Four Years Ahead: An 18-Year-Old Kent Student Will Graduate From Kent State This Spring
While most 18-year-olds are finishing up their high school requirements for graduation and making plans to attend college or applying for jobs, a few exceptional students like Benjamin Mudrak are simply way ahead of their peers in their academic pursuits.
Mudrak, who started taking college courses through the College Credit Plus Program (CCP) at Kent State University while in eighth grade, will graduate this Saturday, May 15, with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics through the College of Arts and Sciences. His future could not be much brighter as he is set to begin graduate school this August at Purdue University and is seeking a Ph.D. in mathematics in hopes of one day being a professor.
“I’m actually really excited,” Mudrak said about going to Purdue. “It will be an adventure. It will be difficult, but I am here for the challenge.”
Homeschooled here in Kent, Ohio, where he has lived his whole life, Kent State was a natural fit due to his proximity to campus. However, for Mudrak, it is not just about how close and convenient the university is to his home. He credits much of his success to his professors, especially in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, for being “incredibly generous with their time.”
“The math department faculty members, even though they are at the top of their respective fields, were always willing to meet during office hours, talk about career stuff, and just go above and beyond,” Mudrak said. “I think normally at a large university, like Kent State, you don’t get that. But here, I got it at least. It was fantastic.”
Beyond just the coursework, Mudrak took advantage of many opportunities to gain valuable college experiences, including participating in and presenting faculty-led research (including a virtual research experience this past summer through the College of William and Mary), and even serving as president of both the Kent State Math Club and the Kent State CCP Student Organization while consistently being named to Kent State’s Dean’s List and President’s List.
“Pure math is a difficult field as it is very specialized, so it’s difficult for undergraduate students to really be able to get research experiences before grad school,” Mudrak said.
Though he was interested in mathematics at an early age, after taking and enjoying his four core analysis courses and four abstract algebra courses at Kent State, it solidified his desire to go into the field of mathematics.
“My parents were incredibly great about letting me look into the academic areas and hobbies that I’m most interested in, but still made sure that I maintained the well-roundedness because that is obviously incredibly important, too,” Mudrak said. “I love academics just generally. I love school. A bit of a nerdy thing to say, but I do.”
He graduated with honors early from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent as a junior in spring 2020 after never actually physically attending school there due to the dual credit program with Kent State. He earned many honors, including being named a Davidson Young Scholar and National Merit Scholarship finalist.
Mudrak said he has participated in classical ballet and musical theatre since a young age as well.
“The big advice that I always get from professors when discussing pursuing a career in academia is to have those artistic outlets and ways to express outside of just academia so I don’t get too one track and kind of expand horizons,” Mudrak said.
“I’m the kind of person that when I start something, I want to go all the way through and do as much of it as possible,” Mudrak said. “So, I’m inspired by the process of learning new things or new skills, whether it be theatre stuff or math stuff. I get really into things.”
When asked if he has any advice for students looking to pursue a similar path to him, he said, “Plan ahead. Have a big overarching plan but then realize that sometimes life happens, so go with the flow to some extent. Things will turn out okay. Just roll with the punches.”
The Need for More Education Outreach and Scientific Communication
After earning a Ph.D. and becoming a professor, Mudrak hopes that he will have the opportunity to do outreach and science communication specifically related to mathematics.
“There are a lot of people who do that really well, but we need even more of those people, and I’m really hoping to be able to do that,” Mudrak said. “I think it will help equalize the access to mathematics education that is available to people, especially in underfunded public school systems.”
About the College Credit Plus Program (CCP)
The College Credit Plus Program (CCP) at Kent State University is designed to provide qualified seventh-grade through 12th-grade Ohio students with the opportunity to enhance their high school education with a true college experience. They can earn college credits for free, and the courses count as both high school and college credit.
To learn more about the program, visit www.kent.edu/ccp.