THE SCRIPPS VOICE: Where did you grow up?
PROFESSOR TAMAGAWA: I grew up in Hawaii on the island of Oahu.
TSV: How did you first hear about Scripps College, and what made you decide to attend?
T: A Scripps admissions officer came to my high school, and I happened to be in the room for her presentation. At the time I wanted to have a serious math degree, so I was considering Harvey Mudd, and I knew Scripps was part of the same consortium. I knew that I wanted to go to a small private school for college, because I had gone to large public schools my whole life and was tired of fighting for resources and attention.
One thing led to another, and I ended up applying to Scripps [...] I received my acceptances to Scripps and Harvey Mudd on the same day, and choosing between the two was actually a really difficult decision. [...] But, a few things pushed me over to Scripps. I realized I had a lot of flexibility in the classes I could take, the campus was so beautiful that it was comforting and calming to walk around, and the students really did seem confident, courageous, and hopeful. So, I chose Scripps.
TSV: How would you describe your experience at Scripps?
T: I started my Scripps experience with a program called Outdoor Orientation. [...] I met some (though not all!) of my best friends at Scripps over this camping trip. My most memorable class from this year was AISS (Accelerated Integrated Science Sequence)...mostly because this class built some of my strongest friendships at Scripps. Outside of classes, I also spent my time dancing with the Claremont Colleges Ballroom Dance Company, tutoring math...giving tours for admissions... and getting to know my new friends. [...] My grades first year were not as stellar as they were in high school, but I was still gaining a lot from my classes and my life was fulfilling.
During my sophomore year, I took my favorite non-math class... called Women, Crime and Punishment. [...] As part of the class we went to a women’s prison every other week throughout the semester to take a writing seminar alongside the prisoners. It was really an eye-opening experience...
The highlight of my junior year was studying abroad in Budapest, Hungary. They have a famous math program for students from North America, and I was told that all the best Scripps math majors go there. I enjoyed my experience - it was my first time in Europe, my classes were amazing, and it was interesting to talk to math majors from other colleges and compare my experiences with theirs...
My favorite memory of senior year is actually the first dinner of fall semester. Since so many of my friends had been abroad the previous year, some in fall and some in spring, it was the first time we were all together in over a year. The rest of the year is a blur of classes, thesis, and preparing for life after graduation...Over my time at Scripps I realized I liked the branch of math called topology, so I wrote my thesis on quandles of virtual knots...
TSV: How did you decide to become a math professor, and to return to Scripps? Does being a professor here make you see the school in a different light?
T: Since elementary school, I’ve wanted to be a teacher, and around middle school, I started to get really interested in mathematics, so being a math professor combines the two perfectly. I loved Scripps as a student, and I couldn’t wait to come back. If I could have any job in the world it would be here...So, when I heard that Scripps was looking for math professors, I couldn’t not apply. I do see Honnold Gate differently. I walked past that quote by Ellen Browning Scripps almost every day for four years, and my eyes were always drawn to that last part, about living “confidently, courageously, and hopefully.” [...] But now that I’m older and I’ve had a teaching role for a while, I realize that “the ability to think clearly and independently” far outweighs any other skill you can develop in college.
TSV: What are some of your interests/hobbies, besides math?
T: I love to travel, especially by airplane...planes are one of the few places where being short has advantages. I also doing enjoy puzzles (both logic and jigsaw!) and watching good crime shows.
TSV: If you could give any piece of advice to your Scripps- freshman-self, what would it be?
T: Every moment of every day, do exactly what you want to be doing. You’re not going to be able to take advantage of every opportunity here - there’s just too many! So, be mindful of how you spend your time. Your time isn’t wasted if what you’re doing is more important to you than anything else you could be doing. Also, appreciate your friends more...Learn and grow from them as much as you can, because after graduation they’ll scatter to the ends of the Earth and you’ll only see them all when one of you gets married.