Joanna Mitro retiring from UC after 40 years as educator

College of Arts and Sciences statistician looks forward to more time on campus during retirement

Head shot of Joanna Mitro at her office desk

Photo/John(na) Jackson

By: John(na) Jackson

The year is 1980 – the Rubik’s Cube has made its national debut, the USA is boycotting the Summer Olympics and Ronald Reagan is the president-elect. It is also the year that Joanna Mitro begins her 40-year career in the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Mathematical Sciences.

Retiring this year, Mitro has seen major changes at UC over her tenure. She began as an assistant professor in mathematical sciences, but has served as both the acting head and associate dean of undergraduate affairs for the department. Mitro recalls everything from working with the first accessible classroom calculators while pursuing her graduate degree, to sharing a singular computer with faculty across the university during grading periods.

No matter the year, one thing has stayed the same about how Mitro feels about UC: "Being on campus is a special place," she said.

Being on campus is a special place.

During her undergraduate studies, Mitro learned her discipline on slide rules years before the first classroom-accessible calculator would make an appearance. There was no internet when Mitro began her own education in mathematical sciences, and so, her approach to pedagogy has been shaped by fast developments in the field.

Responsible for developing freshman actuary sciences, Mitro today uses the internet all the time in the hopes of making her statistics problem-solving exercises more interesting and accessible to her students. A far cry from earlier days where her primary source for stats was the newspaper obituary pages.

“I never make up data,” said Mitro. “I want to find real data – and I don’t know how I would ever do that without the internet. The important thing about statistics is, it’s about the real world. If you don’t do it in a context, then the students don’t get a sense of what your conclusions mean.”

Picture of Joanna Mitro with one of her students

Joanna Mitro(right) with her mentee Lelia Hopkins(left) Photo/Beth Vleaminck

Mitro has also been involved with campus life outside her own class rooms – and while she may be retiring from her position, she isn’t retiring from the campus.

“I’m never going to be removed from the university community,” says Mitro. “I’ll always be welcome here. Right now I’m mentoring a student who is not graduating this year – I’ve already told her I’ll come back to meet with her.”

Mitro will also be continuing her work with the development of scholarships through Choose Ohio First for UC mathematical sciences students. She has even opted to have her own retirement gifts donated to scholarship funds for low-income students pursuing degrees in mathematical sciences.

While Mitro looks forward to spending time on campus, she also has special plans for her retirement.

“I want to get a dog and do therapy work. Like, take the dog to hospitals or schools – that’s one thing I want to do,” says Mitro. “I have a lot of energy, and I’ll just try to keep active.”

Despite retiring, Mitro is not finished representing the learning happening at UC. She’s currently most excited to be presenting on her teaching seminars at the Society of Actuaries conference, held this June in Columbus. Depending on feedback from the conference, Mitro’s next academic project may entail sharing the projects she has designed with other schools in need of diverse statistics learning environments.

Featured image at top: Joanna Mitro, retiring professor of mathematical sciences, talks with Tara Stopfel Warden, assistant vice provost, Advising and Academic Services, at Mitro's retirement party in April. Photo/Beth Vleaminck