Meet Our New Professors, Part 3: Dr. Henry Zepeda

At the beginning of this academic year, WCC brought five new professors on board to help with the steadily-growing student body. Today, we introduce Dr. Henry Zepeda.

What do you teach at Wyoming Catholic College?

I teach Mathematics 102, 201, and 202, as well as Field Science.

What were the factors and events that led you to find and want to work for Wyoming Catholic College?

I think I have been aware of WCC from its inception, and since then I have wanted to teach here. WCC has a unique program in which all the disciplines are interrelated and the Faith is central. I like the emphases upon inculcating a sense of joyful wonder and upon educating the whole person that WCC has among its founding ideals. College should be a happy time in which students learn the liberal arts, philosophy, and theology, make many good friends, and have good, wholesome experiences. I am a little too old to have come here as a student, but now I am extremely happy that I am able to participate in WCC’s program by teaching mathematics in the classroom and leading science classes in the field.

What drew you to the specific discipline you pursued in graduate school?

As I studied Ptolemy’s Almagest and Euclid’s Elements in college, I became fascinated with them, partly due to the sheer fun of solving problems and partly due to my growing appreciation of the beauty they contain. I also wanted to learn how mathematics and science developed during the high Middle Ages, a time in which the Catholic faith was very culturally important and great strides in philosophy and theology were being made. In many ways, knowledge of the natural world and of mathematics was far behind what we now know, but it was an exciting time in math and knowledge of the natural world as scholars discovered the work of the Greeks and Arabs. My research also involves working with Latin manuscripts, which I also find very appealing. There is a thrill in sitting in a library reading the handwriting of a scholar from 800 years ago.

How do you relate your faith to your specific field of study?

Mathematics allows students to see truth and beauty. Mathematics is a discipline in which skepticism has little room, as there is no doubt about its conclusions (or at least many of its conclusions). There is also a kind of beauty in mathematics that might be new to students. They know what beauty looks like in physical things and art and what it sounds like in poetry and music, but there is an intellectual beauty in mathematics. These kinds of truth and beauty we see in mathematics are good in their own right, but they also can and should lead us to seek  higher Beauty and Truth. Field Science similarly plays a role in this same ascent towards God. We need to learn to take the time to admire and understand His creation.

What is your (educational) background?

I went to Thomas Aquinas College, which gave me a deep appreciation for Catholic liberal education. I then earned by M.A. and Ph.D. in History of Science from the University of Oklahoma.

What do you enjoy doing outside of the classroom?

Outside of the classroom, I enjoy playing with my one-year-old daughter (one more baby on the way), hiking, and playing ultimate frisbee. I hope to take up fishing again.

What will be the biggest change for you moving to Lander, WY?

I have been living in Germany for the last 4.5 years. Although my wife and I were living in a big city, we did not have much of a community there. We are really happy to be back in the USA and to be part of a close-knit community. People in Lander are especially friendly and it is great for our family to be around so many other Catholic families.

What excites you most about teaching at Wyoming Catholic College?

I love teaching Euclid. He provides such a clear and logical mathematical system that even students who do not generally appreciate mathematics come to admire and enjoy it. The opportunity to teach small classes of interested students is also something that is fairly rare.

What would you like to bring to WCC to enhance and improve the experience for the students?

While we want students to appreciate mathematics and science in their own right, I hope that my background in the history of science will allow me to make more connections across the curriculum, better relating what students learn in their humanities courses to mathematics and science and vice versa.

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