.”

Queensborough Professor Sylvia M. Svitak, a colleague in Mathematics and Computer Science, in a letter vigorously supporting the nomination, noted that Boccio’s “use of writing-to-learn activities…helps students to develop sound problem solving skills based on mathematical concepts and reasoning.” She added that this improves students’ knowledge of the general principles of problem solving.

The professor participated in three NASA Summer Faculty Fellowship Programs. Her work at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies resulted in an improved estimate of average atmospheric pressure on Mars.  She also spent a sabbatical year at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

Boccio has shared her knowledge from her research by mentoring student researchers and by presenting more than 30 diverse presentations at conferences, including guest lectures and keynote addresses.  During one professional gathering she was the invited speaker at a math circle challenging the underrepresentation of women in mathematics. Her topic: "Meteoroids, Microgravity, Mars Missions, and Math.”

Boccio served in the United States Navy Reserve from 1986 to 2016. She has also served on the College’s Military Task Force and Veterans Advisory Council and recently taught a mathematics class for veterans. She often collaborates with faculty from other departments on grants, pedagogical research, and course design – and as a mentor for colleagues outside her discipline in the eLearning program.

One of her former students, Megan Petersen, ’17, who now attends Hunter College noted, “Dr. Boccio encouraged me in more than math. She offered to recommend me for a study abroad program, and helped me prepare to apply, by going over the application and requirements with me. It is clear that she is passionate about investing in students and giving them the support they need to continue, successfully, beyond Queensborough.”

The professor received her honor at the 43rd annual AMATYC conference held in San Diego, California in November. The award is presented every two years to educators who have made outstanding contributions to mathematics or mathematics education at two year colleges.  The association is the only organization exclusively devoted to providing a national forum for the improvement of mathematics instruction in the first two years of college. AMATYC has approximately 1,800 individual members, including more than 150 institutional members in the United States and Canada. Educators in 47 states and one Canadian province are represented through AMATYC's 44 affiliate organizations.

Boccio has served as President, Secretary and Legislative Chair on the Executive Board of NYSMATYC, the New York State affiliate. She worked with members of the New York State Assembly to draft a resolution recognizing the accomplishments of both NYSMATYC and its statewide student scholarship winners. These scholars were then invited to Albany to be honored on the Assembly floor and meet with their legislative representatives. For this and other efforts, Boccio was awarded NYSMATYC’s Outstanding Contributions to Mathematics Education Award in 2005.

She holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the City University of New York Graduate Center, an M.S. in Mathematics from New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, and a B.A. in Chemistry from New York University. 

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