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Making a Lasting Social Impact one Mathematical Equation at a Time

Mukomere Cyane! (Greetings in KinyaRwanda)

In this month when we transition back to school, I wanted to connect with a person passionate about education. I have had the fortune to meet many during my time in college and I decided to visit with a dear NDSU friend. Sir Daniel Luecke was born and raised in Fargo. He finished high school at Fargo South, joined NDSU Football during its glorious multiple streak victories seasons and pursued his PhD at NDSU in Mathematics and Math Education.

Recently, Luecke’s work entails being a graduate student, leading a campus ministry called the Impact Movement, and being a newly hired faculty at Turtle Mountain Community College. The role there is to develop a Bachelor’s degree in Math Education and develop the Ojibwe Math courses.

In his own words: “I am married to the most amazing woman, Kali, who is certainly out of my league. We are blessed with two very cute daughters, Kamila Joy and Eliza Faith.” Luecke loves being outside with family, telling dad jokes, participating in any sporting activity, and working on house projects are some of his favorite hobbies.

“I love Fargo because of the people. There are so many wonderful people here and I am so thankful for each one of them.” Luecke said when asked about the FM area.

Help me wish him and his beautiful family all the best in their new journey at the Turtle Mountain Community College. Until next time, Be Well!


Where do you call home?

Home is where my family is. I grew up in Fargo and have many memories here with my family, friends and neighbors. Fargo is a special place to me as it is the place I grew up, went to college, went to graduate school, got married, where our two kids were born and where we live currently.

Home is where my family was. My great grandparents are from Ireland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Nobody chose the family they were born into, but our Creator determined this for us all. I’m learning to honor all my ancestors, their journeys, and the places and communities they called home.

Could you share the multiple hats you have worn and still wear on the NDSU campus?

I came to NDSU because I was recruited to play football. It was an amazing experience to be part of the first three FCS national championship teams. A couple of years after graduating, I returned to NDSU to be involved full-time with a campus ministry called Cru. After a couple of years, I entered graduate school at NDSU. Now, I have completed my master’s in math and am hopefully finishing my Ph.D. in math and math education soon.

During graduate school, I became very involved with two student organizations, BSA (Black Student Association) and the Impact Movement. Participating and building relationships with those in BSA has been a huge blessing to me. I always felt welcomed and am so thankful for the impressive leadership of BSA throughout the years. The Impact Movement equips Black students to become disciples of Jesus Christ who integrate their faith into every aspect of their life. It has been an honor to be part of Impact and have many students into our home throughout the years.

Recently on campus, I was part of the group that changed some of the Memorial Union room names to the Oceti Sakowin Ballroom and Anishinaabe Theatre. The Oceti Sakowin and Anishinaabe nations have lived sustainably on this land for millennia. These room name changes are a small way to honor, bring visibility to, and hopefully, increase positive relationships with the Oceti Sakowin and Anishinaabe Peoples still here today.

Can you share the story of your passion for Mathematics?

My passion for math exponentially grew as I came to realize the impact of being a math teacher can have on a student and a community. Schools are often the heartbeat of a community, and I have enjoyed building relationships through being a teacher. I was recently hired at Turtle Mountain Community College to teach math and develop a bachelor’s degree in math education. My family and I are moving to the Turtle Mountain area this summer.

The power of showing up and creating safe spaces for others?

Recently I heard a powerful spoken word titled “Show Up” by poet Joe Davis. This poem highlights the power of showing up to fight injustice. I also learned within Indigenous education and research the phrase ‘seen face’ (Decolonizing Methodologies, 2012) which conveys that being seen at important community events establishes one’s relationships within that community. Previous to this, I learned the ‘ministry of presence’ from the actions and words of my wife and the Christian community she was a part of in innercity Memphis. This ‘ministry of presence’ emphasizes living and investing in the same neighborhood as you work. All three of these examples together have cemented within me the power of showing up and being present. Over time trust is built. Strangers become friends as experiences and stories are shared together. To me, a safe space is created when we listen and believe the stories shared by strangers or friends without discrediting their emotion or the validity of what they say.

Why should and how can people learn about places outside the Midwest?

After getting my bachelor’s at NDSU, I wanted to explore the world before going to graduate school. I lived in Vadodara, Gujarat in the country of India. I also lived in Amsterdam in the Netherlands before coming back to Fargo. It was beautiful to experience the distinct norms of living and be part of cultures that I did not grow up in. This diversity shows off the beauty of our Creator, having his image shine through all of us in distinct ways. I wish everyone could travel internationally and have similar experiences, but it is not always an option for people. Something that you can do right now is meet people here in Fargo-Moorhead from a different racial/ethnic background than yourself. Show up and meet some new people at a restaurant, cultural event, in your neighborhood or school, or in your workplace. I would certainly encourage you to show up to a powwow or Indigenous Peoples Day event and meet people who are indigenous to the Midwest long before the title ‘Midwest’ ever existed.

What is one thing you have experienced in your international travels that you wish we had more here?

The level of hospitality I experienced in India, the Netherlands and Germany changed the way I live today. Especially while being a math teacher in India, many co-workers invited me into their homes for a meal. I desire to live in such a way, having co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances into our home for a meal. In contrast to xenophobia (the fear of others), the ancient Greek word often translated to hospitality is philoxenia (love for strangers). I wish for myself, and us all, that we would invite co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances into our homes for a meal together.

What is your vision for 2030? Where will you be and why?

Personally, I pray that I would be more passionate in responding to the extreme love of Jesus that I have and continue to experience. My faith in Jesus has bloomed in the past 10 years, and I hope to say the same for the next 10 years. I pray the same for my wife and daughters.

Related to work, I pray that I will be a math professor who cares about people, is compassionate, and is able to prepare college students to become middle school and high school math instructors with a passion for their community. I hope to prepare teachers that can connect mathematics to people’s everyday life experiences. Lord willing, my family and I will be part of the Turtle Mountain community. By 2030, I hope to be proficient in Ojibwe and that my daughters will be bilingual. I hope that I can teach math that connects the higher order mathematical thinking demonstrated by the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe people in their language, heritage, and culture with the contemporary math classroom.

Written by Alexandre Cyusa

Alexandre Cyusa came to the FM area in the fall of 2010 to attend Concordia College. Originally from Kigali, Rwanda, Cyusa has lived in Switzerland, Ethiopia, Guinea and France. His traveling experiences have helped him in making this world a smaller and simpler place to live in. He currently works for Folkways and is interested in community development and nurturing global citizenship.

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