Many things can make a college amazing, but its professors are at the very core. Both colleges and students alike rely on professors to ensure that their degrees are the best they can be. This means that being a college professor can be daunting. It certainly is a time consuming and unforgiving profession. But many rise above the pressures of the job and deliver something of incredible value.
The world’s best professors don’t just teach or write books; they make humanity better by inspiring their students to excel at their careers. It is essential for these professors to make sure that they always stay at the top of their game, and time and time again, they rise to the challenge.
These 30 professors are the best of the best. They have spent years perfecting and innovating their subjects. You may not be lucky enough to be directly taught by these professors, but in many instances, you can benefit from them in other ways. For example, you can read their books, look up their talks and compare your professors’ approaches to theirs.
Due to there being so many college professors in the world, determining the best of the best is a herculean task! We’ve consulted a range of articles to compile what we believe to be a definitive list of the best college professors working today. The list is made up of the following sources:
Highest Rated University Professors of 2016-2017: http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/blog/toplist/highest-rated-university-professors-of-2016-2017
Highest Rated Junior and Community College Professors of 2016-2017: http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/blog/toplist/highest-rated-junior-and-community-college-professors-of-2016-2017
Students Choose Their Favorite Professors – And The Best Places To Study: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorrison/2017/09/12/students-choose-their-favorite-professors-and-the-best-places-to-study/#6f2e8faf642f
The 10 Most Famous Professors Teaching College Courses Right Now: http://www.businessinsider.com/famous-college-professors-teaching-now-2013-4
Top 10 Universities With The Most Famous Professors: https://www.collegemagazine.com/top-ten-universities-most-famous-professors/
Grading the Glitterati Professoriat: http://nymag.com/news/intelligencer/topic/celebrity-professors-2013-1/
After analyzing the above, we’ve then explored each individual professor’s achievements in an attempt to quantify what makes them so good. We’ve also factored in awards, published works and other signifiers of success into the professors’ placements.
And the results are here:
1. Douglas Klutz, University of Alabama
Subject: Criminal Justice
About: Douglas Klutz is giving the University of Alabama lots of free press! Not only is he currently no.1 on the Rate My Professors list of highest rated university professors, he’s also been featured in publications such as Forbes. And Klutz is getting this acclaim for good reason. On his profile on Rate My Professors, he currently has 104 ratings for “amazing lectures,” 96 ratings for “respected” and 76 ratings for “caring.” He certainly comes across as a great person on paper. In a recent interview with the University of Alabama, he stated, “I am very thankful for the positive feedback from students […] I also really enjoy helping students with their resume and career preparation, as well as going over what jobs are available in the field.”
2. John Beyers, University of Maryland
Subject: Mathematics and Statistics
About: At a time when STEM fields are so important for the world, it’s good to see a math teacher rank highly on the list. John Beyers is one of the top teachers of mathematics in the world, winning numerous awards, such as the UMUC Presidential Award, Adelle F. Roberston National Educator of the Year Award and Alexander Charters Mid-Atlantic Regional Educator of the Year Award. In addition to this, he is also the second highest ranked university professor on Rate My Professors. According to the students using this site, Beyers gives good feedback, cares about people and gives extra credit.
3. Rona Miles, Brooklyn College
About: In theory, a psychology professor should know all about making people better at their passions. Rona Miles is really achieving this with her important work. She is a currently licensed psychologist and has been with Brooklyn College since 2000. In 2013, she won the Award for Excellence in Teaching. In addition to this, she has a 4.8 out of 5 rating on Rate My Professors. One student stated that “Miles inspired us all with passion, for tackling the apathy toward science, and for empowering us with our own ideas.”
4. Eli Stav, Broward College
About: Eli Stav is benefitting his students in a variety of ways. In his six years of experience at Broward College, he’s produced some incredible work. This includes bringing representatives of non-profit organizations, such as the teen suicide prevention charity Yes Institute, into his lectures to assist students in understanding the practicalities of their work. Stav has also produced papers that help other professors in allowing first-generation college students to succeed. In addition to this, he has a perfect 5.0 rating on Rate My Professors. 100% of his students stated that they would take his class again and gave his classes a 1.4 out of 5 for difficulty.
5. Eliot Spitzer, City College of New York
Subject: Political Science
About: Many people know Eliot Spitzer as a former governor of New York. What most people don’t realize is that he now spends part of his time teaching at the City College of New York. Spitzer is one of many celebrity professors that a range of publications have featured. However, what makes Spitzer stand out is his strong rating on Rate My Professors. He has a perfect 5.0 score but does score a 3 out of 5 for difficulty. Then again, college, much like governing a state, was never meant to be easy.
6. Devon Wray Hanahan, College of Charleston
About: Devon Wray Hanahan has had a long and distinguished career. She’s been teaching Spanish for 30 years, having spent the last 18 at her current college, Charleston. During this time, she’s received several awards, including the Demetria N. Clemons Distinguished Mentor Award and the Alexander M. Sanders, Jr Award for Outstanding Public Service. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she also has a perfect 5.0 rating on Rate My Professors. Even better, 100% of students stated that they would take Wray Hanahan’s course again.
7. Temple Grandin, Colorado State University
Subject: Animal Science
About: Another famous college professor, Temple Grandin has a lot for which to be proud. Throughout her career, she’s been able to use her condition, being on the autism spectrum, as a force for good. This includes creating revolutionary inventions, such as the “hug box,” and raising awareness for autism-related issues. Therefore, she’s been featured on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. These distinctions are in line with her strong ranking on Rate My Professors, where she has a 4.3 out of 5 rating.
8. Jessica Kovler, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Subject: History of Psychology
About: Jessica Kovler has made and continues to make a huge impact on the world. Her long and distinguished career includes working as a medical reporter for The New York Times, Health Monitor, Forbes and Reader’s Digest. She has also been a part of research programs that furthered the understanding of AIDS. Now, she’s focusing on assessing the distress among patients of Cushing’s Disease, and other health issues, and its impact on mental health. In addition to this, Rate My Professors gives her a perfect 5.0 quality rating.
9. Anthony Calise, Community College of Baltimore County
About: Anthony Calise and the college he represents are currently enjoying a range of acclaim from his high rating on Rate My Professors. Both CBS Baltimore and Towson Towerlight featured Anthony Calise, making great cases for him being an incredible professor. The articles cover what makes Calise outstanding at his job, and he certainly comes across as someone who can inspire anyone’s education. To CBS he stated “I enjoy thinking of new and exciting ways to get students engaged in the lesson and, not only learn the math but enjoy what they are learning.”
10. Cornel West, Princeton University
About: Many people consider Cornel West to be a leading voice on race, politics, and gender in the USA. The American public will recognize him from appearances on CNN and other news channels. His strong views and highly intellectual agenda mean that he’s had the privilege to teach in many of the world’s top colleges, including Harvard, Yale and the University of Paris. He’s currently a professor at Princeton, and his students are guaranteed to learn a lot. Rate My Professors lists West as having a 4.1 out of 5 rating. His classes have a 3.6 out of 5 for difficulty.
11. John Bartlet, University of La Verne
About: John Bartlet is a multi-award winning grief counselor and support group facilitator. He’s brought the skills he picked up doing this work into the classroom, which is significantly paying off for his students. He has the much sought after perfect 5.0 score on Rate My Professors, where students rate him as inspirational, caring and many other great things. In an interview with Her Campus, which involved Bartlet and his wife, Linda, he stated, “We love the interaction we have with the students and the knowledge that what they will take with them will make a positive difference in the lives of their students in the future.”
12. Ani Abcarians, Glendale Community College
Subject: Language Arts – Speech
About: This professor is the current number one on Rate My Professors’ list of the best Junior and Community College Professors. On that site, she has 105 ratings for being inspirational, 99 ratings for being respected, 69 ratings for being hilarious and 66 ratings for being caring. A student on the site says “Mrs. Abcarians is the most amazing professor I’ve ever had. She’s so patient and kind, definitely the qualities I look for when choosing a professor.” She also has a perfect 5.0 rating on Rate My Teachers. However, what makes her ranking comparatively low on this list is that apart from those two ranking sites, there isn’t any further information on her teaching efforts (and the Rate My Teachers list has only two reviews.)
13. Jack Epps, Jr, University of Southern California
About: Very few college professors can boast that they made a number one box office hit, but Jack Epps, Jr can. He wrote the screenplay for Top Gun, which was the most successful movie in the world in 1986. His other writing credits include Hawaii Five-O, Kojak, Turner & Hooch, and Dick Tracy. If that weren’t good enough, he also has a 5 out of 5 quality rating on Rate My Professors. Students comment on the site that Epps, Jr is such an inspirational teacher that you’ll think you have all you need to write a successful film within an hour of speaking to him.
14. Warren Schultz, St. Joseph’s College
Subject: Child and Family Studies
About: Warren Schultz is another professor who ranks highly on student listing sites but whose work is hard to find. He has been in his current position since September 2002, and in this time he’s helped thousands of students into careers. Schultz has a perfect 5.0 rating on Rate My Professors. In his 129 reviews on the site, students state that Schultz is, “Realistic and EXTREMELY humorous. He’s experienced and shares so many hilarious stories from working in the field.” He also has a 5.0 rating on Rate My Teachers.
15. Kelly Shobe, Georgia State University Perimeter College-Decatur
Subject: Physical Ed
About: Kelly Shobe is another professor who is highly ranked on Rate My Professors, but who has elusive details elsewhere. She’s been teaching in college at Georgia State University Perimeter College-Decatur for over 24 years. And she’s managed to maintain a perfect 5.0 rating from 142 students on Rate My Professors. Reviews of her on the site are all beaming with positivity. An example is this: “Hands down the best professor I have ever taken. She grades and responds super fast.”
16. Condoleezza Rice, Stanford University
Subject: Political Science
About: Yes, we mean the former secretary of state and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. This incredibly famous politician is now a professor, and in many ways, her experience gives her students a unique advantage. And Rice has managed to condense her extensive knowledge into something that her students are able to use in a highly effective manner. She has a perfect 5.0 score on Rate my Professors. However, what ranks her at the middle in the list is the fact that she only has three ratings.
17. John Kerrigan, Rutgers University
About: John Kerrigan’s high placement on the Rate My Professors list is impressive, in more ways than one. The most prominent reasons are that he’s a part-time lecturer and is comparatively young compared to many entrants on the list. And he’s climbing the Rate My Professors rankings. In 2015, he ranked 15th on the list, and in the most recent list, he had increased to seventh. His ranking will doubtlessly increase even more in future years, as he wracks up awards and even more acclaim.
18. Scooter Pegram, Indiana University Northwest
About: This professor brings the globe to the classroom. He’s traveled to over 100 countries, and in his adventures, he’s learned a lot. In his almost 15 years with Indiana Universtiy, Pegram has channeled his fascination with the world to his students. In an interview with Indiana University Northwest’s website, Pegram stated that his success comes from taking the time to get to know his students. This has led to prominent placement on Rate My Professors lists and coverage in publications such as USA Today and Business Insider.
19. Craig Kapp, New York University
Subject: Computer Science
About: Craig Kapp is a professor who has consistently ranked highly on Rate My Professors. In 2015, he was 14th; in 2016 he was 5th, and in 2017 he was 11th. In addition to these high rankings, Kapp also earned the NYU College of Arts & Sciences, Teach/Tech Award in 2016; the Samuel L. Marateck Award for Outstanding Teaching in Computer Science, 2016; and the NYU College of Arts & Sciences, Outstanding Teaching Award, Spring 2013. Additionally, he’s also highly active in building up the job prospects of the NYC community. He was a faculty advisor for NYU CASEA: College of Arts & Sciences Entrepreneurship Association from 2014 to 2017 and is currently a board member of the Bronx Academy for Software Engineering.
20. Brian Greene, Columbia University
About: In his 22 years at Columbia University, Brian Greene has compiled a huge list of achievements. For example, he’s the co-founder of the World Science Festival, publisher of a range of best selling scientific books and has made a range of television appearances discussing his scientific theories. Greene does not neglect the classroom, however. He has a perfect 5.0 rating on Rate My Professors, with all the reviews raving about Greene’s intelligence and ability to convey complex facts in an accessible manner.
21. Brian Fennig, Southern Methodist University
Subject: Education and Human Development
About: Brian Fennig teaches Personal Responsibility and Wellness, and he does it very well. He’s been in this department for over 17 years and has reached the top of his game. His accomplishments include being ranked 14th on Rate My Professors’ top 25 list in 2017, 4th on the 2016 list and 11th on the 2015 list. Additionally, Fennig has been given the 2016 Southern Methodist University Provost’s Teaching Recognition Award. When he spoke to SMU Daily Campus, Fennig said that “I would describe my teaching style as relaxed, human, honest, genuine, intense and humorous.”
22. Ivan Smith, University of Montevallo
About: Ivan Smith has been with the University of Montevallo since 1994, meaning he’s helped thousands of people get into incredible careers. In recognition of his service, UM awarded him the first-ever Adjunct Faculty Teaching Award in 2013. The university recognized that he always ensures a positive work environment and builds students’ confidence in math. Further reinforcing Smith’s reputation, Rate My Professors gives Smith a perfect 5.0 score. The most recent review on the site states, “Math is not my strong suit […] but he is so kind and caring and always took the time to talk to me, listen to my concerns and explain things in detail.”
23. Eugene Fama, University of Chicago
About: There’s no doubt that Eugene Fama is a world-leading economist. He even won the 2013 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. And he’s been publishing his works for over 50 years, beginning with his Ph.D. thesis being featured in a 1965 edition of Journal of Business. Fama’s list of achievements could fill an entire article. And he has a claim to being a great teacher, based on his 4.5 rating on Rate My Professors and videos of him online explaining his theories for new students.
24. Christy Jackson, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
About: Christy Jackson states on LinkedIn that she firmly believes in “the propagation of knowledge as well as FUN in all of the areas of STEM.” Her strong score on Rate My Professors appears to back this statement up. She has a perfect 5.0 rating, with 57 students ranking her. On the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s YouTube Page, Christy explains that “teaching depends on being able to deliver content in a relevant and understandable way. But I also believe it depends on being able to establish rapport with my students.”
25. Lisa Runner, Appalachian State University
About: Lisa Runner has been at Appalachian State University for 12 years, and in this time she’s managed to distinguish her skill. In 2016, she received the UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching. She also told Appalachian Today, the Appalachian State University news site, that, “I believe that excellent teachers set their students up to succeed. This doesn’t necessitate that assignments be simplified or expectations be lowered.” Additionally, she has made Rate My Professors’ top 25 professors lists in multiple years.
26. Todd Boyd, University of Southern California
About: This professor refers to himself as Notorious Ph.D., which is an apt descriptor of his subject matter. He’s one of the leading voices on race in popular media, having published numerous books, articles, and essays on the matter. His regular appearances on NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, CNN and other shows and channels mean that he has become an incredibly recognizable figure. Boyd has a 4.0 quality rating on Rate My Professors. A review on the site states, “Awesome lectures on classic and postmodern films. If you have any interest in diversity and inclusion in film take this class.”
27. Kenneth Anderson, University of California, San Diego
About: Kenneth Anderson is one of the most experienced gospel music directors in the world. This means that throughout his long college career, his classes have always been packed with enthusiastic music students. In fact, his classes would often feature over 1,600 students at one time, before the college capped enrollment at 800. Outside of college, Anderson has directed a nonprofit community choir which has raised over $100,000 for charity. And lastly, Anderson enjoys a perfect 5 rating on Rate My Professors, with students commenting that they look forward to his classes every week.
28. Judson Everitt, Loyola University Chicago
About: Judson Everitt has based his entire academic career around studying what it is that makes a teacher thrive. As a sociologist, he looks at teachers in educational institutions and how they integrate into their careers. Unsurprisingly, he’s been able to use what he’s learned on himself, leading to a perfect 5 score on Rate My Professors. Additionally, 100% of students contributing to the site state that they would take his class again. His classes also score a 1.4 out of 5 for difficulty on average.
29. Andrew Ng, Stanford University
Subject: Computer Science
About: It’s no secret that Stanford University has incredibly strong ties to Silicon Valley, but Andrew Ng is perhaps the strongest example. He’s a pioneer and leading developer of artificial intelligence. He spends the majority of his time running Google Brain, Google’s AI software. But he also teaches a course in machine learning at Stanford. Students that take his course are happy with Ng’s teaching, giving him a 4.0 rating on Rate My Professors. For the many billions of people not enrolled at Stanford, he also offers courses in machine learning on Coursera.
30. Spike Lee, New York University
About: The pioneering filmmaker Spike Lee is a professor at one of the leading colleges in the world. Students at NYU gain a one of a kind insight into modern African American cinema. Lee’s been teaching at this institution since 1993 and currently offers a 3rd-year master series in directing strategies. On top of this, he’s still an active and acclaimed filmmaker, winning the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2018. Despite being incredibly prolific in the film community, Lee has managed to attain a perfect 5.0 score on Rate My Professors. However, he only has one review, meaning that he is ranked low on this list.