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The Mass Media

My two greatest professors


Beresford lectures in a manner akin to that of the ancient Greeks — not surprising since he specializes in Classical studies. 

I am a University of Massachusetts Boston alumnus who has been doing rather well since graduating from the university working for a consulting firm here in Boston. I’m currently in the process of applying to law schools and I’m proud to reveal that schools ranked within the top twenty universities in the country are attempting to recruit me, one even going so far as to offer substantial scholarships.  

Undoubtedly, part of the reason for my success is luck. At the same time, a huge part is that I had the opportunity to experience taking classes with incredible UMass Boston professors.

I would like to thank Professor Adam Beresford of the Philosophy Department (thanks from the bottom of my heart Adam!), and I’d like to outline what makes him one of the great professors at the university.

Beresford lectures in a manner akin to that of the ancient Greeks  not surprising since he specializes in Classical studies. Through well-reasoned, step-by-step presentations of arguments, the Greeks presented beautifully designed, first-draft explanations of the cosmos, the role of government, and the many other aspects of human life. Just as Socrates spoke through Plato, and Plato’s student Aristotle spoke through what we believe was a note-taker in Aristotle’s lectures, so does Professor Beresford speak in the classroom.

The show usually starts with a big idea. Then there is some hypothesizing on the part of the professor himself to explain it. While advancing the explanation, Professor Beresford is able, just like the best ancient Greek philosophers, to mention both the strong points as well as the weak points of his potential explanation without being a zealot about his initial position.

Using supporting evidence and points of contrast, Professor Beresford also highlights most of the material students need to learn. By the end of this type of lecture, the student not only has been exposed to the material she must learn, but has also been exposed to one of the best-prepared professors on the planet on Greek philosophy. In a nutshell, he reinforces students’ understanding by presenting material in such a way that students can learn, even if they are merely spectating.

Professor Peter Spiegler from the Economics department is the other professor I both would like to thank (thank you from the bottom of my heart, Peter!) and I would also like to describe what makes him so great. Professor Spiegler lectures in a way that is very similar to the most-viewed professor of our time. Just as Michael Sandel and other professors in the top lists of many general internet distributors of online courses and lectures, Prof Spiegler conducts his lectures through students’ constant participation in the classroom.

This “collaborative” show starts off with a big idea. Avoiding the easy-to-fall-for problem of this type of lecture, Spiegler presents carefully crafted, direct questions to students, enticing only relevant answers according to a very specific order, which allows students to clear up their minds while offering their opinions about class material.

The questions posed are by no means questions with answers that can be found by a quick look at the texts or by “Googling.” Students must think hard to answer questions that get to the essence of arguments, stopping at no assumption, even if those assumptions are accepted by most economists. By the end of the lecture, students have not only been exposed to class material and observations but to one of the best professors on the planet in the field of methodological economic thinking.

These two professors have been fundamental to my academic development. When I think about the origin of my tendency to express ideas in a clear and honest manner, the formats of Beresford’s classes come to mind. In tracing back to the origin my inclination to question any assumption made by myself or someone else, I recall Spiegler’s lectures and the manner in which he posed questions to the class.  

That is why I would encourage you, UMass Boston students, to invest time in choosing your professors and to absorb all their best qualities. Go to watch the classes of various professors at the beginning of the semester as well as in the middle of it, and take classes with the professors who impress you the most. When you are in class, imbibe their style of speaking, writing, and thinking, making it also your own.

At UMass Boston, there are many great professors who will make you a better intellectual and a better person. All you have to do is go find a couple.