Professor Spotlight: Thomas Fitzkee


Photo by: Ashley Krause

Dr. Thomas Fitzkee, professor of mathematics, enjoys attending FMU sporting events. He said he has seen every sport play

Apart from teaching math classes at FMU, Dr. Thomas Fitzkee focuses on preparing his students for the world after college.

Fitzkee, chair of the Department of Mathematics, came to FMU because he said it is similar to the school he attended for his undergraduate education.

“Francis Marion had the same qualities as the school where I did my undergraduate,” Fitzkee said. “They are both good regional state schools.”

Fitzkee said he received his Ph.D. in mathematics from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

According to Fitzkee, he decided to study math because he had a natural ability to do well in the subject.

“Initially, I enjoyed it because I was encouraged when I got the right answer,” Fitzkee said.

According to Fitzkee, math later taught him that there are multiple ways to deal with situations in life.

“As you get into math more and more, you realize there are other problems out there that do not have a right answer,” Fitzkee said. “That is more what I like now, working at the problems that have a few right answers.”

Fitzkee said math is connected to the world in many ways, and it cannot stand alone. Math, he said, is not just problems in a textbook, but solving real world problems and the dealing with the unexpectedness this comes with.

“You study math problems in a textbook and it tells you where to build a bridge that minimizes cost,” Fitzkee said. “Then you go out in the real world and you find out that you can’t build the bridge at the location because of economics, politics or environmental issues.”

According to Fitzkee, this scenario requires them to find a different place to build the bridge because there are things in the world that prevent the optimal solution. Fitzkee said this can be both a math lesson and a life lesson for his students.

Fitzkee said he brought this philosophy about math in the world into the classroom by having students work on a project in which they had to determine the optimal hiring solution for open positions in a particular company.

“I wanted them to think about whether you want to hire outside or stay within the company,” Fitzkee said. “I had this preconceived notion that the students would pick the cheapest way to hire someone. However, they wanted a company that valued employee engagement.”

Fitzkee said his goal was to teach students that academic life is different than everyday life in the real world.

According to Fitzkee, he teaches a variety of math classes at FMU. However, he said his favorite class to teach is calculus.

“I enjoy teaching calculus the most,” Fitzkee said. “It seems to flow the best, there is a natural progression in the material.”

Aside from math, Fitzkee said sports play a big role in his life.

“My favorite sport is soccer, but I like to go watch a lot of the FMU sports,” Fitzkee said. “I think I have seen every sport play, even golf.”

According to Fitzkee, Atlanta United is one of his favorite soccer teams.

Fitzkee said his favorite part of his job is spending time with his students in the classroom.

“Teaching in the classroom is wonderful because you can’t get an email, text or phone call saying you need to fix something,” Fitzkee said.