Baker Provided an Opportunity to Pursue Three Passions
Glancing around the interviewee waiting room in Washington, D.C., Baker mathematics major Will Duncan couldn't help but wonder how he stacked up.
Students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California at Berkeley, Michigan State and several other prominent research institutions lined the room nervously waiting for their chance to prove to the National Security Agency that they were more qualified than the other 900 applicants for its prestigious Director's Summer Program.
An operational and human resources interview, polygraph test and extensive background check later, Duncan learned that he not only competed with these scholars, but also surpassed them. The Baker graduate was selected to the intense 12-week program, and he left for Fort Meade, Md., after he finished his finals that May. The NSA website pegs those chosen for the program as "the nation's most outstanding undergraduate mathematics majors."
"I really appreciated my professors' willingness to help me apply and hone my skills," Duncan said. "I wasn't nervous before the internship because of the quality of the faculty here. Especially helpful was my upper-level cryptography independent study."
According to math faculty, Duncan's placement in this NSA program was a huge accomplishment for the entire department. Duncan's responsibilities with the NSA were project based and tested his skills in modern cryptologic mathematics and algorithms.
"I love the objectivity that comes with mathematics," he said. "I enjoy the feeling of knowing that I reached an answer."
Will graduated May 2012 with a triple major—math, international studies and music—Duncan is now pursuing a graduate degree in peace studies at Oxford University in England, one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Duncan fell in love with travel and other cultures during a study abroad semester at Baker University's partner institution, Harlaxton College, in Grantham, England.
"It sounds a little cheesy, but I want to make the world a better place," he said. "I'd like to learn more about the conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa and work toward a solution."
Hopefully there will be a little math involved.