Perhaps one Furman University student gave psychology professor Charles Brewer the ultimate compliment.
“I have taken many Brewer classes while at Furman,” the student wrote. “The toll on the GPA is well worth it.”
Brewer, who has taught at Furman since the Lyndon Johnson administration and is admittedly “old school,” is one of four Furman professors featured in “The Best 300 Professors,” a guidebook to America’s top undergraduate professors compiled by The Princeton Review and RateMyProfessors.com.
Other Furman professors making the list are Dr. David Bost, modern languages and literature; Dr. Timothy Fehler, history; and Margaret Oakes, English.
The professors featured in the book teach at 122 colleges and received high praise from the undergraduates they teach, class after class, year after year, in fields from ancient studies to neuroscience and sports management.
The 300 professors were chosen from among the 42,000 college professors ranked on RateMyProfessors.com, the country’s highest-trafficked college professor ratings site.
The top rankings were based on thousands of student surveys.
Brewer gives some of the lowest grades at Furman, but he routinely receives some of the highest student ratings, the guide said.
The key is enthusiasm, said Brewer, who grades anonymously in all of his courses.
“You can demand what you want to demand if you set out your expectations from day one,” Brewer is quoted in the book, “and if you are impeccably fair in evaluating your students.”
The American Psychological Foundation named its teaching award the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award to honor his contributions to psychology education.
“Yes, he is ancient and looks like he might croak at any moment, but he is more energetic than any teacher I have ever had,” another student wrote.
Bost has taught at Furman since 1981. His courses include Intermediate Spanish and Introduction to Reading.
“He knows so much about the Spanish language and is able to convey it in a fun and meaningful way. His class is definitely challenging, but manageable,” a student wrote.
Students say history professor Tim Fehler is essential to a complete history major.
Fehler, who also serves as director of undergraduate research and internships, said while he most often gets the most intellectual fulfillment from teaching more advanced courses, he finds himself with more dramatically exciting teaching moments in introductory courses when a “hitherto uninterested student suddenly discovers something interesting or gets excited about analyzing a complex story that was previously difficult.”
Oakes practiced securities regulation law in Chicago before coming to Furman in 1996 as an English professor. She specializes in English Renaissance literature.
Oakes believes an interesting class is a challenging class where the tools for learning – but not necessarily the answers – are provided for students.
She said she tries to provide students with information that makes the material they’re studying “relevant and living to them,” the book said.
It is not unusual for Oakes to come into class with a contemporary news story, piece of literature or song, according to her profile. When the classes discuss the frequent anonymity of early modern authors and the transition to a culture in which authors got paid for their work, she may bring in an ad for rare books showing how monetary value is placed on certain authors.
“A first edition of a Harry Potter book can bring in more than $13,000,” she said.
A professor from Wofford and five from Clemson University also made the list.