Top Profs

Photo by Norm Shafer

 1. Jeffrey W. McClurken • HISTORY and AMERICAN STUDIESTo teach students about the past, McClurken often looks to the future. He weaves Web-based discussions, digital history projects, Twitter, WordPress, and other tools of technology into topics such as women’s suffrage and the Civil War. McClurken doesn’t necessarily want students to believe every word he says about America’s past. Instead, he pushes them outside their comfort zones, urges them to be skeptical of sources, and helps them become “critical consumers of knowledge.”

2. Steve Watkins • ENGLISH For 28 years, Watkins has made his living bringing learning to life. His students don’t just read the material, they breathe it. In his Literature of the Vietnam War class, he divides classes into squads that act as units. Students write about real campus “field exercises” in the style of a writer they’ve studied. The award-winning author brings a wow factor to words, taking students to see musicals like Hair, leading them in pro- and anti-war songs and reaching beyond the traditional syllabus.

3. Beverly McCullough Almond • ENGLISH Almond lets students take the lead. Instead of telling them the significance of a composition, Almond prefers they discover it for themselves. Rather than assign essays on specific topics, she lets them find and choose their own subjects. Throughout 35 years, this accessible educator has taught everything from the Bible to Appalachian folklore, but the most important lesson she imparts to her students is the value of independent thinking.

 4. Gregg Stull • THEATRE Stull’s candor and high expectations often shock students, but his passion inspires. This teacher with ties to the professional stage recognizes that it takes courage to be a student and believes theater has the power to change lives. His classes – less lecture, more conversation – have left 26 years’ worth of Mary Washington students with the fundamentals of acting as well as a curiosity about the world and a readiness to wrestle the issues that are “part of being alive.”

5. Miriam Liss • PSYCHOLOGY “Pumped and passionate” is how students describe Liss. A widely published author and licensed clinical psychologist, she gets excited about getting students involved – inside the classroom and out – by asking them to interview local clinicians or analyze famous people. Liss leads a broad spectrum of psychology courses, from general to clinical. Whether she’s teaching personality disorders or Pavlov, her lessons are a swirl of role-playing and group dynamics.

6. Dan Hubbard • BUSINESS With Hubbard, everything’s up for discussion. He is known in his accounting classes for asking questions with myriad answers. This unconventional professor rarely uses a textbook, and who else would call auditing the most “sensual” of business courses? Hubbard welcomes students’ questions and curiosity and likes to surprise them by sneaking fun into subjects that sometimes seem dull. “I can play intellectual judo,” he said, “and flip them around.”

7. Warren Rochelle • ENGLISH What assignment could give students a better sense of self than writing about their own names? That’s how Rochelle starts each semester. Prone to working in small, intimate groups, he is admired in his creative writing and upper-level literature courses for his sense of humor, desire to be fair, and efforts to make everyone feel included. “This is a safe place,” Rochelle, an adviser to first-year students, tells his classes. “Everything you say is valid.”