Congratulations to Dr. Charles Brewer and Dr. Robin Kowalski!
Dr. Brewer and Dr. Kowalski (Furman alum and Clemson Professor and Adjunct at Furman) were named in “The Best 300 Professors” in the United States! Selection was based on the Princeton Review’s surveys of students about their professors’ teaching ability and accessibility and on student ratings of their professors on RateMyProfessors.com. See the profiles of Dr. Brewer and Dr. Kowalski from the Princeton Review below.
Charles L. Brewer, Kenan Professor of Psychology, Furman University
Charles L. Brewer is beyond legendary at Furman University, where he has been
teaching psychology since the Lyndon Johnson administration. By his own
count, he has had a hand in producing over two hundred eventual recipients of
doctoral degrees. He has collected more national awards by himself than most
entire faculties receive in a century and, in fact, the American Psychological
Association just named its lifetime teaching award the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished
Teaching of Psychology Award. Professor Brewer is such a "Fixture at
Furman and within the department that his students long ago began a collection
of Brewerisms. “Things always take longer than they do” is one of our favorites.
Another: “Facts fade fast, so learn concepts and principles.”
How does a professor become so popular for so long among finicky undergrads?
Must be an easy A, right? Not at all, actually. Brewer’s tests are notoriously
“difficult” and even downright “tricky.” He gives some of the lowest grades at
Furman yet he routinely receives the highest student ratings. The key to pulling
off such a feat, Brewer tells us, is enthusiasm. “Passion is the overarching
theme,” he says. “It’s the critical thing.” Evenhandedness is also tremendously
important. Brewer grades anonymously in all of his courses and he is very
upfront about what he requires. “You can demand what you want to demand if
you set out your expectations from day one,” Brewer explains, “and if you are
impeccably fair in evaluating your students.” If you do find yourself in one of
Professor Brewer’s classes, don’t expect to be subjected to the latest classroom
gadgetry. He’s decidedly “old school.” He’ll use the occasional slide but you’ll
find absolutely no PowerPoint in his classroom, just for example. “It has a lot of
power,” he declares, “no point.”
Students call Professor Brewer’s courses “a challenging (but totally-worthit)
experience.” “Dr. Brewer is by far the best teacher at Furman,” gushes one
typical student. “Yes, he is ancient and looks like he might croak at any moment
but he is more energetic than any teacher I have ever had.” “I have taken many
Brewer classes while at Furman. The toll on GPA is well worth it,” adds another
student. “Take a bunch of easy classes while you slave over his courses.” Perhaps
the ultimate compliment was paid by a student—now a successful clinical
psychologist—who sent Brewer a note recently reminding him to “leave no
academic butt un-kicked.”
Robin Kowalski, Psychology, Clemson University
Robin Kowalski, a professor of psychology at Clemson University, looks to be an effective mentor and role model. “Quite honestly, I want students to look back and feel that I made a difference in their life. I want students to feel that I not only taught them about psychology and how it applies to their daily life, but that I provided them with encouragement and support along the way,” she says.
As much as she would like to believe that they will remember the content of her courses ten years from now, she knows this is probably not the case. “What they will remember is the kind of relationship I had with them. I try to nurture that relationship by being accessible to them in and out of the classroom.” One student will be left with a good memory: “Dr. K is extremely nice, loves it when you show an interest, [and is] enthusiastic about the course.” It is important to her to make students feel that she has time for them, and that students don’t just simply learn the material, they engage with it. “Students who are engaged in the class also demonstrate a greater ability to integrate material from other courses, which I think helps them to remember the material.”
Her classes include Social Psychology, Health Psychology, and Psychology of Women, though she holds a special place in her heart for Introductory Psychology, which is many students’ first exposure to the field of psychology. “It is so much fun to open their eyes to all of the many ways in which psychology applies to their daily lives,” she says. She is very much a storyteller within the classroom, believing that stories help students remember the constructs to which the stories are linked. “This also allows me to take a laid back approach within the classroom, and it facilitates class discussions as students can contribute their own illustrations of the constructs being discussed.” For example, when she lectures on how we form impressions of others, she will use information from a book that discusses what our possessions say about our personality. “So I will present them with pictures of offices, houses, etc. and ask them to describe the people who occupy these spaces. Through this, I hope to not only teach them about impression formation but also encourage them to read the book.”