Professing their love: four seniors look back on their favorite professors throughout their academic journeys

| Junior Scene Editor

As seniors look back on their time as undergraduates, they find gratitude for the educators who also served as their mentors, supporters, and sources of inspiration. Seniors were asked to celebrate the professors they cherished most, and here are their thoughts.

Dr. William Bubelis, Associate Professor of Classics

Senior Ana María Núñez is a Classics major looking to enter academia after graduation. She thought of her Greek professor, Dr. William Bubelis, in the Classics department. Núñez reflected that in the department, “Everyone there knows you, and you end up kind of knowing everyone.” 

“He was the first professor I was reading a full piece of Greek text with,” she said, noting that for the entire first week of class, they focused on just the first sentence of their famous Greek text. Known in the department for giving lectures at a slower pace, Dr. Bubelis’ level of depth while teaching was something Núñez could appreciate and keep in mind when starting the process of writing her thesis. “[I] had so much fun with him in this Greek class, and I was like, ‘Well, why don’t I ask him to be my advisor?’” From thesis-writing to grad-school applications, Núñez found a source of support in their meetings, sharing that “grad-school applications almost destroyed me, but I wouldn’t have survived without him.” 

After hours of conversation, Núñez came up with a list of grad schools thanks to his help during her application process. 

“And now that they’re over, I’m so happy that I did do it, and that he was there to guide me through that,” Núñez reflected. “If you’re interested in Greek, he is gonna be, like, on the Greek-history side, and he knows a lot about Athenian democracy […]. Any question you ask him will turn into a two-hour-long discussion of whatever you brought up.” 

In her journey, she was able to find not only a teacher, but a supporter. She thought back to her thesis defense and remembered hugging during an emotional moment after an hour of responding to questions giving “[all the] reasons why you’re wrong,” as Núñez put it. From that moment, she realized that “Having someone interested in what you’re doing is great, but more important[ly], you want someone to kind of support you in the process of writing such a big paper.” 

Núñez finished with some of her own advice: “Have someone that knows your work style, your work ethic, [and] what you need, in terms of an advisor — and he was that person for me.”

Dr. Ben Kiel, Former Senior Lecturer of Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Senior Rachel Tian is a Communication Design and Marketing Major. Tian noted, “I had Ben Kiel for four semesters in a row from sophomore [year] to [the] end of junior year.” 

Tain continued, “I’d say that Ben had the greatest impact on influencing my love for design; his own excitement and passion for typefaces [was] reflected in his teachings, and it was always a joy to learn new skills and design programs in his classes.” 

She went on to talk about Dr. Kiel’s attentiveness and honesty when giving feedback, recalling, “If he knew you could put more effort into your project, he would be direct and straightforward about it, no sugar-coating. And if he could tell you ‘Put your all into it,’ he would also be your biggest hype man!” 

Tian remembered Dr. Kiel’s end-of-the-year barbeque for Typeface Design during her junior year. “To incentivize us to come, he told us we needed to turn in our final projects to him at the barbecue. It was really nice to see a professor and classmates outside of just an academic setting; I felt like we got to learn a lot more about each other through just that one two-hour backyard party.” 

Although Dr. Kiel no longer teaches at WashU, Tian encouraged anyone to find his work. ”Dr. Kiel currently runs XYZ Type, a typeface and lettering studio […] — check out his work @xyz_type on Instagram!” 

Dr. Lisa Gilbert, Lecturer in Education

Senior Mateo Hain is an Educational Studies major, which is one of two main undergraduate programs in the Education Department, apart from Teacher Education. Hain looked back on classes with Dr. Lisa Gilbert, a lecturer in the Education Department. 

“She’s essential to both programs, a jack-of-all-trades if you will,” he said. “One thing I really like about her classes is, they’re all taught so distinct[ly] because she’s constantly listening to and considering student feedback.” From a flipped classroom to classes where she lets students take turns leading the seminar, and small group discussions proposing solutions to complex educational problems, Hain explained how “She always places such an emphasis on getting students to work creatively.” 

Hain thought back to one of these memorable activities, in Gilbert’s class “History of Education In & Beyond the Classroom,” sharing that he had the opportunity to partake in an “unessay,” which, he explains, is “essentially a project format where students use creative formats to provide critical analysis of history.” Hain chose to use a satirical comic booklet to display incomplete narratives presented by DNA Ancestry, “a type of project I’ve never before been able to develop in an Arts & Sciences course.” 

Showing a zeal for not only her work but that of her students, Gilbert then nominated Hain and several other students for a writing prize. “She’s exceptional not just for her creativity, but for the creativity she inspires in her students,” Hain said. 

Gilbert is known not only for her thoughtfulness, but for her encouraging feedback, and Hain remembers times when, from daily class-prep assignments to discussion-board posts, Gilbert wouldn’t miss a chance to give constructive feedback. “She’ll pick out a quote from something you’ve stated, and she’ll react to it, maybe saying something really kind and acknowledging a good point. Other times, she’ll make connections to other topics to expand our thinking, and she’ll even ask questions pushing back or asking the student to go the next step in their thought process,” he recalled. 

Hain noted her encouragement, which helped him see the value in being a future educator: “I struggle sometimes with self-doubt or worry that I won’t be good enough, and she’s encouraged me to remember my agency and that I can be who I want to be.” 

He went on to explain how Dr. Gilbert encouraged him to see himself as not just an educator, but as someone who is an amazing resource that any school would be lucky to have. After acknowledging the lack of recognition that the small Education Department receives, Hain assured that “all of the Education faculty have been the kindest, most encouraging, super thought-provoking, and most positive-thinking educators I’ve had at WashU.”

Dr. Dennis Cosgrove, Professor of Practice in the Computer Science and Engineering Department

Senior Jack Heuberger, a Computer Science (CS) major, thought back to Dr. Dennis Cosgrove during his experience taking his class “Programming Languages.” Heuberger highlighted why the CS professor was so special to him: “He was definitely the most energetic CS professor. As a subject, programming languages can be kind of dull, but he was just a really nice breath of fresh air in my day.” 

Heuberger went on to highlight some of the special parts of the class, listing a few of the things he could look forward to in a schedule packed with repetition and complexity: “He would pace back and forth kind of aggressively, make crosswords, and add his own assignments that were a lot of fun.” 

The novelty of the class made him excited to attend, and Heuberger went on, sharing, “He’ll go on random tangents, and make crazy connections that you think have nothing to do with programming.” In the first class, Dr. Cosgrove asked, “What is the best vehicle?” And from there, Heuberger, explained, “He went on a five-minute tangent on why it was the Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro […], and then he was like, ‘This is actually just an analogy for programming languages because they’re always just tradeoffs from one another.’” 

Heuberger also recalled the atmosphere of classes. “He keeps class sizes small on purpose […]. It’s nice because he does give the people that show up individualized, personalized attention.” 

Thanks to his focus on engagement and creativity, Dr. Cosgrove earned both Heuberger’s approval and Heuberger’s interest in the subjects he specializes in. Heuberger added that “They’re important subjects, but he makes the classes way more fun than […] anywhere else.” Heuberger said that rather than solely focusing on content, Dr. Cosgrove “really makes the class his own.”

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