Math professors are life mentors
Junior Amber Holmes found more than she bargained for when she began pursuing her love for mathematics at LaGrange College.
She came to college thinking she would major in pre-medicine, but her mathematics professors helped her realize where her true passions lie.
“As a freshman, I thought I would go ahead and get my pre-calculus sequence out of the way,” says Amber, who is from McDonough. “I thought I wanted my true focus to be on pre-med, but then I had the Ernstbergers for my math courses, and I began realizing through them that I need to focus on what I love. I know I love math; I knew as a freshman that I needed to have math at least once a day during my four years here.”
Drs. Stacey and Jon Ernstberger both emerged as tremendous influences on Amber’s life, both personally and academically.
“To us, they are ‘Mr. Dr. Ernstberger’ and ‘Mrs. Dr. Ernstberger,’” Amber says. “They’ve affected me in so many ways. I had Mrs. Dr. Ernstberger for class, and she was wonderful. She was exactly the person I needed in my life to light my fire and say, ‘This is college. I’m going to help you, but it’s all on you to get through this.’
Through office visits and conversations after class, Stacey Ernstberger began sharing with Amber how her life’s twist and turns led her to be a math professor, leading Amber to see how students don’t necessarily have to continue on the path they first started as freshmen.
“She became my mentor, my adviser and just took me under her wing,” Amber says. “She made me realize that it’s OK to come to college, experience all it has to offer, and then change your mind about what you want to do.”
Amber also began taking Jon Ernstberger’s math classes and learned through both the Ernstbergers’ examples how to live a life that reflects not only professionalism in one’s career, but also a servant’s heart.
“Mr. Dr. Ernstberger is just ‘the man’ for servant leadership,” she says. “He’s Mr. Sustainable. He wants to recycle everything. He is so passionate about caring for the world God let us live in; it’s his way of giving back. He’s just a light in this setting for college kids whose lives are so malleable.”
She and Stacey Ernstberger sing together in the Choral Society of West Georgia, and Amber is a math/computer applications/problem-solving tutor in the college’s Tutoring Center that Stacey Ernstberger oversees. Amber even began going to the same local church where the Ernstbergers attended, even though she wasn’t aware initially they went there.
“It felt like it was God’s way of telling me, ‘These people really need to be in your life,’” Amber says.
Through the Ernstbergers’ influence and that of her parents, Amber feels called to serve her community. Her parents are in law enforcement, and “make it their goal not only to bring justice to the world, but to do it in a fair way.”
She was chosen for the college’s competitive Servant Scholars program and is one of 24 juniors and seniors who live in the newly renovated Broad Street Apartments at the college. As part of the Servant Scholars program, she serves as an intern for the soup kitchen and sack lunch program at First United Methodist Church.
Amber also served with her church in Honduras this past summer with Stacey Ernstberger and fellow Servant Scholar Danielle Newbern. The group laid concrete for 12 homes, built three playgrounds for schools and learned Spanish songs to sing with the children there.
“The trip was completely life-changing and opened my eyes to the reason service is so important,” Amber says. “It made the transition to the Servant Scholars program that much more intimate. I now had a purpose, a reason to push my natural introverted ways aside and fully love others. I realized in Honduras that it is possible that if I don’t show them the love they deserve, that God wants them to see, they may never experience it.”
Amber now is looking forward to January 2014, when she will travel during the college’s Jan Term with professors David Ahearn and Randy Colvin to the Philippines for a service and sustainability-focused trip.
“We’ll be serving the 10,000 homeless residents of Manila’s North Cemetery and helping lead the Christian formation retreats for students of all age levels at Philippine Christian University,” she says. “The homeless there live in an actual cemetery with coffins that are above-ground.”
Amber says she will pursue a doctoral degree in computational mathematics after she graduates from LaGrange College in 2015. She hopes to become a math professor at a small college, either at LaGrange or at a college where she can implement a program like the Servant Scholars.
“I came to LaGrange College thinking it would just be about getting a degree,” she says. “But my mindset has completely changed from ‘What do I want to accomplish?’ to ‘Who do I want to be? What kind of example do I need to be for other people?’
“I want to be an example for others because the inspirational people I have had in my life here at LaGrange College have had such a positive influence on what I do. They’re a great example of how I should live my life. They make me want to be that for other people.”