Mathematics Professor Ray McGivney loves being in the classroom. He likes the give and take with students, challenging them, getting them to work together.
“I like that whole milieu of just being part of the mix where the kids enjoy being there and I enjoy being there,” he said.
He’ll try just about anything to engage students. He’ll use clickers so students can vote digitally on multiple-choice questions. He’ll “flip” the classroom, having them solve problems in class and read new material for homework. He’ll make math relatable by having them figure out how much interest they’d pay for car loan payments.
He helps students outside the classroom as well, making suggestions about how they might approach life after college and staying in touch with them after they’ve graduated.
He is one of University of Hartford’s gems, an award-winning professor devoted to engaging and supporting students,
“He just has a passion and this excitement for teaching that really helps everyone improve and gets them excited about what they’re learning,” Nathan Uricchio, ’13.
Uricchio is one of the many students McGivney stays in touch with after graduation, following their careers and, sometimes, helping them get jobs.
During the 45 years he has taught at UHart, McGivney has finetuned his approach. He has found, for example, that a simple change like seating students in small groups at round tables is much more dynamic than lining them up in rows of desks. Along the same lines, he encourages them to work together to solve problems and compare answers. He says he wants to “hear murmuring” in the classroom.
He’s an innovator who will try just about anything to engage students. He was one of the first to use “clickers” that allow students to vote digitally in real time on multiple-choice answers. After they vote their answers appear as bar graphs on a smart board, instantly showing him whether students understand the question and giving him a chance to explain wrong answers.
He also was among the first at the University to “flip” the classroom, having students learn new material for homework, then practice solving problems in class.
“For me, it’s the in-class experience. I just enjoy the dynamic that happens in the classroom. The classes here are small, 20 or so students, and there’s a mix of students. I’m teaching courses that have students from every class and college within the university,” he said.
“It’s exciting to see somebody take an active and lively interest in mathematics and want to use it in the field,” he said. “We’ll do whatever we can do to pave the way for the next generation of students interested in pursuing math, especially women.”
Over the years he also has been heavily involved with developing secondary school mathematics program. He won an award from the Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Connecticut for his ongoing excellence in mathematics education and extensive impact on educators and youth in Connecticut.
McGivney earned both his AB and masters degrees at Clark University and his doctorate at Lehigh University. He then became an assistant professor at Lafayette College before arriving at the University of Hartford in 1970. During his long career, he was occasionally asked to step in as an administrator, including serving as acting dean of students during the turbulent 1970s.
He always looked forward to returning to the classroom.
The University has also become home for his daughter, Jean McGivney-Burelle, associate professor of mathematics and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and son, R.J. McGivney, dean of university programs and interim assistant provost for online programs.
McGivney’s long teaching career is winding down as he slowly phases in to retirement. But his zest for teaching remains.
“It’s been a great ride for me. I couldn’t have come to a better place at a better time.”