Faculty Voice Newsletter: November 2017: Faculty Profile: Mathematics Instructor Joe Caputo

by David Lau

Mathematics Instructor Joe Caputo

I interviewed Mathematics instructor Joe Caputo over email during early November. He answered questions about a variety of issues for the Faculty Voice.

David Lau: How is your semester going? Are there new courses you’re teaching or changes to your teaching that you can mention? 

Joe Caputo: The semester is going well.  It seems to simultaneously go extremely quickly and at a snail’s pace.  This semester I’m teaching basically the same classes that I taught last semester.  I like the excitement of teaching new classes, but my wife and I welcomed our first child over the summer, and having familiar classes has been good for the drastic changes required in work/life balance.  I hear that one day I’ll rediscover the joys of a full night’s sleep.

DL: Could you say something about passing of NAS Dean Wanda Garner.  It has stunned many on campus to lose a dear colleague so suddenly.

JC: Wanda’s passing was a shock to us all.  We were hit hard in NAS (and the Math department in particular) because of how closely she worked with all of us, and in many of our cases hired us.  I remember running into Wanda immediately after I had my second round interview with Brian King and Kathy Welch in the summer of 2012.  She would later tell me during an evaluation my first semester that she wanted to offer me the job when we ran into each other.  As a very new full-time hire, someone who was not previously an adjunct at Cabrillo, this was something I needed to hear but I didn’t know I needed to hear it.  I think all of us could tell similar stories of inspiration when we needed it (or even a kick in the pants!).  She will be missed.

DL: Could you tell us something about your educational and professional background (undergrad, grad, and teaching/research career)?

JC: My journey to become a math professor started while I was a community college student.  I was inspired by two of the best professors I’ve ever had Lauren Syda and John Thoo at Yuba College in Marysville, CA.  They really lit a fire in me about studying math that continued when I transferred to UC Davis.  After finishing my BS at UCD, I continued my math education at UC Davis as a part of the Master of Arts in Teaching Mathematics (MAT) Program.  I got my MA in math, but at the same time I studied curriculum development and pedagogy for math.  Once I graduated I worked as an adjunct (freeway flier!) at American River College in Sacramento and Yuba College for about 7 years before I got hired full-time at Cabrillo.

DL: Could you talk about some of the challenges of raising a family in a very expensive area like Santa Cruz? 

JC: When I moved here in 2012, I was a single guy, and my salary was enough for me to live comfortably.  I was never going to be able to afford a house, but I could afford to rent a small apartment and still have enough to live.  I’m married now, and my wife (who was finishing her degree at UCSC when we met) has had no success in finding long-term employment.  There simply aren’t enough opportunities for her. Our current rental is a “steal” at nearly $2000 a month.  A quick search online shows comparable places at $2500 a month or more.  I’m left asking the question, what happens when we outgrow this current place?  Looking ahead, it’s difficult to see how we’re going to be able to support our growing family and have any money left over to save for the future.