Graduation approaches and a senior contemplates his time at UAF

Erin McGroarty/ Sun Star Reporter
May 7, 2013

Lander Ver Hoef, this spring's featured senior, will be graduating from UAF's Mathematics department on Sunday, May 12, 2013.  He has participated in two study abroad programs, received recognition on the Chancellor's list five times, and is a candidate to graduate with summa cum laude honors. Erin McGroarty/Sun Star.

Lander Ver Hoef, this spring’s featured senior, will be graduating from UAF’s Mathematics department on Sunday, May 12, 2013. He has participated in two study abroad programs, received recognition on the Chancellor’s list five times, and is a candidate to graduate with summa cum laude honors. Erin McGroarty/Sun Star.

Graduation is an exciting time for all of us, whether we are the ones walking across the stage or members of the audience watching our friends and fellow students embark on a new and exciting facet of their lives.

This year’s graduation ceremony will take place in the Carlson Center on Sunday, May 12 at 1:30 p.m. The event is open to the public and no ticket purchase is required. The commencement ceremony is also available to stream online on Sunday, May 12, in real time during the ceremony.

While each graduating senior has different interests and goals for their future life, the Sun Star likes to feature one senior each spring. This year’s senior, a lifelong member of the Fairbanks community, is Lander Ver Hoef.

Ver Hoef took his first class, a course in Macromedia Flash, in 2004 at the age of 13.

“By the age of 13, I had started getting interested in Web Development, and back in 2004, Flash was a big part of making cool, interactive websites,” Ver Hoef said. “Since I was in the IDEA homeschooling program, we could use a portion of the funding we got through that to pay for college credit so I decided to take a class in something I found really interesting at the time.”

Throughout the following years, Ver Hoef proceeded to take classes on and off before formally enrolling in the Mechanical Engineering program in 2009 after graduating from the IDEA program in Fairbanks.

“When I started into the Engineering department, I was trying to pick a major based on what I enjoyed doing, what would earn me the most money and what I was best at,” Ver Hoef said. “But I found that rather unsatisfying, and after taking some time off to travel, when I came back, I decided to just focus on taking the most interesting and compelling classes without worrying specifically what I would do with them once I graduated.”

During his sophomore year, Ver Hoef spent a semester in the Semester at Sea study abroad program, taking courses on a cruise ship that sailed around the world, experiencing new cultures and meeting guest lecturer and world peace advocate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“Interacting with Arch, as he asked us to call him, was truly incredible. For all that he has been through, the years of persecution and hatred, and the huge popularity and fame that followed the end to apartheid, he somehow manages to stay grounded, and is one of the most cheerful, kind, and friendly people I have ever met.” Ver Hoef said, “When we’d see him at mealtimes or in the hall, he would greet us all with a brilliant smile and a convivial fist-bump.”

During the second semester of his sophomore year, Ver Hoef participated in the Semester at Sea program, living in and sailing around the Caribbean. While there, Ver Hoef earned his sailing captain’s license on sail boats in the region.

“The entire process was eye-opening for me, because I realized that this life that I had been dreaming about for years, of going out and adventuring on the high seas, was not only real and possible, but that I had already secured the first step in making it a reality,” Ver Hoef said. “It was a symbol of the idea that far more often than not, what we think of as crazy, unattainable dreams are far more possible than we realize”

After returning to Fairbanks in the Fall of 2011, Ver Hoef switched to a Mathematics degree. 

“Essentially, I chose a math degree because I really enjoy math. I had enjoyed the math classes that I’d done prior to my major change, so I decided to pursue more math, which turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Ver Hoef said. “The more math I learn, the more I fall in love with it as a subject.”

For maintaining a GPA of 3.9, Ver Hoef has been on the Chancellor’s List five times, each semester he has been enrolled and physically at UAF. Ver Hoef also received the award for the Outstanding Undergraduate Student in Mathamatics this year and is a candidate to graduate with summa cum laude honors for keeping his GPA above 3.9 and never receiving lower than an A- in any class.

During his time at UAF, Ver Hoef recalled that his favorite classes included Differential Geometry, Ballroom Dance, Configurations and Scientific Diving.

“Particularly in the smaller, upper-division courses, the professors have been uniformly enthusiastic, engaged and knowledgeable,” Ver Hoef said. “And having access to world-class facilities like the Kasitsna Bay lab for my scientific diving class has been amazing.”

After graduation, Ver Hoef plans to leave Alaska for a while and continue traveling around the world. He hopes to eventually get his doctorates degree in Mathematics and teach math at the collegiate level so that he has an opportunity to share his love of math with others.

“More than any specific specific field of knowledge, the biggest benefit I derived from my college experience was how it has restructured the way I think.” Ver Hoef said.

As a math major, he recalled having to learn how to think axiomatically, how to break complicated problems down into small steps in order to complete them. Ver Hoef considered changing this change to be one of the biggest hurdles of his undergraduate but he believes will be widely applicable to life outside of college.

“I have had a fantastic experience at UAF,” Ver Hoef said. “I’ve had the opportunity to take courses in a huge range of subjects, from advanced mathematics to scientific diving to  ballroom dancing. And I truly appreciate how easy UAF made it for me to take a year off and travel the world, an experience that has absolutely shaped who I am.”

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