Professors make or break the college experience for so many students. We spend hours upon hours with them. They hold our GPA in their hands. Because of this, students often stress out about whose class to take as we pick our schedules for next year. Rate my professor has its merits, but wouldn’t students prefer a comprehensive recommendation? Then you came to the right place.
Read on to find 10 cool professors that students at William & Mary recommend.
Professor Osiapem (Africana Studies and Linguistics)
Professor Iyabo Osiapem teaches for the Africana studies and linguistics department at William & Mary. On top of being a great professor, she cares about the mental wellbeing of her students. She runs her classes like a casual discussion between all of her students and always takes time to make sure her students don’t overstress. She understands not every student thinks their classes outweigh all other aspects of their life and that everyone takes more classes than just her own. The student culture at William & Mary often puts pressure on students to give 110% on everything; Osiapem recognizes that students can easily get burned out and she adjusts accordingly
“She always encourages you to take time to be okay. She recognizes that sometimes you can have a lot of work going on,” William & Mary sophomore Jasmine Ulrich said. “She always asks you ‘hey, how are you doing? Are you alright? Do you need any help with this? If there’s anything you need let me know, we can work out scheduling and stuff.’”
The way that Professor Osiapem runs her classes makes her stand out from others. She structures her class as a casual discussion between her students. Being a linguistics professor, she gives less importance to how students contribute, not requiring them to structure their sentences in a super well thought-out way. This keeps her classes fun and loose, avoiding the dull and stifling air that academic talk often brings on.
Professor Prokhorov (Russian Studies)
Instead of calling this professor by his last name (Prokhorov), his students call him Sasha, his first name, and he prefers it that way. Sasha Prokhorov teaches Russian studies with his wife at William & Mary. Originally from Russia, Prokhorov really knows his stuff and students find his accent fun to listen to. He teaches classes that would give his students new perspectives such as classes on Russian feminism. On top of that, he seems to genuinely like his students and looked forward to sharing his Russian culture with them. Even when he went to Russia during the Ukraine conflict, he thought about his students.
“He would always bring, like, Russian treats,” William & Mary sophomore Manav Kapoor said. “This was during the start of the Ukraine conflict. So, he went to Russia and came back and brought us candies and all this cool kind of stuff.”
Prokhorov genuinely wants his students to learn and retain the material that he teaches them. If you take his class, however, prepare to participate. Though some students describe Prokhorov as a little unorganized, his chaotic energy brings more fun into the class than it takes away. Those harboring an interest in Russian culture or Russian studies, will find a great professor in Prokhorov.
Professor Johnson (Instructor of Mandolin)
Professor Tripp Johnson teaches music here at William & Mary. Specifically, he instructs students in mandolin and directs the Appalachian Music Ensemble. His expertise really make him stand out in the music department. His students feel like they take lessons from the mandolin equivalent of a rock star.
“The whole old-time, like, bluegrass type of music that he teaches is kind of a niche and pretty regional, so a lot of the famous people who have come out of that industry he’s either met or played with,” William & Mary sophomore Brandon Ward said. “He has all these cool stories about how he’s like playing in a hotel hallway with this guy who’s the best mandolin player in the world. He gives you all these tips that only someone from the top of their field would know.”
On top of possessing an incredible amount of knowledge about the subject he teaches, Johnson also doles out stories from his days as a musician. Not that those days past for Johnson. He still hosts weekly old-time jam sessions on Cary Café Street in Richmond, VA. Not many get to experience the life of a professional musician, but professor Johnson does. He occupies a field of music that many don’t often talk about, and he loves to share his experiences with his students.
Professor Garrett (Theater)
Theater department professor David Garrett’s role in his student’s lives doesn’t simply end at teacher—it goes way further than that. Some former students of professor Garrett still voluntarily get coffee with him. His students find not only a professor but also a mentor and a friend in professor Garrett. He cares tremendously for his students’ mental health and self, pushing deadlines when he sees his students leaking stress from their pores.
“I got coffee with him last week because I’m not taking a class with him this semester and it’s making me really sad,” William & Mary sophomore Julia Tucker said. “Sometimes I just go and hang because I think he’s really cool. He would tell me exactly why he thinks the meme [I sent] is funny and he would relate it somehow [to class].”
Garrett even goes out of his way to correct students by boosting their confidence when they make self-deprecating jokes. He creates a banter that keeps them engrossed. By actively engaging with students outside of an academic setting, Garrett creates a huge impact. The notion that a professor serves the role of teacher and not a friend doesn’t resonate with professor Garrett and his students.
Professor Russoniello (Math)
Math as a subject tends to suck the life out of people. Stereotypes portray it as the subject that everyone hates going to, and for good reason. The title of “cool teacher” normally goes to English professors that can draw a thousand different ideas from one page or physics professors who set stuff on fire during class. So few people find it in themselves to truly enjoy math, hence why professor Nicholas Russoniello stands out. He makes math fun.
“Going into college, I thought the days of me just sitting there laughing my ass off in the middle of a math class were over,” William & Mary sophomore Colin Murray said. “I thought that classes were going to be hard and lectures, and no speaking and stale. But it was awesome.”
On top of teaching the material well, Russoniello tries to inject humor into his classes. As a relatively young teacher, he can really connect with his students since he understands the younger generation’s humor. Somehow, he got his students genuinely laughing while teaching them calculus. Do you know how the difficulties of getting students genuinely laughing during a lecture? Not easy. But professor Russoniello figured out the secret.
Professor Chambers (Biology)
The internet co-opted the word “quirky’ to mean unoriginal and trying too hard. Professor Randy Chambers at William & Mary takes the word back. He truly embodies uniqueness within his method of teaching and within his personality. One never truly knows what to expect when walking into his office.
“When I walked into my first pre-major advising meeting with him, he was hatching turtles on his desk,” William & Mary freshman Mac Johnson said.
One normally thinks of boring lectures with a monotone professor when asked to describe a biology class, but professor Chambers really embodies the opposite of that. As the Director of the Keck Environmental Lab, he also teaches environmental studies at William & Mary and takes a hand-on approach to teaching. He takes his class out boating and teaches them how to start fires. You won’t find many professors like professor Chambers.
Professor Lucyshyn (Creative Writing)
It probably says something that students line up to take professor Richard Lucyshyn’s classes. His creative writing courses fill to capacity within minutes. From personal experience, students need to email him weeks in advance for a spot if they don’t want to risk not getting his class. William & Mary offer only a few creative writing classes a semester and students always covet them but professor Lucyshyn stands out.
“He was a really chill dude and we talked about cartoons,” William & Mary junior Daysh Evans said. “He just encouraged really abstract thinking. He had us write a poem about a bell one time. He would just give us really different constraints and then the next class you’d see this wide array of pieces.”
If asked to describe this professor with one word, his students choose “kooky.” He chooses to have fun and talk about randoms things with his students. He feels no fear in assigning his students the most random prompts in the hopes that something amazing will come out of it. You will never see the uptight, better-than-thou attitude that many professors present in professor Lucyshane’s class
Professor Krause (Education)
Instead of simply standing in front of her small class and lecturing for hours, professor Gladys Krause runs a heavily discussion-based class. Not only that, but she takes an international approach to teaching. As a professor in the William & Mary School of Education, professor Krause takes the opportunity to make her students, future educators, more worldly. She connected students to educators in other countries, giving them one-on-one time with experienced professionals that bring a new outlook to the table.
“We’re introducing her to memes, at the moment. She’s a little bit confused by them, but she’s got the spirit,” William & Mary junior Emma Rose Williams said. “She says every day after class that she’s going to look up what we send her. And we’re like ‘probably don’t do that.’”
Her students feel incredibly comfortable with her. They gossip and joke before class starts and professor Krause always wants to know the drama happening around campus. While professor Krause teaches them how to take on the role of teacher themselves, her students teach her about memes. Since she sometimes teaches upperclassmen, her students don’t feel tense around her. They let loose a little bit, allowing for moments of laughter in the classroom.
Professor Morán (Art History)
Students simply can’t avoid lectures in college. We use lectures for many things not within the realm of learning: completing the daily Wordle, playing tetris, zoning out, sleeping with our eyes open, etc. But professor Liz Morán’s lectures on art history won’t produce that effect. She keeps it dynamic.
“Her voice changes during lectures. It’s not very monotone so you’re very engaged with the content,” William & Mary sophomore Yvonne Boadi said. “I like how, with her, she also moves around the class. It’s not like your eyes are just stuck in one place, you’re constantly moving”
Despite art history not receiving a reputation as the most interesting of all college classes, professor Morán keeps her students engaged by being engaged herself. She incorporated movement into her lecture and her students find difficulty zoning out or falling asleep while watching someone move. She possesses a passion for her subject that shows through her lectures and enthralls students in the content.
Professor Holmes (Government)
Professor Marcus Holmes of the government department at William & Mary previously occupied titles far greater than that of a professor. Unlike many professors who go straight from academia to more academia, Holmes put his education to real life practice. Afterwards, he came back to teach. He taught students as a professor for decades, yes, but he also helped create the TSA while working as a consultant for Homeland Security.
“His energy is just amazing. He’s like Hank Green on crack,” William & Mary sophomore Shreeya Ravi said. “If anyone has seen Crash Course, that’s how he teaches.”
He brings real-life experience to his government classes and his students would feel intimidated if it weren’t for the way that he teaches. Students describe him as a little chaotic, adding a bit of spice to an otherwise dry subject such as international diplomacy. Professor Holmes’ highly decorated career never forms a barrier between him and his students. With an energy of excitement and passion, he also teaches in an incredibly engaging.
Bonus Writer’s Pick: Professor Watkins (History)
Professor Jerry Watkins came into class rocking purple hair, tattoos and a nose ring. He describes himself as a queer Southern historian and all his classes reflect that in some way. I took a basic American history class with him and discovered more than I ever thought I would learn. Not everyone would teach the World Wars from the perspective of those who chose pacifism or spend a lecture on the power that prostitution had in the 1900s, but professor Watkins does. He absolutely refuses to teach history from the only perspective that everyone else taught for hundreds of years. Instead, he focuses on those that history seeks to erase. If you get the chance to take a class with him, hold that opportunity tight with both hands.