10 Best UMD Professors that Keep You on Your Toes

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This post is sponsored by Off Campus Parking.

Terps make major waves in the world. And it’s no surprise considering this top research university ranks in the top 25 for computer science, criminology, econimics, engineering, information studies, information systems, mathematics, physics, public health, public policy and sociology. But what makes the University of Maryland exceptional isn’t the rankings—it’s the professors. Incredible professors and world-class learning institutions go hand-in-hand. While taking one of these 10 UMD professors, you’ll wake up excited for class—even at 8 a.m.

Check out these 10 awesome UMD professors that inspire students every day.

1. Nelson Padua-Perez – Computer Science

What’s better than office hours? Coffee hours. Professor Nelson Padua-Perez hosts “Coffee Hours with Nelson,” for his students in his introductory computer science courses CMSC131, 132, 216 and more. Students can meet with Padua-Perez over a cup of Joe and ask him questions about the material. He even sponsors the CS Latino Group. Did someone say free salsa dancing classes? Most professors in 200-person classes seem distant from students, but Padua-Perez makes a point to interact more personally with his students. “I try to talk to the students as if they were my peers. I try to show them respect and I think that works,” said Padua-Perez. “I try to keep a good environment in lectures, say a joke when I can, things like that.”

2. Justine Madoo – Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice Professor Madoo goes above and beyond to connect students with industry professionals. “She has guest speakers come to class that are in the criminal justice realm which makes the class more interesting and gives lecture some variety,” said sophomore Bry Goncalves. Madoo invites police officers, FBI agents, U.S. Marshals, judges and defense attorneys to speak and interact. She wants her students to see the real-life application of each lesson. She truly keeps her teaching style personable. “She related to her students, made jokes and talked about her research within juvenile delinquency often which I found fascinating,” said sophomore Jessica Berman. Ready to sign up? You’ll find Professor Madoo teaching Introduction to Criminal Justice, Juvenile Delinquency, Corrections, Offender Reentry and Gangs classes. And you can check out her book, Positive and Negative Social Capital: A Balancing Act?

3. John Kim – Academic Writing

When it comes to writing, practice makes perfect. Especially with Professor Kim who teaches Academic Writing for College Park Scholars students. The writing techniques he covers, like quote integration and introducting sources, help his students take their writing to the next level. He asks his students to implement each skill into their assignments, transforming lessons into action. “He always gave helpful feedback on essays and I think that some other professors are too lazy to do that since they have a lot of students,” said sophomore Kara Matthews. “But he took the time to explain whatever he took off [points] for. He also stressed peer-reviews, so there was a lot of editing going on and I thought that was helpful.” Writing can feel like a struggle at times but Kim’s dry humor keeps students entertained and ready for the challenge. 

4. Jie Zhang – Marketing

Survey says: Taking classes with Professor Jie Zhang is a no-brainer. Zhang, professor of marketing and the Harvey Sanders Fellow of Retail Management at UMD, strives to make her students understand marketing concepts. “A good quality of an effective teacher is that you’re supposed to be able make complex, difficult concepts or techniques or frameworks easier to understand than the other way around,” Zhang said. “So I try to break down things into individual pieces that are much easier for students to process and that are easier to relate to.” Plus, Zhang provides all the info necessary to excel on her exams. Her straight-forward teaching style lets students ditch the textbook entirely and focus soley on her lectures and PowerPoint slides. Yes, she’s that good.

5. Kevin Calabro – Engineering

Goodbye stuffy “professor” titles in Calabro’s engineering classes. He wants his students to call him Kevin. And students feel comfortable going to office hours because of Kevin’s approachable teaching style. “I think it’s helpful that I’ve taught so many interrelated courses and so I understand what students should have learned in prior courses and what they are going to learn in follow-on courses,” Calabro said. “This helps to make students understand what they are learning and why and how this connects to their growing body of knowledge within engineering.” That nightmare where you walk into your first day of class to an exam on your prerequisite course won’t come true in Kevin’s course. He posts his class slides on Elms-Canvas before the lecture so you can review ahead of time and come prepared with questions. 

6. Elisabeth Maring – Global Public Health

Help families abroad in Peru, Ethiopia and more with Professor Maring. An advisor for Public Health Without Borders, Maring also directs the UMD College Park Scholars Program. Bright freshmen and sophomores lucky enough to land a spot in the program study together with Maring. Her studies and classes focus on global public health and family dynamics. Junior Rohini Nambiar said, “All of the global public health scholars had to take her class together so we all formed a bond with her. She was always so open for office hours and always wanted to learn more about our lives.” She knows the key to understanding family dynamics is relating it to real experiences so she uses her own family to provide examples for class concepts.

7. Professor David Straney – Biology

Tea and cookies, anyone? Professor David Straney knows students need food to function. He brings snacks to exam review sessions and even to early morning final exams. Straney teaches Principles of Genetics and Molecular Genetics Laboratory. Students can’t deny that his exams are tricky. But he goes to great lengths to provide them with the necessary resources they need to succeed. “He gave us outlines to every chapter and reading guides for the questions and info we needed to know,” said junior Stephanie Arnouk. Plus he holds extra weekly review sessions for students struggling to understand concepts and practice problems. “I’ve never seen a professor put so much time, love and effort into a class,” added Arnouk.

8. Jonathan William England – African American Studies

Professor Jonathan William England turns class into a collaboration. He wants to get to know his students—their opinions, their interests and even their schedules. Due dates aren’t set in stone from day one. “He is really flexible and asked about our input on deadlines and due dates,” said junior Rachel Kim. “I was never big on history but I loved going to class. He even made the final enjoyable and would crack jokes during it.” Professor England teaches Intro to African American Studies, Special Topics in African American Studies and Special Topics in Black Culture. He also makes an effort to connect with his students, making classes interesting by balancing his teaching with personal anecdotes and funny stories. 

9. Lenea Stocker – Organic Chemistry

Professor Lenea Stocker breaks down tough chemical reactions into lectures students understand. She goes above and beyond to make sure her students grasp the material. How? Her one-on-one teaching in office hours to help make those Gringard reactions finally click. Stocker also takes the time to answer student questions instead of rushing through PowerPoint lectures. “Her exam questions are very closely related to homework practice problems, so it encourages you to practice,” said senior Yonathan Daniel. “She tries to make sure you understand mechanism problems and she puts memes on the front of her exams.” Don’t be afraid to take up Stocker on her office hours—it’s your key to excelling in organic chemistry classes.

10. Katarina Keane – History

Step into the past with Professor Keane. Whether you take Pocketbook Politics or American History, you’ll feel engaged with Keane’s exciting lectures as well as speech clips and documentaries. Professor Keane is the Executive Director of the Center of Global Migration Studies, a center dedicated to studying immigration and migration. She also lectures within the Department of History at UMD. Students love Professor Keane because she takes the time to personally measure student achievement. “We had a debate in our discussion that she came to and personally graded,” said senior Kristina London. “I think she truly sees how much effort you put in and grades fairly.” And when you walk into Keane’s exam, you won’t stress that she’ll surprise you with random questions. She prepares her students extremely well before exams.

For students and professors alike, it’s tough to find parking near class without the fear of a $75 ticket from DOTS. Check out Off Campus Parking (OCP) for a more flexible and convenient option. Go to SpotHero and book your spot.

This post is sponsored by Off Campus Parking.

100% guarantee that we'll be friends if you tag me in Harry Potter memes or Tasty videos on Facebook. Aspiring magazine journalist at the University of Maryland (but dabbling in marketing as well).

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