Sweet Briar College professor of mathematics Steve Wassell is one of the country’s best undergraduate teachers according to The Princeton Review. Wassell is profiled in the Review’s new book, “The Best 300 Professors,” published April 3.
The Princeton Review, known for its student survey-based college rankings and annual “Best Colleges” guide, teamed up with RateMyProfessors.com to develop the book. Teachers and professors listed in the publication represent more than 60 fields ranging from accounting to neuroscience and 122 colleges and universities across the nation. Complete lists of the professors organized three ways (alpha by state/city/college/professor/department, alpha by professor/college/department, and alpha by department/professor/college) may be found at www.princetonreview.com/best-professors.aspx.
The selection process took into account qualitative and quantitative data from survey findings and ratings collected by both The Princeton Review and RateMyProfessors.com. From an initial list of 42,000 professors considered, the final group of “best” professors chosen constitutes less than .02 percent of the roughly 1.8 million post-secondary teachers instructing students at colleges and universities across the U.S. The professors in the book are not ranked, nor are their colleges ranked in the book, but each professor profiled received high ratings from their most important audiences, beneficiaries and critics — the students they teach.
“I’m not at all surprised to see Professor Wassell included in this select group,” said Amy Jessen-Marshall, dean of the faculty at Sweet Briar. “His inspiring presence as an educator, his confidently calm demeanor complemented by his wit and sense of humor keep students engaged. He inspires a sense of curiosity. Dr. Wassell represents the best of what we hope will happen in the classroom, and I’m confident that he is joined by many Sweet Briar faculty in this commitment to student education.”
Once the book was released Tuesday, Wassell posted the news of his inclusion as one of the “300” on his Facebook page. The way alumnae responded illustrates what he loves about teaching at Sweet Briar, he said.
“The outpouring of congratulations and kind words from former students was really heart-warming,” he said. “Students at Sweet Briar work with their professors in a caring environment where students can realize their full potential, and the bonds that are formed extend far beyond graduation.”
The Review profile cites Wassell’s love for the beauty of mathematics and its interface with art, especially architecture — an appreciation he strives to impart to students. He tries to keep his lectures “interactive,” he says, embracing occasions when a student’s question or comment opens a discussion.
“I’ll run with it,” he says. “I’m not averse to going off on tangents on my own as well, especially if I can demonstrate the beauty of mathematics while doing so.”
Students interviewed for the profile said he cares about them individually and works hard to make the subject accessible. “Wassell is a wonderful teacher who has made the idea of taking more math not only tolerable but actually interesting,” said one student, who was not named.
Beyond the classroom, his research on the relationship between math and art has resulted in two books in the past five years. He co-authored “Andrea Palladio: Villa Cornaro in Piombino Dese,” published in 2007, which surveys one of Palladio’s most influential architectural works. In 2010 he co-edited “The Mathematical Works of Leon Battista Alberti.” He also recently had a paper accepted for publication in the Fibonacci Quarterly, which he co-authored with Sam Benito, a 2011 Sweet Briar graduate.
“The 300 Best Professors” includes profiles of the schools where they teach, including admissions information, tuition and other data of interest to prospective students. Sweet Briar is also one of the 15 percent of U.S. colleges and universities featured in the Princeton Review’s flagship “The 376 Best Colleges” guidebook.
The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University and is not a magazine.
Contact: Jennifer McManamay