Alfred University News

Math Professor Joseph Petrillo wins prestigious teaching award

Alfred University Professor of Mathematics Joseph Petrillo is the recipient of the prestigious 2024 Clarence F. Stephens Award for Teaching Excellence, awarded by the Seaway Section of the Mathematical Association of America.

The award recognizes outstanding teaching in the field of Mathematics at the level of higher education. In announcing the award, Alfred University Associate Professor of Mathematics Likin Simon Romero, chair of the Division of Mathematics and Computer Science, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, noted Petrillo developed the Alfred University Calculus Initiative, a new way to teach calculus to undergraduate students. This approach to teaching undergraduate calculus has been adopted by the Division of Mathematics and Computer Science, Romero said.

In addition, Simon Romero said Petrillo became an advocate of the Flipped Classroom method of teaching, in which students are assigned lectures and presentations to be viewed out-of-class, while in-class instruction is focused on the use of small group activities and individual attention. The teaching method exemplifies Alfred University’s emphasis on close academic collaboration between individual faculty members and students.

“The precision and thoughtfulness of the in-class activities is impeccable,” Simon Romero said. “Anyone who knows Dr. Petrillo will tell you about his outstanding meticulousness.”

Simon Romero added Petrillo’s success in developing fresh approaches to calculus exemplifies the overall excellence in his teaching. “He received this year’s Alfred University Outstanding Teaching Award while teaching a majority of classes that are not Calculus I,” he said.  Furthermore, Petrillo’s success as an educator has contributed to positive retention rates for students studying mathematics.

Petrillo joined Alfred University in 2005 after receiving his PhD in Mathematics from Binghamton University. His research and publications include: “On Flipping First-Semester Calculus: A Case Study,” published in the “International Journal of Math Education in Science and Technology” (vol. 47, No. 4, 2016); and “How to Turn Calculus Inside Out and Upside Down,” published in the New York State Mathematics Teachers’ Journal (vol. 64, No. 1, 2014).

His spouse, Lynn Petrillo, also teaches at Alfred University as Clinical Assistant Professor of English in the Division of English, College of Liberal Arts and Science.

The Clarence F. Stephens Distinguished Teaching Award is named for the late Clarence Stephens, former distinguished math professor at SUNY Potsdam. Stephens is credited with exploring new successful ways of teaching mathematics to undergraduates. He died in 2018.