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Thursday April 18, 2019

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Meet Vicki Borlaug
August 24, 2018

Editor’s note: Faculty Focus is a biweekly feature of

When Victoria Borlaug joined the Walters State faculty in 1988, she had to make an unusual transition.
“This may sound funny, but I had to get used to the fact that students could hear everything I said, and it became difficult to teach if I had a bad cold or laryngitis,” Borlaug recalled.
Borlaug, an associate professor of mathematics, had previously taught at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York.
“As an undergraduate student, I tutored in the school’s math lab. I didn’t know any sign language, but the students taught me the basics,” Borlaug said.
She used her undergraduate degree working in industry in quality control. She earned a master’s degree in applied and mathematical statistics taking classes at night. Once she had the degree, she left industry and became a full-time math professor at the Institute.
“That’s when I received formal sign language training, but I really learned the most from my students. I became used to the fact that my students could not hear the lecture.” Borlaug loved the students and eventually began dreaming in sign language, just as people dream in a foreign language once they develop a certain level of competence. After so many years of not using sign language, Borlaug said her skill level in signing has greatly decline. She jokes that she would have trouble asking someone to pass the salt and pepper, but she could probably sign a math lecture. 
When her husband’s job transferred the family to Tennessee, she learned her new town had a community college – and she knew where she wanted to work.
“The community college provides an environment focused on student learning and is very supportive of faculty. I knew I wanted to be at Walters State,” Borlaug said.

Few of her colleagues and students know about her sign language background. Now, she is known as an excellent professor regardless of a student’s grasp of mathematics.

“Vicki epitomizes professionalism and excellence in teaching,” said Chris Knight, dean of mathematics.

“She maintains high standards while providing an environment that challenges students while always offering support to students who struggle with the subject. Vicki always develops robust curricular supplements and generously shares those with the division. She is simply one of the most prepared and dedicated teachers you will ever meet,” Knight said.  

Her experience in quality control does impact her teaching. That is likely the reason she enjoys pointing out what she considers obvious – students will use probability and statistics in almost every field. 
“Probability and statistics pop up in almost every field. I tell psychology majors that they will have to use this in performing research. People working in health  care will need these skills,” Borlaug said.