Mathematics embodies artistry and analytical thought. It’s both pragmatic and irrational (pun intended). While mathematics is the foundational knowledge of many professions, it also provides valuable life skills that allow us to problem-solve every day.

 Why study Mathematics at Sewanee?

The study of mathematics at Sewanee prepares you to be a discerning citizen capable of critically analyzing information, weighing alternatives, and presenting reasoned arguments. Math is a valuable skill set with innumerable applications. While the concepts are crucial for students in the discipline, their lessons can extend to far-ranging fields like law, science, economics, and theology.

Like a sculpture or a concerto, a theorem or an algorithm is a creative work. The department here at Sewanee seeks to expose you to the beauty of mathematics. As a mathematics major, you will take foundational courses, and then you’ll choose advanced level courses to narrow your focus. Whether it’s theory or statistics, you’ll glean from each class an understanding of reading and presentation, as well as the ability to formulate substantial proofs of your own.


Sewanee graduates secure positions in a variety of fields. Some you would expect, others are a bit of a surprise. Sewanee prepares you for your profession and your passion. Below is a sampling of recent graduates' first jobs.

  • Software engineer, Mindtree, Gainesville, Florida.
  • Actuarial assistant, Protective Life, Birmingham, Alabama.
  • Investment analyst, Edgehill Endowment Partners, New Haven, Connecticut.

Sewanee graduates enjoy extraordinary acceptance rates to top graduate and pre-professional programs–about 95 percent to law school and over 85 percent to medical school. Below is a sampling of where Sewanee grads continue their education.

  • Ph.D. in physics, University of California Davis.
  • M.S. in mathematics, Washington University of St. Louis.
  • Ph.D. in geophysical fluid dynamics, Florida State University.

A Sewanee Math Professor Soars In and Out of the Classroom

Catherine Cavagnaro is honored for her pioneering work in aviation safety.

Sewanee Math Professor Catherine Cavagnaro developed a fascination for flying at an early age. Growing up in the flight path of Moffett Federal Airfield in the Bay Area of California, she spent hours in her backyard watching military aircraft take off and land, and “flying” her pet guinea pigs around in shoeboxes she had turned into toy airplanes.

Years later, that early infatuation has ripened into a singularly remarkable career in aviation and, in November 2018, a singularly impressive honor: induction into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame honor arrived in the same year that Cavagnaro was named the National Safety Representative of the Year by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and received Sewanee’s Award for Teaching Excellence. “After 2018, 2019 is going to be a real bummer,” Cavagnaro jokes.

Cavagnaro’s specialty is training pilots to recover from dangerous flight conditions, particularly aerodynamic stalls, when an aircraft’s wings stop providing lift because they’ve been angled too steeply. After an airplane experiences a stall, it goes into a spin—corkscrewing toward the ground—and that’s where Cavagnaro comes in, teaching pilots the techniques necessary to right their aircraft and live to fly another day. Pilots from all over the world —including military pilots, airline pilots, and flight test pilots—come to train with Cavagnaro in Sewanee.

“A lot of pilots are afraid of stalls and spins,” says Cavagnaro. “To me, it’s a challenge, and it’s something that I love doing. I can take someone in a matter of a day or two and get them completely comfortable with stalls and spins. In a safe, controlled environment, I take people over the edge so they know what the edge looks like.”

Though she had been fascinated by flight since those early days in California, Cavagnaro didn’t take her first flight lesson until 1999, after she earned tenure at the University. In Sewanee, she trained with aerobatic pioneer Bill Kershner, who quickly realized that a talented mathematician with a passion for aviation brought a special set of skills to the field. Soon, Cavagnaro was contributing her mathematics expertise to the technical aspects of Kershner’s flight manuals.

Kershner introduced Cavagnaro to the University of Tennessee Space Institute, where she took graduate classes in aeronautical engineering and did flight testing and math research for the institute. She started teaching aerobatics with Kershner in 2003 and has helped extend his legacy by continuing the work of his Ace Aerobatic School since his death in 2007. 

A Sampling of Courses


Programs of study & related programs

Requirements for the Major and Minor in Mathematics

Requirements for the Major and Minor in Computer Science | Website

visit the mathematics department website

Meet Some Professors


Matthew Rudd
Associate Professor of Mathematics

Woods Labs 127A, Ext. 1820


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