Oberlin Blogs

THE Professor List

July 2, 2011

Chinwe Okona ’13

In case you were unaware, Ma'ayan is a genius. I suppose it was silly of me to assume that nobody would want to hear my nerdy-beyond-nerdy list of dream professors. But if you creeped the comments on my last blog entry, you would have seen that my dear fellow blogger, Ida, unabashedly asked for my top secret list (and by top secret, I mean not a secret at all) in front of the entire world. I mean, the entire Oberlin blogosphere.

I was going to send Ida a super sweet Facebook message, but then Ma'ayan the Great suggested I write a blog entry instead. Brilliant. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about go read 'Holy FYSP!' and then return. Posthaste.)

I'll tell you a little secret about Ma'ayan:
When she was still attending Oberlin she raised her hand all the time in class and said a lot of really smart stuff. Talk about competitive in the job market. I've heard that the Office of Communications says her million dollar salary is worth every penny.

Hence, I have complied my 'dream professor list' (not dreamY, that's obviously a different list) and my highly exclusive 'list of professors to take another class with' into one 'hella good' (circa No Doubt, 2002), star studded (even more so than the Hollywood Walk of Fame) list. And away we go.

(In alphabetical order):

Jane Bennett - Straight up, Jane Bennett is a G. She was my biology lab lecturer first and second semester this past year and I warn you, her lab is not for the faint of heart. The woman gives it to you cut and dry; when you're wrong, BOY are you wrong. Also you will be in lab until 4:30, cry about it. But do not fear, for although she does not sugarcoat a thing, Ms. Bennett will never make you feel stupid for being wrong. And you will remember exactly what she corrected you on. Forever. Also, she consistently makes drinking Diet Pepsi out of a reusable plastic Eco Cup look so stylish.

Mark Braford - In my eyes, Professor Braford is the gem of the neuroscience department (which is saying a lot because every single professor in the department in brilliant-beyond-brilliant). Spring semester of my freshman year, I took his Introduction to Neuroscience class and struggled a bit, so I went to speak to him. First of all his office is "pleasantly cluttered," which means 1) it's easy to relax when talking to him, and 2) he has better things to do than clean his office (always a good sign). After our chat, I felt so much more sure of myself in terms of the course. Professor Braford has that effect on people. He also requires a coloring book for his neuroanatomy course, is married to another professor in the neuro department, and by the end of this past spring semester, had grown his hair long enough to pull it into a pretty trendy ponytail. He's retiring soon, take a class with him now.

Pam Brooks - I think I may be one of those people who mistakes fear for greatness. But Pam Brooks actually is brilliant. And I'm actually slightly (okay, more than slightly) intimidated by her. Point blank--she's an extremely intelligent, strong, and proud African-American woman, with a very powerful stance on the Black Freedom Movement, especially from the Black feminist perspective (totally up my alley). This past spring, several of my peers taking one of her classes informed me that even though she was not in class, due to a health emergency, she had another professor Skype her into the session so she could teach--from the hospital. I've NEVER had a teacher this motivated to pass on knowledge, so by all means sign me up. I would be more than thrilled to learn from someone that passionate. Also, I want to have beautiful salt n' pepper dreadlocks just like her when I get older.

Jack Calcut - I do not have a slapstick sense of humor, but Jack Calcut made me laugh each and every day in class. This was so refreshing, coming from having uptight math teachers all through high school. (Ms. Martineau, I'm so thankful for you because you are the reason I beasted my AP Calculus exam. But really you made me want to cry every day in third period. Without fail.) Even though he's a hilarious dude, Jack had the attention and respect of our entire class because he was successfully teaching us Calculus II without absolutely torturing us. If you're debating taking Calculus II, take it and with Jack. You'll feel really smart when it's over. Just prepare yourself for him to be hysterical.

Ana Cara - I don't know too much about Ana Cara and I don't think I've ever seen her in person on campus. Why do I want to take a class with her? One day, a good friend of mine came to me practically in tears over a grade she received on a Spanish paper. All the while being extremely upset and unsure of how she got this particular grade, she managed to repeatedly say that her professor was amazing. What kind of mystical person has this effect on a student, whose paper they've just (figuratively) ripped to shreds? Spanish happens to be this friend's first language, and I've actually seen Ana Cara have this effect on multiple students who are native Spanish speakers. Where are you hiding? Teach me. I want to be that good at the Spanish language.

Ron Kahn -
Dear Ronald Kahn,
You made an advisee cry because you went on sabbatical her senior year. I almost took your First Year Seminar, but I was afraid you would show me I hadn't learned as much as I thought in AP American Government. I've seen small, fragile Obies walking around campus, struggling under the weight of the American Constitutional Law textbook. I've heard amazing, amazing things about 'Con Law.' I'm willing to walk around campus with that book for an entire semester and I'm not even a politics or law and society major. You have a great beard. Sprinkle your wisdom into my outstretched hands.

Gigi Knight - Gigi is easily the most compassionate person I've met since I arrived at Oberlin. She's got the most wonderful, slight German accent and always has a smile on her face. In Neuroscience Lab 211, she constantly reminded us that we were working with real, living, breathing beings and to treat them as such. On one unfortunate occasion, a rat died in lab after being giving an incorrect dose of anesthetic. (Future Obie lab techs, if you weigh animals, check and double check their masses. Please.) She literally held the poor animal in her arms for a few minutes, and then spoke to him softly as she carried him out of the room. It was so sad. In addition, she talked me through my first rat surgery (I was terrified); and, as silly as this may sound, I'm going to remember that for a very long time . Luckily for me, her office is only two doors down from my advisor's office. When I'm distraught about my future after an advising session, I won't have far to go for some Gigi-ssurance.

Michael Nee - Well you've got your array of chemistry professors, in there, in the chemistry department, and then there's Professor Nee, in there. I don't know how someone can be so patient with a lecture hall of fifty organic chemistry students who don't understand a thing he's saying, in there, but Professor Nee is a ridiculously patient man. He practically held my hand through orgo (I did not beast my AP Chemistry exam, in case you haven't caught on). I kid you not, I faithfully went to his office hours every Tuesday and Thursday, as well as his review sessions Thursday evenings, and willed myself to become a certified orgo scholar, in there. If you must take orgo, take it with Professor Nee. This is one of the hardest classes I've taken at Oberlin, but I probably enjoyed it the most thus far. You will either get an A and learn something, or fail and learn something, but you will learn something (in there).

(Fine, this is the only joke I'm going to explain. Professor Nee has a giggle-worthy habit of somehow incorporating the phrase "in there" into every sentence, no matter what he's talking about. Some people kind of use it as an excuse for paying attention to his lecture when they're beyond understanding the chemistry concept of that particular day. You know, when they're completely exasperated and desperate.)

Meredith Raimondo - Meredith Raimondo is another professor I've never met in person, but Comparative American Studies majors worship the ground she walks on. Literally. I was supposed to take her Disease, Democracy, and Difference class this past semester; however, I wouldn't have lived with that on top of my course load. BUT this coming semester I'm on the wait list (there's always a wait list for her classes) for Global Health Emergencies and I'm getting in. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Also, although Professor Raimondo doesn't know me personally, she does know my two Oberlin Queer Wellness Coalition comrades, and was so nice as to write us a recommendation for a huge research grant, which we won. She's the bomb-diggity, 'nuff said.

Jan Thornton - I actually met Jan Thornton for the first time at Professor Braford and Professor McCormick's house. She immediately made me nervous and therefore I was immediately positive I wanted her to be my advisor. And at last, after two years of waiting to declare my major, she's finally my advisor and she still makes me nervous. But totally in a good way. In fact, I think you're supposed to be a little bit afraid of your advisor. That way, you go into each advising session prepared and speak very honestly about everything that's going on in your academic life. And I have no doubt Jan will tell me exactly what she thinks about my academic life, just as honestly. It's going to be good (and when it's not, I have Gigi). Also, I've heard amazing things about her Hormones, Brain and Behavior class since my freshman year and I am most definitely taking it before I graduate (at the expense of my GPA). Spots in her research lab are a PREMIUM, so dear Obie g-d, please put me in her good graces. (Jan and her husband are, additionally, another pair of spouses in the neuroscience department. And everyone has their own last name. I'm such a feminist, I love it.)

and finally,

David Walker - As much as I adore David Walker, I can't shower him with praise two blog entries in a row. People would just get the wrong idea. You REALLY should have read my last entry by now. If you still haven't, I'm officially mad at you. But HA! Now you must return to see my written adoration of David. And I'm not even going to link you, you're on your own. So there. And I digress.
Actually though, go read it. He's amazing and you NEED TO KNOW THAT. If you've already read it, you're a GEM (just like Professor Braford).

I literally referenced my last entry a gazillion times. If you were ever at all confused, GO READ THAT ENTRY (and maybe the one before that). This is probably one of the best examples of shameless self-promotion ever.

I dare someone to tell me this list isn't stellar.

Postscript - I apologize for how ridiculously silly this entry is. It's quite late at night (early in the morning) and I haven't slept because I get really bad at sleeping during the summer. My next entry will be a much more somber compilation of freshman year warnings/woes for the class of 2015. Everyone else is doing it and in order to stay trendy in the blogosphere, I have to jump on the bandwagon.

I'm just kidding. One of the best things about being a blogger is creeping other people's entries before they're actually finished (Is this even allowed? I should probably check since I'm basically throwing myself under the bus...) and there are some heartfelt freshman year warning/woe entires on deck. I could easily write one of my own, but that might be overkill. Whatever, read them. We all know what we're talking about. We go to Oberlin.

Post, Postscript - My "Hella Good" reference is in no way suggesting that blonde-haired Gwen is cooler than pink-haired Gwen. I mean, blonde-haired Gwen is classic. But we all know pink-haired Gwen was totally one hundred percent badass.

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