WOOSTER The College of Wooster recently honored Green High School alum Emily Howerton during the school's 47th annual recognition banquet for her induction into Phi Beta Kappa, a prestigious honors organization for undergraduates.
Phi Beta Kappa is a lifetime membership and Howerton has joined ranks which include 17 U.S. Presidents, 39 U.S. Supreme Court Justices and more than 130 Nobel Laureates.
Established in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa looks for undergraduates that demonstrate intellectual integrity, interest in a wide range of academics and tolerance for other views. Of all the nation’s higher education institutions, only about 10 percent have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. Those that do have chapters are very selective and membership is by invitation only.
Howerton, a senior majoring in mathematics and philosophy, received the invitation her junior year. While Howerton has always been interested in mathematics, her passion really started to take off at Green High.
"Even as I was growing up, I was a problem solver," she said. "I liked to do riddles and sudoku with my grandpa. My junior year of high school I took AP calculus and I really enjoyed class. I found a lot of success and that’s when I realized ‘I’m pretty good at this. I like it a lot and it’s pretty fun,' " she said.
Both of Howerton’s parents are College of Wooster alums and her mother was also a math major.
"My mom definitely did not push me to be (a math major), but I grew up in a house with a problem solver and a math person. That atmosphere may have given me the inclination," Howerton said.
When she arrived at college, Howerton found guidance from her mother’s former mathematics professor John Ramsay. After meeting the younger Howerton, Ramsay said, "It was clear that she had real talent in mathematics. I encouraged her to continue as long as she enjoyed it since it would open opportunities for her in almost any field she chose to pursue."
Ramsay pointed Howerton in the direction of several mathematics opportunities including tutoring at the Math Tutorial Center, a research project with his colleague to explore mathematics application, The Applied Methods and Research Experience (AMRE) summer program working for Goodyear and an internship with Progressive.
AMRE was designed by the mathematics and computer science departments to give Wooster students real world experience in their field. Students act as full-time consultants for designated companies. Ramsay, who is the head of the program, said Howerton and her teammates excelled during their summer working for Goodyear.
"(They) did a great job of understanding each other’s strengths and coordinating into a productive team," Ramsay said. "The teams have to present their work in a variety of different settings. Goodyear was extremely happy with the project and continues to hire AMRE teams to solve problems for them."
Howerton’s team built a computer image analysis during the eight-week program.
"In that experience, I realized what sorts of things you can do with math, and what I liked and disliked about those things," she said. "That’s really helped me in thinking about what I want to do after Wooster."
In her second semester of her sophomore year, Howerton declared her math major. By her junior year, she had added the philosophy major as well.
"When I was scheduling my classes for the second semester of freshman year, I had a really late registration time," Howerton said. "Basically, there were no other classes open. I took it and I was really intrigued by the discipline and the questions they were asking. I found that it was a good fit for me and the questions I like to ask."
Howerton said the majors go well together contrary to what people usually think, and she pointed out that many famous philosophers also do math. Both disciplines are making claims and presenting proofs with math actually being more abstract. In order to graduate, Howerton also had to write and then defend an independent study thesis. She chose to combine her two disciplines into one paper on the relationship between rationality and morality using the mathematical model of Game Theory and philosophical reflection.
Of being inducted to Phi Beta Kappa, Howerton said it was a huge honor. One of the reasons she picked Wooster was for its academic excellence and rigor; another reason was its Division III golf team on which she plays.
Howerton, who graduates today, plans to take a job with a mid-sized consulting firm in Cleveland because she loves project-based work. She wants to go back to grad school for her PhD at some point in her future, but she doesn’t have a field of study or timeline yet.
Ramsay compared Howerton skills to a five-tool, multi-talented baseball player.
"The five-tool players are the cream of the crop, the ones that everyone wants on their team," he said. "Emily is a five-tool player at the College of Wooster. She has shown excellence in independent judgement, analytical ability, creativity, communication and management of complex projects; the five key areas that we use to benchmark development in our students.
"I am not at all surprised that she is finding success in any discipline she chooses to pursue. Her work ethic, self discipline, and high standards for herself make her able to learn in any environment."