UB's top 10 professors

By JAYNE O'CONNOR and RYAN HAUSER
On December 2, 2012

  • Carole Emberton, a history professor, shares her passion for the Civil War era with all her students. She challenges them to think about the time period in new and eccentric ways. Courtesy of the University at Buffalo Communication
  • Peter Morgan, an economics professor, takes a unique approach to his classes which is unlike any other professor in his department and his students are thankful for it. Reimon Bhuyan /// The Spectrum
  • Professor Lance Rintamaki, a communication professor aims to ensure students feel like more than just a number in his lectures by making his classes engaging and relatable. Courtesy of Lance Rintamaki
  • Larry Hawk, a psychology professor, keeps his students entertained in his psychology classes by playing music and using relatable examples. University at Buffalo / Douglas Levere
  • Theresa Winkelman, a nursing professor, uses creativity in her lectures to keep her students interested in the field of nursing. She wants them to be able to use what they learn in the classroom in the professional environment. Courtesy of Theresa Winkelman
  • Dr. William Kinney, an associate profesor of physics, strives to show his students how important scientific rationality is through his courses. Reimon Bhuyan /// The Spectrum
  • Claude Welch, a political science professor, has taught at UB since 1964 and makes his World Civilizations classes interesting by posing questions to his students, encouraging small group discussions, and singing a nation's national anthem. Courtesy of UB Reporter
  • Joyce Sirianni, a UB Distinguished Teaching Professor, has a passion for her career and for her students and is known for her challenging and rewarding classes. Courtesy of Joyce Sirianni
  • Donald McGuire, a classics professor, works to provide his students with a solid foundation of the historical material he teaches, while connecting it to our own world. Reimon Bhuyan /// The Spectrum
  • Dr. Kushal Bhardwaj, a member of the Athletics Department and a professor with a focus on African American Studies, gives his students a different experience in the classroom with his unique take on teaching. Nick Fischetti /// The Spectrum

Carole Emberton, history

Emberton is a Civil War scholar and professor in the History department.  She teaches several courses on the Civil War era, from her introductory class (HIS 161) to an advanced seminar. 

According to her students, Emberton excels at taking complex topics and breaking them down into manageable pieces of information.  She discusses thought-provoking topics in her lecture, essentially reeducating her students after years of reductive summaries of the "good" North and the "bad" South. 

In her seminar, Dr. Emberton takes it a step further by forcing students to examine the ways students traditionally learn about about the Civil War and the lasting ramifications of those views in our society.

"The Civil War is a dramatic story about what it means to be an American," Emberton said. "Was it permissible for a nation dedicated to the principles of liberty and equality to hold millions of human beings in perpetual bondage? Was this nation for white men only? What place would African Americans, women, working and poor people, immigrants and indigenous people occupy in the nation?"

She believed these questions are as pressing today as they were in the 1860s.

Emberton is always looking for new and innovative ways to teach her students and she is always trying to relate to them.\

"I try not to lose sight of the fact that I'm learning, too," Emberton said. "I think because I consider myself a partner in the learning process along with my students, it allows us to relate to each other more fully and really embrace the course as an opportunity for intellectual growth rather than just a credit that has to be fulfilled in order to graduate."

 

Dr. Peter B. Morgan, economics

Morgan teaches courses in economics but bases them in logic and reason, which guarantees his classes are unique compared to others in the economics department. He encourages students to think about common facets of everyday life they normally don't pay attention to.

He tackles questions such as: why people are willing to pay more for a diamond than for water - something that keeps us alive? Or why rich people are willing to pay more for an item than poor people are? As it turns out, there are rational formulas behind all of these questions, which, coupled with Morgan's knowledgeable anecdotes, make his courses must-takes for those interested in increasing both their understanding of economics and their reasoning capabilities.  

 

Lance Rintamaki, communication

Rintamaki is generally considered one of the best professors at UB. His students say even though he holds classes in Knox, he manages to make them feel small and personal. 

He attributes that to his learner-centered style of teaching. He likes to focus on topics that are relevant to the audience which he hopes will keep his students engaged and entertained.

In one of his courses, Sexual Communication, he tackles some awkward and difficult topics. He is thankful for the level of maturity his students show.

"We're careful to try and focus on the science of sexual communication, it's not all that risky, from my perspective," Rintamaki said. "It's an absolute pleasure to work with them as we tackle some of the stickier topics."

The course attracts a huge crowd, but Rintamaki makes sure he talks to them instead of at them, creating the feeling of a much smaller group of people. He teaches in the way he would like to be taught. In college, he hated sitting through "dry and disconnected lectures."

He wanted to be engaged, and he wanted the professors to care about him as a student.

"Being a professor is a privilege and I take it seriously," Rintamaki said. "I care a great deal that students get their money's worth from my class, that they gain knowledge and grow in ways that serve them well and would be hard to come by otherwise."

 

Dr. Larry Hawk, psychology

Hawk has an immense knowledge of psychology, and his hilarious examples and interactive lectures guarantee his students remember the information.

He likes to have a good time with his courses and is known to play a wide variety of music for his students to break up the monotony before class starts. 

He decided to become a psychology professor after he took PSY 101 while in college. He had originally thought psychology was "going to be lame," but he was shocked when he found out it had a scientific side.

Hawk enjoys looking into problems that can be seen throughout everyday life so he can relate to his students.

 

Theresa Winkelman, nursing

Winkelman is a clinical associate professor who teaches NUR 250, a prerequisite course for all nursing students.

She decided to become a professor after being a pediatric nurse practitioner. She wanted to be able to share the information and experiences she has gained with students.

Cameron Ruocco, a nursing student, can tell that Winkelman genuinely loves what she teaches and it translates to her teaching approach.

She likes to think of her teaching style as creative, flexible and fair.

"Classroom learning needs to offer a variety of learning opportunities that are interactive, challenging and fun in order to engage students," Winkelman said "Faculty need to be available to students to guide them in their unique and dynamic professional growth."

She encourages her students to "think like a nurse" when it comes to the concepts they learn in the classroom so they will be prepared to develop a professional attitude. She continues to come up with new methods to asses her students that are interesting and engaging.

 

Dr. William Kinney, physics

William Kinney, an associate professor in the physics department, grabs his students' attention and holds it during his classes. Not only does he have a vast knowledge of his field but also a love for what he teaches.

Kinney considers his choice to be a UB professor "one of the most financially stupid and spiritually rewarding decisions," he's ever made.

Kinney links the topics of his courses with historical facts, he uses animations to display concepts and he'll discuss current day scientific news in order to show his students how learning applies to current events.

"If you think hard enough about nature, you realize that it is a beautiful but also a very frightening thing," Kinney said. "The only things scarier than the origin of the universe or the interior of a black hole are numbers. Numbers hold an existential terror for me, and I like that."

His courses allow students to think about the universe in different ways, allowing them to grow intellectually and personally. His astronomy course, which satisfies a general education requirement, is a great class because, coupled with Kinney's teaching abilities, it could lead to a new passion in physics.

"I want students to understand that there are facts in the world, and that it is possible to systematically figure out what those facts are and are not," Kinney said. "Then act on them. Make decisions. Build things."

Kinney wants his students to understand the replacement of superstition with scientific rationality is "the greatest success story in human history," and for an informed citizen, "understanding this is not optional."

 

Claude Welch, political science

Claude Welch teaches World Civilizations and brings a level of commitment to his students that inspires students to always come to class. Jenna Wegrzyn, an industrial engineering major, praised Welch for the effort he puts into his course - even large lectures.

Welch had three career options before he decided to become a professor: return to journalism (he had previously worked at The Wall Street Journal), enter the U.S. State Department, or join UB's staff. He chose to be a professor and has been since 1964. 

"On some occasions, I may wear dress appropriate to a particular region or sing a national anthem, hopefully not off-key," Welch said.

Asking students for feedback on the class gets students interested in becoming active in their own education, and creates higher expectations for the quality of teaching they receive at a place where research is clearly a higher priority.

"He cared about the students and constantly asked for our feedback and input about the course content and his teaching skills, which I really appreciated," Wegrzyn said.

According to Welch's students, the commitment to his students makes the transition from high school to college easier, especially for the many freshmen taking his World Civilizations. Welch hopes his students gain an appreciation for how much exists outside the borders of the United States and hopes it leads to a desire for "life-long learning."

 

Dr. Joyce Sirianni, anthropology

Joyce Sirianni, a distinguished teaching professor, not only has a passion for her work, but has a passion for her students as well. While many of her students agree her courses can be challenging, often requiring students to memorize osteological landmarks and primate anatomy, they are also very rewarding. Students come away from her courses with knowledge they can use in graduate, nursing and medical school. 

For students planning to go to any of those schools, Sirianni's Comparative Primate Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology Osteology classes are highly recommended, though many do not know about them because they are tucked away in the Ellicott Complex. Sirianni shows students that an education in anthropology is far more useful than most would imagine and that it can be applied to many fields, not just anthropology itself.

Sirianni expects a lot and her courses are not an easy A, but she constantly pushes students to be the best they can be.

 

Dr. Donald T. McGuire, Jr., classics

Donald McGuire is not just a good professor because of his knowledge of history but also because of his passion and ability to transmit it. McGuire developed an interest in history during the ninth grade; he was captivated by language and fascinated by the literature and archeology of the Mediterranean. 

"I want students to gain some understanding and respect for the past, some sense for the personal levels and for the rich textures of ancient cultures," McGuire said.

McGuire does not just give an overview of historical events; he discusses small niches of a time period that most professors don't talk about. It gives his students the opportunity to learn something different. McGuire likes seeing the light bulb go off, and he enjoys the challenge of finding explanations that do justice to the material.

"When I teach, I try to respect students' intellects and enthusiasms, to find ways to build a solid foundation in the material under discussion, and to make interesting and often unexpected connections to our own world," McGuire said.

McGuire is passionate about what he teaches and it's contagious, according to his students. His courses are incredibly unique, remarkably captivating and rewarding.

 

Dr. Kushal Bhardwaj, African American studies

Although employed by the Athletics Department, Dr. Kushal Bhardwaj - known to his students as "Dr. B" - is one of the African American Studies Department's strongest professors, according to his students. Dr. B encourages participation and a bond between the students in these classes. Students sit in a circle to spark conversation, and anyone is free to speak on an issue raised by another peer or Dr. B himself.

Bhardwaj teaches not only the material specific to the class itself (African American studies, Hip-Hop, etc.), but also skills such as teamwork, public speaking and confidence in one's voice and opinions. Dr. B typically holds an "after hours" session immediately following his three-hour class, where students can talk to him about issues not relevant to the course material (e.g. politics, current events or simply personal stories or feelings).

Dr. B's eccentricity and unique teaching style captivates his students from the start.

 

Additional reporting by Senior Life Editor Rachel Kramer and Life Editor Lyzi White

 

Email: features@ubspectrum.com


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