Successful UTK Alumnus Helps Students Understand the Importance of Math

Pictured at the 2009 UT-Pro2Serve Math Contest: Bruce Bursten, Barry Goss, Leon Zhang (winner from Oak Ridge High School), Mike Frazier, and Susan Martin
Pictured at the 2009 UT-Pro2Serve Math Contest: Bruce Bursten, Barry Goss, Leon Zhang (winner from Oak Ridge High School), Mike Frazier, and Susan Martin.

Founder of one of the fastest growing private companies in the United States, Dr. Barry Goss attributes part of his success to the academic subject that has always been his strong suit: math. But math has done more than equip this UT Knoxville alumnus for a thriving career; it has inspired Goss to co-sponsor the largest statewide annual math contest, which challenges hundreds of students each year to gather at UTK for fierce academic competition. 

Math is a critical skill not only useful in any career, but it also teaches students to think logically and solve problems on a daily basis. “Developing good math skills will have a positive impact on students throughout their entire lives,” Goss said.

“The focused approach to complex problem solving that I learned during my graduate education has aided my ability to not only solve technical and scientific problems throughout my career but has also allowed me to establish successful businesses engaging many professionals who solve many of the complex problems faced by the government and private industry,” said Goss, who earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in ecology from UTK.

In 1996 Goss founded Pro2Serve Professional Project Services, Inc., a nationally recognized technical and engineering service company dedicated to protecting national security.  As part of its commitment to give back to the communities in which its employees live and work, Pro2Serve has co-sponsored the annual math competition with the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Mathematics since 2001.

The purpose of the UT-Pro2Serve Math Contest is to enhance math education in the state while providing students with incentive and interest to choose a science, technology, engineering or math major. Known as the STEM disciplines, increasing enrollment in these fields has been listed as a major national priority to enhance America’s global competitiveness in business and technology.

“These [STEM disciplines] are the types of skills Tennessee and our nation need to nurture in order to maintain a competitive technological edge for the future,” Goss said.

On the morning of the math contest, each student takes a multiple-choice, machine graded exam, which tests his or her knowledge of Algebra I and II and geometry. Students with the top 50 scores on the multiple-choice exam then take a second, essay-type exam that is hand-graded. The top 10 contest winners each receive four-year, $4,000 scholarships to UT.

The contest also features a Math Bowl, a double-elimination team competition similar to the old College Bowl. The Math Bowl promotes pride in mathematical expertise through a high profile face-off that recognizes both team and individual accomplishments.

Participation in UT-Pro2Serve Math Contest is limited to 1,000 students and 64 three-person Math Bowl teams. Up to 30 students per school are allowed to register for the contest, and each school can enter one Math Bowl team.

“As a Tennessee-grown business, we think it’s important to develop and retain the intellectual talent of our state,” Goss said. “We want the best and brightest math minds in Tennessee high schools to further their math education, hopefully at UTK, and live and work in Tennessee upon their graduation from college.”

Prior to founding Pro2Serve, Goss built two other very successful professional services business units at Battelle Memorial Institute and Science Applications International Corporation. Goss chairs the Board of Directors of Pro2Serve, Theta/Pro2Serve Management Company, and Distinguished Professionals Education Institute and serves on the Boards of East Tennessee Economic Council, Technology 2020, and Innovation Valley Holdings, LLC.

Headquartered in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Pro2Serve provides innovative solutions to government and private industry on critical security, defense, facilities and infrastructure, nuclear nonproliferation and environmental projects. Pro2Serve has twice been named to the Inc 500 list of fastest growing private companies in the nation. For more information on Pro2Serve, visit