One of the best professors in the nation can be found in an SMU classroom. For the second year in a row, Professor Brian Fennig has been among the very top of the annual mtvU‘s Rate My Professor Top 25 Professors List.
In the 2014-15 school year, he ranked 11th. This year? The wellness professor landed in the top five, ranking fourth nationally.
“As someone who puts forth a lot of energy on teaching, you don’t shoot for an award, you just seek to be a good teacher and to make the classroom experience one that people not only enjoy but are pushed and pulled by,” Fennig said.
According its website, RateMyProfessors.com has become the largest online destination for professor ratings, with 1.6 million professors and over 7,000 schools listed. All content is user-generated and more than 4 million college students use the site monthly, generating 17 million ratings.
What makes Fennig’s teaching style so special? His students say it’s his personality, his welcoming classroom, and his ability to make his lessons personal.
“Because he is willing to open up about his life and opinions about certain issues, it creates an environment of trust and understanding among the students, which leads to great class discussions,” sophomore Kristin Hodges said. “I know I laughed almost every day in his class.”
“I’m surprised he’s not number one,” junior Osama Alolabi said.
Fennig came to SMU in 2001 and joined the Applied Physiology and Wellness Department as a lecturer, and today he teaches both Personal Responsibility and Wellness and Individual Fitness. In 2001, he just had three degrees on the wall. Today, he has four.
He completed his Ph.D. in Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas in 2013. That degree joined the other degrees and achievements on the wall of his office, including is huge collection of thank-you notes from former students.
Even with Fennig receiving the award two years in a row, he maintains a “teach a good class every time I go in” attitude. He also pointed out that there were 12 years he didn’t receive an award.
“That didn’t stop me from teaching well or doing the job that I love to do,” Fennig said.
Fennig makes his lessons interactive. For example, in one lesson students learned how to juggle tennis balls, and in another, students learned about their own mannerisms by seeing themselves on cameras.
“I try to be entertaining, informative, fun and give you something that lasts for a long time,” Fennig said.
Fennig says he makes changes to his teaching every single semester, but not with the motivation to maintain the award.
“The award is great, I’m surprised that it happened again,” Fennig said.