The Best Professors at Penn State, as Nominated by Your Classmates

Last week, we asked you to tell us about your favorite Penn State professors in hopes of putting together a list of some of the best. Below are the professors who cropped up most frequently in the pool of responses, and the rave reviews that students — past and present — gave to those professors.

From professors who share personal stories to those who are easiest to reach through Twitter, here are some professors with whom you might want to take some classes before you graduate.


Dr. Rosa Eberly

Department/College: Communication Arts and Sciences

Recommended for: CAS 478

What makes her great: “Lots of professors encourage discussion in their classes, but Dr. Eberly went a step further. She, like many great scholars, believes truth comes from debate and discussion. Her classes taught me how to form an argument in a way I never thought possible. She taught me how to think outside the box and read the subtext in everything to find its true meaning. Taking courses with her was difficult, and I don’t think I ever got anything higher than a B, but I still enjoyed coming every day to class and discussing with my classmates the material at hand and what its larger meaning was.” — D.J. Ryan

What makes her different from the rest: “Rosa knows her stuff, but she wants to make sure her students do, too. She brought in the authors of the books we read to talk about the books so we understood them even better.” — Melyssa Lloyd

Dr. C. Michael Elavsky

Department/College: College of Communications

Recommended for: COMM 110, COMM 410

What makes him great: “Professor Elavsky has a way of making you see the world differently and looking beyond yourself. His class is heavily discussion based, and there is never a dull day. He has a great way of getting everyone to participate, and I never left the class without thinking about what we discussed for hours afterwards. It was rare for students to skip class, and I think almost everyone in my class was bummed not to have had him before their senior year – I definitely felt that way. Take him early, take him often.” — Ellen Kipp

What makes him different from the rest: “He was the first professor who really made me evaluate my role in the world and think about how to best utilize and apply everything I was learning in my other classes. He also has really cool stories that he uses to illustrate his points. For example, he used to work for a record company in the Czech Republic, so he used his knowledge of music to demonstrate how we conform to fit different societies, i.e. foreign artists must learn English and the single you hear in America could be different from the one released in Europe or Asia.” — Ellen Kipp

Dr. Nestor Handzy

Department: Math

Recommended for: Math 250

What makes him great: “Dr. Handzy was a great teacher because of how passionate he was about the subject matter, and how well he explained topics despite it being an early morning class. He has spoiled every other math class I’ve taken since then as no one can live up to the bar he set.” — Mario Leone

What makes him different from the rest: “If you have a question about homework or anything, it’s faster to tweet him than to send him an e-mail. If you have time, definitely go back through his tweets. They’re great.” — Chloe Nagle

Dr. Sarah Rich

Department: Art History

Recommended for: Art History 100

What makes her great: “Dr. Rich is the best professor I’ve had at Penn State. I thought Art History was going to be such a boring class, and I thought about dropping it before classes even started. On the first day of class I could tell it was going to be one of my favorite classes. She has the coolest personality and makes lectures so interesting. I actually looked forward to going to Art History because of her. I recommend everyone who needs an art credit to take an art class with her.” — Kacy Dux

What makes her different from the rest: “Her tests are exactly what she says they will be. She doesn’t try to trick you.” — Emily

Dr. Stacy Silver

Department: Sociology

Recommended for: SOC 30, SOC 110

What makes her great: “Her class is basically about what makes girls crazy and why guys never understand anything. She uses practical examples, imitates Diddy, plus she is extremely nice. The class doesn’t have a text book, only ANGEL readings that aren’t too hard. One of the only gen-eds that I was sincerely interested in and I sincerely think it was based on her personality and how openly she taught the class.” — Rachael Kratz

What makes her different from the rest: “She dances in front of the class to wake us up. Need I say more?” — Alex Casement

Dr. Christopher Uhl

Department/College: Biology

Recommended for: BiSci 3

What makes him great: “When I walked into class, I had no idea what to expect. This happened on the first day and on the last. Dr. Uhl had a way of surprising his students, sparking curiosity and captivating the whole room. Many of my peers thought he had completely lost his mind — I wasn’t sure they were exaggerating. Yet, he stood confidently among the crowd and pushed us to question every taboo, every norm, every truth and ‘fact’ we had ever been conditioned to believe was accurate.” — Julie Cahill

What makes him different from the rest: “For once, class is not about learning specific information in order to pass. Class is about you, life, nature, the earth. Though having no tests is awesome, the field assignments given in class make each student learn deeply about themselves and form multiple connections. He invites you to engage in things like one would not normally do in class. The best part about this course is probably going to Walnut Springs. Professor Uhl designed this course to gives his students the opportunity to open new doors in their lives.” — Emily Horvath


Honorable Mention (Professors who, as far as we know, no longer work at Penn State)

Dr. Frank Clemente

Department: Sociology

Recommended for: SOC 005

What made him great: “Frank’s class was a mandatory must-take class for every senior. No class has had such an effect on me as a human being. From his rules about relationships, to view on life, Frank tells it [like it is]. I actually bought the Nittany Notes, even though I went to class every single day, just so I would have a transcript of what he said throughout the semester.” — Ariel Abramowitz

What made him different from the rest: “Frank Clemente is not just a professor, but a man who wants his students to go through life with the wisdom they need to succeed. He always encouraged his students to ‘raise the bar’ and never settle. His life lessons taught his students how to be happy, strong and successful men and women. He was never focused on letter grades or whether or not you attended class. Frank’s class was the type of class you never wanted to skip.” — Michele Mendelson

Dr. Dirk Mateer

Department: Economics

Recommended for: ECON 002, ECON 102

What made him great: “He always made class more interesting and did a great job getting the class to participate. Also, he sneakily got people to learn the material he was teaching while making it fun. All around great professor and I wish he would come back.” — Justin Monito

What made him different from the rest: “Mateer is based God.” — Evan Ponter

Dr. Eric Simring

Department: Math

Recommended for: Math 230

What made him great: “Yes, we had a lot of homework. Yes, his handwriting was awful. And yes, the class was hard. But when a teacher comes in to class on a brisk January morning, rips off three jackets to reveal a “Surf California” t-shirt, tears his hat off to reveal mad-scientist like hair, and then says, “Winter break was too short, go home, class starts tomorrow,” you know you have a fantastic teacher. He taught the material so well it was near impossible not to learn anything.” — Anne Balogh

What made him different from the rest: “The day after they fired Joe Paterno, we all showed up for class completely unprepared to learn math. Simring recognized this, and we just talked. We talked about what we were feeling, we talked about how we thought things were handled by all the involved parties, and he listened. He told us to be proud of ourselves and our beliefs. He bolstered our courage and set the tone for [everything] that followed. I never felt [discouraged or helpless] throughout that trying time, and Eric Simring had a lot to do with it.” — Greg Lynn


Are there any other great professors who you think more people should be aware of? Bueller? Bueller? Let us know.

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