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Creating 'minds that will innovate'
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CSUS Dr. Viji Sundar has been granted the San Joaquin Engineers Council's 2015 Distinguished Service Award for her role in developing the mathematical and science minds of the future. Sundar has cultivated a curiosity in science, engineering and math fields among young students by organizing and hosting such events as the 2014 Math and Science Summer Camp, pictured above. - photo by Journal file photo

California State University, Stanislaus mathematics professor Dr. Viji Sundar has a mission: stimulate the next generation of problem solvers.

"It's really simple; the world needs a lot more engineers, mathematicians and scientists than we did 20 years ago. We've gone past the information age...we basically need minds that will create, minds that will innovate, minds that can solve problems," said Sundar.

Sundar’s dedication to fostering the next generation of innovators was recently recognized by the San Joaquin Engineers Council, which named Sundar the recipient of their 2015 Distinguished Service Award.

"It's quite an honor to be recognized," said Sundar.

The award recognizes individuals who have dedicated their professional knowledge and skills to the advancement of their community; have participated in nothing but honorable enterprises; have lived and worked according to the highest standards of professional conduct; have placed service before profit; have placed honor and professional standing before personal advantage; and have placed the public welfare above all other considerations.

Sundar said that engineering is the one discipline that draws from both science and math and is the field with the most opportunities to create domestic jobs for future generations.

"Problems are getting bigger, and cognitive skills are needed to solve those problems...simply getting data isn't enough, analyzing data is the key," she said.

Sundar believes that introducing students to the language of math, science and engineering at a young age is the key to increasing the number of qualified college graduates in those fields.

She was a founding member of the California Mathematics Project, a statewide program that was formed to enhance the quality of California’s K-12 mathematics education by increasing teachers' mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge, and by supporting and developing leadership skills.

Sundar was also instrumental in securing grant funding to establish and support the Preparing Women for Mathematical Modeling summer program, which engages high school juniors and seniors in the field of mathematical modeling.  The program helps young women develop confidence, and plants the seed for a college and career path in the fields of mathematics and science.

She has been actively involved in numerous K-12 outreach and education programs, including:  Building Math Confidence; High School Mathematics Access Program; Pre-Freshman Enrichment Program; SMART – Science and Mathematics Achievement with the Right Techniques; Alice in MathLogicLand; Communicating Mathematics; and M is for Math Literacy.

The 2015 SJEC Distinguished Service Award will be presented to Sundar at the Annual Engineers Week Banquet on Feb. 26 at Grace Covell Hall on the University of the Pacific Campus.