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Math major Vinze Villapando, pictured here with math professors Paul DeLand, left, and David Pagni, will be completing his degree with the support of a $10,000 Mathematics Education Trust scholarship from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Photo by Karen Tapia

Fulfilling Dream of Educating Others

Academic Achievement and Love of Math Garners National Scholarship

August 31, 2010

By Debra Cano Ramos

Vinze Villapando:
Age: 20
City of residence: Placentia
Major: mathematics
Expected graduation: May 2013
Favorite hobbies: Plays piano, chess, tennis and basketball
Favorite movie: Sherlock Holmes

Since elementary school, Vinze Villapando was not only good at math, he liked it too.

In high school, his passion for math was unwavering. He excelled in the subject and tutored his peers.

Now, Villapando is working toward a career teaching high school math — thanks to a $10,000 scholarship that is helping him complete his undergraduate degree.

The Mathematics Education Trust of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recently awarded Villapando — one of three university students selected nationwide — its 2010-11 Prospective Secondary Teacher Course Work Scholarship. The award, supported by the Texas Instruments Demana-Waits Fund, provides funding for books and other academic expenses for students preparing to become certified teachers of secondary mathematics.

Villapando earned the scholarship for his excellent academic achievement, volunteer community projects and passion for mathematics, all of which demonstrate the skills needed by future math teachers, according to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

“This scholarship means so much to me,” said Villapando. “This award will help me attain my dream to get a college degree and become a teacher. I can now focus on my studies, rather than worry about how I am going to pay for college.”

Villapando chose to attend Cal State Fullerton after participating in the university’s former Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement program as a Santa Ana High School student. The MESA program encouraged students to pursue degrees in math, science, engineering and computer science, the STEM fields.

He credits the program, the instructors involved and his current professors, for helping him realize his higher education goals.

David L. Pagni, professor of mathematics, who for years has worked fervently to improve mathematics education in local high schools and has encouraged students to pursue careers in math, also inspired Villapando.

“Dr. Pagni has been helping me a lot to get through my courses and he gave me encouragement, and his full support, to apply for this scholarship,” said Villapando, who will receive a $300 scholarship from a fund created by the former California State University and CSUF Outstanding Professor Award recipient. The scholarships support and provide mentoring for former Santa Ana high school students who become Cal State Fullerton math majors.

Pagni, hailed by the White House in 2005 as recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, called the future teacher a strong student who is definitely serious about wanting to teach math.

“Vinze got this national scholarship on his own merit,” he noted.

“Vinze is very deserving of this honor. He shows much promise as a teacher and will benefit from continued exposure to mathematics and the excellent teaching role models in our program,” said Paul N. De Land, chair and professor of mathematics and Villapando’s adviser, who added that funding from the Mathematics Education Trust of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics not only represents a major accomplishment for Villapando, but for the university’s math department as well.

The math scholarship ties into Cal State Fullerton’s heightened emphasis on increasing student interest in the STEM fields — one of seven universitywide initiatives for 2010-11.

“Having one of our own students win this national scholarship should encourage other students to apply now that they know it is available,” De Land said. “There are many Cal State Fullerton math students who would make wonderful high school math teachers but are not able to attend school full time because of financial need.”

As for Villapando, once he earns a bachelor's degree in mathematics with a concentration in teaching mathematics, he hopes to earn a teaching credential in math and a master’s degree. Most of all, he’s looking forward to the day he has his own math classroom.

“As a teacher, not only will I be doing what I love, I’ll be helping young students to see the other, fun side of math; to love it and enjoy learning it, instead of trying to avoid it,” he said.

“And when they ‘get it,’ it’ll feel great.”

Media Contacts:

Paul N. De Land, Department of Mathematics, 657-278-3631;
David L. Pagni, Department of Mathematics, 657-278-2671;
Debra Cano Ramos, Public Affairs, 657-278-4027; 657-278-2414 or

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