Vrushali A. Bokil | Professor of Mathematics and Interim Dean
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon, U.S.
Department: Mathematics and Dean’s Office, College of Science
Education: B.S. Mathematics, University of Poona, India, M.S. Mathematics, New Mexico State University, M.S. Applied Mathematics, Indian Institute of Technology, Ph.D. Mathematics, University of Houston
Career stage: Late
What do you do?
In my professor role, I teach undergraduate and graduate courses in mathematics, mentor undergraduate and graduate students in research, and perform service to my profession and organization. I conduct research in computational and applied mathematics, with emphasis on computational electromagnetics and mathematical epidemiology. As Interim Dean of Science, I provide leadership and oversight of academic and administrative programs including development and implementation of strategic plans, allocation of resources, operational success, stewardship, and the evaluation of results that support Oregon State University’s goals and mission. As an administrator, I leverage strategic/systems thinking to solve complex problems involving personnel issues, funding issues, and competing objectives to support people and move the organization forward towards successful execution of our mission.
What types of skills do you use?
Strategic/systems thinking, proposal writing, managing employees, negotiating, networking, collaboration, and leadership skills to direct groups.
How are applied mathematics and/or computational science important to what you do?
My area of expertise is numerical analysis of differential equation based models. I also develop mathematical models for physical/biological systems and conduct analysis (both theoretical and computational) of these systems.
Does your job offer flexibility?
Yes. As a professor, I can choose (within reason) to work on different areas of research, teach the courses that I want to teach, and choose the areas in which to focus my service contributions.
What career path did you take to your current position?
I did a postdoc for three years and then secured a tenure-track position as an assistant professor of mathematics. I was promoted to associate professor with tenure in six years (normal length of time) and to full professor of mathematics in another six years. I served as associate head of the mathematics department for two years, associate dean for about two years, and am now Interim Dean.
Was your career path well planned or a result of taking opportunities as they arose?
My career path to full professor of mathematics was well thought out. I have had the ambition of being a professor since I was 15 years old! Positions in administration have been opportunistic.
What advice would you give to someone pursuing a similar degree or profession?
Professional development, networking, and seeking mentorship are key to success. Continuously develop yourself professionally and be strategic in accepting opportunities that arise. Have a strategic plan for your career that you continuously update with the help of a mentor.
Was there anything that surprised you when you started out in your career
It was extremely difficult to work with people whose competitiveness was at odds with the success of others and of the entire organization. I found strong mentors and supporters in unexpected places. I have learned that interpersonal relationships are complex, interacting with systemic issues and systemic oppression in ways that are hard to understand and predict. I have learned to check my own biases constantly and to pay close attention to and be empathetic about the experiences and worldview of people that I interact with and especially those that I lead.
Professor of Mathematics at an R1 institution: $90K–$200K
Interim Dean at an R1 institution: $200K–$500K.
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