Small experiences total big rewards

April 2, 2016


Joshua Freudenhammer thrives at JCCC as independent learner

One-on-one conversations with professors. Stimulating advanced learning opportunities. A comfortable sense of belonging.

Individually, all these Johnson County Community College experiences would be meaningful to say the least, but collectively they add up to something even more for 20-year-old Joshua Freudenhammer. 

“My success at JCCC has been all about the little experiences,” Freudenhammer said. “The one word that would define JCCC is ‘responsive.’  When any student comes forth with a need – be it something for Student Senate to take care on, something Access Services is asked to assist with, or, in my case, proposed honors contracts – the college is there to meet that need and fulfill students’ requirements.”

Academic exploration at its best

JCCC’s honors contracts filled Freudenhammer’s need for independent learning by allowing him to explore advanced academics in areas that interest him the most – math, science and technology. JCCC offers honors contracts in a variety of classes as a means for students to gain more knowledge about specific topics covered in class. The student and faculty mentor, through discussions, determine the focus of each honors contract.

Freudenhammer will complete not one, but four honors contracts in his time at JCCC. His honors contracts afforded him the opportunity to work one-on-one with several JCCC professors: Jason Suptic, adjunct assistant professor of information systems; Rob Grondahl, associate professor of mathematics; Stephen Dickey, adjunct professor of mathematics, and Doug Patterson, professor of science.

For Freudenhammer’s first honors contract as part of Discrete Structures I, he worked with Suptic on a study of Ramanujan’s Taxicab (5,2,n) problem. The honors project combined advanced learning in mathematics research aided by computer programming.

“This problem stems from a friend visiting Ramanujan in the hospital and discussing the number of the taxi cab he rode in – 1729,” Suptic explained. “His friend thought it was dull but Ramanujan explained that it was actually quite interesting – 1729 is the smallest number that could be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways, namely 1729 = 13 + 123 = 93 + 103. The Taxicab (5,2,n) is a similar problem, based in number theory that is currently unsolved. The problem seemed as apt choice as number theory is an area of math explored in Discrete Structures I.”

Taking learning to a new level

Suptic praised Freudenhammer for going above and beyond with his honors contract.

“During the semester, Joshua used various techniques to approach and analyze the problem, including graphical, algebraic and programming in CUDA C, a language that allows hardware access to a computer’s video card for faster computation,” Suptic explained.

Freudenhammer worked with Grondahl for his second honors contract as part of the Calculus II class in summer 2015. Freudenhammer investigated Fourier series, a mathematical application of infinite series that is part of the Calculus II curriculum.

“We found some appropriate textbooks on Fourier series, and Joshua worked through them in a manner similar to independent study,” Grondahl said. “A lesser student would likely have needed more structure from me, but Joshua did a great job maintaining his progress. He required minimal guidance from me and was able to work independently, which to me indicates an ability to tackle any topic academically going forward.”

Suptic also praised Freudenhammer’s desire to learn.

“Helping Joshua apply his talents and knowledge to explore beyond the classroom was one of the best experiences I could have asked for as a first-time teacher,” Suptic said. “He is exceptionally gifted in his understanding of mathematical concepts and in his ability to assimilate new information quickly and effectively.”

For Freudenhammer’s third honors contract, he worked with Dickey, and the topic was Lagrangian dynamics. Freudenhammer currently is working with Patterson on a fourth honors contract related to astronomy and variable star observation.

Freudenhammer said the little experiences at JCCC have helped him feel at home and helped him succeed. When he isn’t busy working on honors contracts, he finds time for engagement on campus. He is a member of Student Senate, vice-president of communications for Phi Kappa Theta and president of the Chess Club.

“When it comes to learning, I’ve always enjoyed doing something more,” he said. “That’s why the independent learning opportunities I found at JCCC worked for me.”

Experiencing even more is what Freudenhammer hopes to find at a transfer school. Entering his final semester at JCCC, he boasts a 4.0 grade point average, and ACT super score of 34 and proudly is submitting transfer applications to major research universities. Once he begins accumulating additional college credits at a four-year university, Freudenhammer plans to reverse transfer and receive his associate’s degree from JCCC while he pursues a bachelor’s degree. He is looking to add fuel to the academic spark he received his first two years of college at JCCC.