Robert (Bob) Willenbring, PhD

Mathematics and Mathematics Education Program Chair


Bob Willenbring (simply called “Dr. Bob” by students and staff) joined the math faculty at the University of Mary in 2011, immediately after completing his mathematics PhD at Michigan State University.  He has been the mathematics and mathematics education program chair since 2014. His students prize his interaction with them both during his classes and outside of class, as his office hours are essentially “whenever I’m in my office.” His wife Amanda teaches high school math at Shiloh Christian School in Bismarck, and his two daughters are students there.

Dr. Bob’s PhD is in the area of mathematics called Combinatorics, which studies topics such as counting and looking for patterns. He is deeply interested in connections between discrete math and computer science, and so he also developed the introductory computing class taken by math, math ed, engineering, computer science, and other interested students at the university. He enjoys using math in the real world, be it in making financial decisions, solving logistics problems, or pursuing strategies in gaming (video games, card games, or board games).

About the Program

Math program:

At the University of Mary, students majoring in Mathematics form a family of scholars that includes students in related majors such as engineering, computer science, and mathematics education. The environment is cooperative rather than competitive, and math professors are invested in mentoring and educating students. Graduates have gone on to work in a wide variety of careers, working in areas such as finance, insurance, data analysis, and computer programming. Math majors are encouraged to explore interests they have in other areas (such as business, computers, philosophy, or Catholic studies), while taking as many electives in applied math courses that they can. 

Mathematics Education program:

At the University of Mary, students majoring in Mathematics Education become part of two families: the math family and the education family. In terms of math, the primary difference between the math and math ed majors is that math majors take more math electives than math ed majors, meaning the two groups work together on the majority of their required math courses. In terms of education, opportunities such as the Emerging Leaders Academy prepare students to be both teachers and leaders in and beyond the classroom. 

[1] R. Willenbring, The Möbius function of generalized factor order, Discrete Mathematics 313 (4) (2013) 330-347. doi:


[2] B. Sagan, R. Willenbring, Discrete Morse theory and the consecutive pattern poset, Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics

(2012) 1-14. doi:10.1007/s10801-012-0347-3.

[3] R. Willenbring, RNA secondary structure, permutations, and statistics, Discrete Appl. Math. 157 (2009) 1607-1614.