• Professors

An Overview of Below Average and Exceptional Professors at Cornell University


Any student with Ivy League aspirations has Cornell University written down somewhere on a list of quintessential schools. The exalted New York institution was founded in 1865 with the intention of teaching all fields of knowledge, from the classics to the sciences. These days it services more than 20,000 undergraduate students with seven distinct colleges. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that pupils travel from all over the globe for its award winning technology programs; the sprawling campus that overlooks Cayuga Lake was the first to be lit using electricity talk about an interesting fact! With a faculty list that reads more like an award ceremony ticket, it’s hard to believe that any less than favorable scholar could slip through the cracks. We looked at Rate my Professors to determine the professors you should pass on, and the ones you shouldn’t pass up.

Below Average
  1. David Zax: Passing this science professor’s class is no easy task with his cold, often rude demeanor that former students say makes him completely unapproachable (not exactly good news for those who tend to seek help outside of class). His teaching structure has been highly criticized for focusing on very basic principles during lectures, but then expecting undergraduates to complete much more advanced questions on homework assignments or tests. Clarity is also of concern, as most say he manages the impossible  ideas that are already hard to grasp. The level of apathy he displays towards his students is enough to fill those in attendance with dread. “Avoid like the plague,” says one disgruntled major. If that’s not a bold declaration then we don’t know what is.
  2. Tim Devoogd: Vagueness seems to be this professor’s middle name, as he’s notorious for not responding to emails and crafting presentation slides that leave a lot to the imagination. Low class averages can be blamed on rigid tests that students weren’t prepared enough for not even with the aid of their textbook. Students are frustrated with his incoherent lesson plans that are delivered using blurry overhead slides he doesn’t provide anywhere else. We know those words are striking fear in the hearts of all you diligent note takers out there. If any engaging, properly outlined class is what you’re hoping for, then you should head for the hills right now.
  3. John McMurry: First and foremost, it should be acknowledged that this professor is undeniably intelligent; he did write a textbook that thousands of students learn from each year. Unfortunately, that writing endeavor might have just extinguished this villain of the science department’s motivation because students say he sounds like he’s on the verge of falling asleep during lectures (ironic point: he reads word for word from the aforementioned reading material how boring). Beyond that, he’s inconsiderate towards students and generally lacks patience when it comes to accommodating their specific needs.

If you’re interested in Cornell University, check out our article on Five Things to do at Cornell.

  1. Jennifer Wissink: Economics is made simple by this favored professor who’s said to have an eccentric personality and contagious passion for the subject. Majors and non-majors alike claim that success is dependent on consistently attending the lectures, but your dedication is rewarded with detailed presentations, fair scoring guidelines and a curve at the end of the semester which could just turn that B into an A. Best of all, you’re being guided by someone with an extensive background that will help prepare you for classes in the future. Her crystal clear, math based approach is unique to the department and definitely a worthwhile return on investment.
  2. Bruce Currie: What sets a lackluster teacher apart from a superb one? Confidence. This science department professor keeps his classrooms engaged by radiating knowledge in a way that’s not condescending or intimidating. He values the kind of intimate student to professor dynamic that involves being called upon by name and having long conversations during office hours about material that might be unclear. The material, admittedly, can get a little dense, which is where his refreshing sense of humor comes into play. Teaching assistants are kept up to speed and in good spirits, making them just as useful when additional support is needed.
  3. Harry Segal: The intersection of the liberal arts and sciences is paramount to the university’s teaching ideology, and this professor of psychology carries on that mode of thinking with his intelligent, laidback and genuinely helpful presence in the lecture hall. His role in the department is a vital one for majors; he’s a prized commodity thanks to his status as one of the few clinical professors on staff. Former learners note that when material grew too hard to decipher and morale dropped, he kept spirits afloat by providing interesting personal anecdotes. Tests are kept simple and straightforward no trick questions here. Study hard, consult the kindhearted Segal when in question and you’re almost guaranteed the grade you seek.

Ryan James is a ’13 alumnus of Ohio University’s College of Arts & Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in writing and media. He currently works as a copywriter for a Fortune 500 e-commerce corporation based in Columbus, OH.


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