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Successes: Notable Professors and Departments at Florida Universities

Autar Kaw
Autar Kaw [Photo: University of South Florida]

Autar Kaw

Professor of mechanical engineering
University of South Florida,
Tampa

Recognition: Kaw received a 2011 National Outstanding Teaching medal from the American Society for Engineering Education.

Hits: His USF lectures posted on YouTube have garnered half a million views. His blog, called "The Numerical Methods Guy," gets 75,000 views a year. And his website for the Holistic Numerical Methods Institute, an online teaching site, has had more than 3 million hits since 2002.

RateMyProfessors.com snippets:
• "Runs a tight ship, but he's extremely knowledgeable."
• "His assignments and projects are pretty tough, but I learned so much from them."
• "He is a very good teacher, very strict and almost forces you to learn while you're in his classroom."


James Brenner

Assistant professor of chemical engineering
Florida Institute of Technology,
Melbourne

James Brenner
James Brenner [Photo: Florida Institure of Technology]

Recognition: Brenner won FIT's Kerry Bruce Clark Award for Excellence in Teaching for 2011. The school's student government association named him teacher of the year in 2006, and in 2009 he was named the top teacher in the engineering department. His interests include hydrogen storage and contributing to the university's schoolwide effort to create a completely hydrogen-driven airplane.

Quote: "Like the infamous former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight, my job is to get more out of my students than they thought they were capable of. My father taught me that if you didn't learn how to think while you were in college, then I wasted his money."

Student comment: "I wish Dr. Brenner taught all my classes," says Esther Cameron, class of 2011.

John Pearson
John Pearson [Photo: Stetson University]

John Pearson

Professor of English
Stetson University
, DeLand

Recognition: Pearson has won numerous teaching awards, including the 2010 John Hague Teaching Award for outstanding teaching in the liberal arts and sciences, the university's McEniry Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2004 and the Hand Award for research and creative and professional activity in 2000.

From student evaluations: "I can't imagine any other professor doing a better job teaching this course than Dr. Pearson." ."Dr. Pearson has an invaluable gift of taking the most convoluted subjects and bringing them into easy to grasp conversations." ."This is one of the best classes that I've ever had."


Mike Foley
Mike Foley with student [Photo: University of Florida/ Laurie Hice Michaelson]

Mike Foley

Professor of journalism
University of Florida
, Gainesville

Recognition: Within a few years of leaving the St. Petersburg Times to teach journalism at UF, Foley was named the university's teacher of the year. The longtime journalist, whose jobs at the Times included executive editor, managing editor and vice president of community relations, focuses now on teaching news reporting and writing.

RateMyProfessors.com snippets:
"He's funny, entertaining and knows how difficult reporting is and tries to lighten up the lectures."
• "Foley is extremely helpful and understanding. And hilarious."
• "I switched from PR to journalism as a major because of this class."

Sameer Hinduja
Sameer Hinduja [Photo: Florida Atlantic University]

Sameer Hinduja

Associate professor of criminology and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center
Florida Atlantic University
, Jupiter

Recognition: Hinduja, winner of FAU's 2010 Distinguished Teacher of the Year award, works nationally and internationally with schools, law enforcement agencies, businesses, parents and adolescents to reduce online victimization and its real-world consequences. He also won FAU's researcher of the year award in 2008.

RateMyProfessors.com snippets:
• "Great personality, really enjoyed the class, though it's not for the extremely lazy."
• "Always made class interesting and a very positive, motivating instructor."
• "He made full use of all class time, never left early."


Jill Quadagno

Jill Quadagno
Jill Quadagno [Photo: Florida State University]

Professor of social gerontology
Florida State University
, Tallahassee

Recognition: Quadagno, who holds the Mildred and Claude Pepper Eminent Scholar Chair in Social Gerontology, received FSU's 2011 University Distinguished Teacher Award.

Quote: "Ultimately, I judge my own success by the success of my students, and I can think of no higher praise than to be considered a good teacher."

From an anonymous student survey: "She is unfailingly gracious, generous with her time, and sage in her advice to her former students. Her 'teaching' does not end when we receive our FSU degrees."

Philip Trocchia
Philip Trocchia [Photo: University of South Florida St. Petersburg]

Philip Trocchia

Associate professor of marketing
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
, St. Petersburg

Recognition: Winner of the school's most recent Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence, USFSP's top teaching honor. This year, his students developed marketing plans for eight organizations, including St. Petersburg's American Stage Theatre — and several graduates got jobs based on their plans.

Quote: "The civic engagement opportunities help local businesses and non-profits achieve their goals while allowing our students to apply theoretical concepts to actual businesses they can relate to."


Arup Guha
Arup Guha [Photo: University of Central Florida]

Arup Guha

Computer science lecturer
University of Central Florida,
Orlando

Recognition: The 270 or so students who enroll in Guha's Computer Science I class each semester are met with an interesting assignment the first day: They have 10 minutes to find the person in the lecture hall whose birthday is closest to theirs. Later in the semester, he'll ask the question again, but this time students write computer programs to find the answers.

Quote: "I like to figure out what makes them tick, figure out what they're passionate about, because for a lot of these students, no one has ever facilitated them that way."

RateMyProfessors.com snippets:
• "Arup is a great challenging teacher but you definitely learn something which is what I like about him."
• "I will take any class he teaches. Very clear on what he wants."
• "Arup is the best professor I've been taught by so far. He makes his tests challenging to ensure that students study, but he has an extremely fair curving system."

Cara Tasher

Cara Tasher
Cara Tasher [Photo: University of North Florida]

Associate professor of voice
University of North Florida
, Jacksonville

Recognition: As director of UNF's choral activities, Tasher has arranged for the chorus to sing at a variety of events, from Jacksonville Jaguar football games to international tours. The choir is scheduled for a tour of South Africa next year.

RateMyProfessors.com snippets:
• "An awesome teacher! Hard but makes you learn a lot."
• "Anyone that takes chorale with her will become a better musician, will be challenged musically and intellectually."
• "She treats her students as individuals and works her butt off to try to get her students to succeed."


Joan Davison

Professor of political science
Rollins College,
Winter Park

Joan Davison
Joan Davison [Photo: Rollins College]
Recognition: Davison won the college's 2011 Cornell Distinguished Faculty Award, given each year to the school's top teacher.

Dean's view: "In spite of being known as demanding, her courses are also in high demand," says interim dean of the faculty and associate professor of education Debra Wellman.

RateMyProfessors.com snippets:
• "Go talk to her and she will help you understand anything. Always there to give the students time."
• "She's hard but fair if you're willing to do the work." .
• "Dr. Davison could make Post-Communist Systems interesting. 'Nuff said."

Donna Shalala

Donna Shalala
Donna Shalala [Photo: University of Florida]

President
University of Miami,
Miami

Shalala, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, teaches one of the biggest and most popular courses at the University of Miami, POL 536: U.S. Healthcare Crisis: The Politics of Healthcare Reform. The class usually has an enrollment each spring semester of about 200 students. The class even has its own Facebook page, which it notes is not affiliated with Shalala or UM. One former student who rated Shalala's class online wrote: "Yes, there are a lot of students, but you never get bored."

» Next page: Notable Departments at Florida's colleges and universities.

Notable Departments

UF professor Anthony Brennan
UF professor Anthony Brennan works with a student.
[Photo: University of Florida/ Ray Carson]

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

University of Florida, Gainesville

Why: The department placed eighth in U.S. News & World Report's national rankings of graduate schools. Graduate student Jason Myers won first-place in an Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining Young Persons' World Lecture Competition, held last September in Malaysia. The PBS science program "NOVA" recently highlighted research being done by professor Anthony Brennan, who is investigating the thermodynamics of cell adhesion to materials with a special focus on the effects of surface topography.

Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy

University of Central Florida, Orlando

Why: The department teaches artists, computer programmers and producers how to make video games. Since 2005, 191 alumni have gotten jobs at 83 companies, including Google, Electronic Arts, Zynga, Disney and n-Space, an Orlando video game maker. The average starting salary for FIEA grads is $50,852. Working with n-Space, FIEA teacher Ron Weaver helped choreograph and direct the dance moves for the new "Hannah Montana: The Movie" video game.

Center for Excellence in Advocacy

Stetson University College of Law, Gulfport

Why: The university's Gulfport-based law school has seven teaching courtrooms, where students hone their trial skills. A Stetson student team recently won "best brief" at the Willem C. Vis (East) International Commercial Arbitration Moot in Hong Kong. Stetson student have also won top spots at the American Bar Association's National Trial Competition in 2010 and the National Civil Trial Competition in 2009.

Sue Washer
Center for Excellence in Advocacy [Photo: Stetson University]
Carol Walker
"The education department is well deserving of the title of Flagship of St. Leo University," says Carol Walker, dean of St. Leo's school of education and social services. [Photo: St. Leo College]

Undergraduate Teacher Preparation Program

St. Leo University, Saint Leo

Why: The program, which graduates about 200 new teachers each year, was one of four finalists this year for the Distinguished Teacher Education Award from the Association of Teacher Educators. Before graduating, students spend up to 850 hours working in local K-12 classrooms.

Department of Aerospace Engineering

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach

Why: U.S. News & World Report has ranked the university's undergraduate program No. 1 among departments of its type for 11 straight years. Coursework includes aeronautics, propulsion and airplane and space vehicle design.

College of Public Health

University of South Florida, Tampa

Why: The college's graduate program ranked 20th in the nation last year, according to U.S. News & World Report. Last year, it was one of 14 public health schools nationwide — and the only one in Florida — to get funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish a Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center. Also, USF's College of Medicine won $236 million in total research awards during fiscal year 2009-10, accounting for more than 60% of the university's total awards.

» Next page: How Florida's colleges and universities fare in national rankings.

Rankings

The National Research Council released a report last year that ranks more than 5,000 university doctoral programs in 62 academic fields at 212 universities. The rankings, based on data collected during the 2005-06 academic year, take into account numerous factors, including faculty publications, grants and awards, as well as student GRE scores, financial support, the time it takes to complete the program and employment outcomes for graduates. Other criteria considered: Faculty and student diversity, annual Ph.Ds graduated and student workspace. From there, the council ranked programs by range within a particular specialty.

For example, the University of Florida's doctoral program in entomology and nematology ranked 8-23 among 28 comparable programs nationwide. Here's a look at range-rankings of some other programs at Florida schools:

  • University of Central Florida, optics engineering: 6-18 out of 136
  • University of Florida, food science and human nutrition: 7-25 out of 31
  • University of Florida, aerospace engineering: 13-25 out of 31
  • University of South Florida, computer science and engineering: 14-60 out of 128
  • Florida International University, chemistry: 19-78 out of 180
  • University of South Florida, nursing: 21-36 out of 55
  • Florida International University, physics: 24-90 out of 162
  • University of Miami, epidemiology: 25-71 out of 92
  • University of Miami, electrical and computer engineering: 27-75 out of 136