Lance Phillips wins monthly United Way award, speaks of the importance of community involvement and developmental mathematics


Jake White
West Campus Editor

Students often cite mathematics as the subject that causes them the most anxiety and apprehension when they re-enter college.

Often having underdeveloped math skills from high school, these students are not able prove that they are capable of succeeding in college level math courses on college placement exams. Because of this, these students are placed in at least one developmental math class.

Lance Phillips, associate professor of mathematics at Tulsa Community College, has devoted his career to helping students conquer their fears when they find themselves in one of his developmental math classes.

“I love developmental math. I chose to teach at that level because I get to see those moments of realization,” Phillips said.

When students come in feeling intimidated, Phillips success has been in teaching those students that they can accomplish their goals.

“I feel like I have been successful if students come away with the sense that math is not impossible. It may not be easy, but it is doable and they are capable of doing it,” Phillips said.

This desire to see people succeed won Lance a special parking lot in the West Campus’ monthly United Way contest. Phillips explained that he was randomly chosen because of his participation with the United Way.

Phillips, who has actively participated in events such as The Day of Caring and the United Way Chili Cook-Off, has a personal connection with the United Way.

“Giving to the United Way means a lot to me because in 1983 my home was hit by a tornado,” Phillips said.

The mobile home he was living in at the time was completely destroyed. Though he was able to recover a few pieces of clothing, all of his other belongings had been lost in the destruction.

It was the United Way that helped him recover from this tornado.

“They gave me a gift card to Sears so that I could by some clothes for myself and my family. It was a humbling experience for me,” Phillips said.

He appreciated not only the help the United Way offered his family, but he was impressed by the fact that they put no restrictions on the gift card they gave him, and told him to buy whatever he needed to get back on his feet.

“For me, and I was already a participant in the United Way at that time, that solidified my giving to the United Way forever,” Phillips said.

One of the many ways he gives to the United Way is by participating in the annual Day of Caring. For the past five years, on that day, Phillips serves the women at a local women’s shelter.

“I, my wife, and my son are photographers. We like to take pictures of the women and their children, and then give them these pictures after we’ve had the chance to enhance them through Photoshop,” Phillips said.

On the day they were giving these portraits to the women, the head of the shelter said that a group of women wanted to share their thoughts and feelings with the people involved with the portrait taking.

What the women shared was this: many of them had never had a picture taken of their children, themselves, or a family portrait.

“In the days where everyone has some kind of picture of themselves or their families, it was both surprising and heart-touching to learn this about these women and their children,” Phillips said.

Phillips went on to say that they would keep taking pictures of these women as long as they want them to do so.