As registration for the fall semester looms, you should think about the professors you’ve been told not to take. Helpful upperclassmen and maybe even your advisors have told you to steer clear of certain professors because they’re “too hard.” If you are in the McKenna School, someone has probably told you to avoid Dr. Hutchinson. If you are an English major or an Education major, someone has probably told you to avoid Dr. Snyder.
Those upperclassmen and your advisors are wrong.
Dr. Hutchinson (known to many as “Hutch”) and Dr. Snyder are tough professors, no doubt about that, but they are the two best teachers I have taken during my time at Saint Vincent College (and that’s saying something, because I’ve encountered quite a few good teachers here).
Both men are clear communicators who make excellent use of online resources. Both men make an effort to engage with students, inside and outside the classroom. Both men hold their students to high standards and, yes, they are both tough graders.
A C from Hutch or Snyder is worth more than an A from many other professors.
If you take Hutch or Snyder, you’ll learn, and isn’t that the point of college?
Dr. Pete Hutchinson graduated from SVC in 1968. According to Hutch, the Class of ‘68 is “the best class ever” (to paraphrase). “We have reunions every two or three years,” said Hutch, “while most other classes do five or ten year reunions.” Hutch cited his class’ sponsorship of the 1968 Fr. Ronald Gorka Scholarship Award as a prime example of the generosity that marks his class’ continued involvement with SVC.
When he was a student at SVC, Hutch lived on the seventh floor of Aurelius. He assured me that, despite the rumors about the seventh floor, there are no ghosts on the floor “except for the Rolling Rock bottles we left behind.”
Hutch went on to earn his master’s and Ph.D. from Pitt in 1970. He finished his dissertation in 1972 while at Bowling Green State University, where he taught economics between 1971 and 1997. He also worked outside of academia, serving as a consultant for Marathon Oil Company.
Hutch came back to SVC in 1997 to serve as the Vice President of Institutional Advancement. He returned to the classroom in 2002, and has taught statistics and economics courses at SVC ever since.
“I immerse myself in my teaching,” Hutch said. “I found that learning depends not on what I did, but on what I got students to do. So my role is to provide the resources, get them to read, to provide the appropriate expectations.”
These days, Dr. Hutchinson primarily teaches statistics courses. Many students complain that his classes are too difficult, but in reality, Hutch merely demands that his students produce quality work. He emphasizes clear, precise thinking, and any student interested in developing their knowledge of statistics should jump at the chance to take his classes.
Hutch tries to prepare students for the “real world” by setting professional expectations for assignments and classroom discussion. If Hutch asks you a question in class, he doesn’t let you just pass if you don’t know the answer – you’ve got to figure out the answer, just as you’ll have to figure out the answers in your “grown up” job.
No one sleeps in Dr. Hutchinson’s classes.
Some students have compared Hutch to a football coach because he pushes students and demands excellent work. Hutch liked the comparison, and commented, “If I’m not rigorous, I’m not doing my job.”
Thankfully, Hutchinson has no plans to retire anytime soon. “I’m having too much fun teaching,” Hutch said.
To sum up: TAKE STATS WITH DR. HUTCHINSON.
Dr. William Snyder graduated from SVC in 1973. He can still rattle off the rooms he lived in during his undergrad years – 608 Aurelius, 268 Bonny, 363 Gerry, 115 Gerry – and he has been instrumental in getting and keeping his former classmates involved at SVC. A few years ago, Snyder dressed up as an old hippie and recorded a video, taking viewers to all the old on-campus haunts of the Class of ‘73. He distributed the DVD to his classmates as an appeal for donations to SVC, posing the question, “What are you giving back to Saint Vincent?”
Snyder has spent much of his life giving back to SVC. After earning his master’s in 1975, Snyder began lecturing at Seton Hill and Saint Vincent. In 1977, two professors left Saint Vincent, opening space for Snyder to join the SVC faculty full-time. Snyder earned his Ph.D. (specializing in English Romantic Poetry and Painting) from WVU in 1984, and he was tenured at SVC in 1985.
According to Snyder, the key to effective teaching is “having an affection for young people. Like your classes, like your students.” Snyder demonstrates his care for his students by scheduling one-on-one conferences as a mandatory component of some classes, and he tries to adjust his schedule to match the schedules of his students. “I don’t have afternoon office hours as much anymore,” Snyder said, “because you guys tend to be busy in the afternoons. I try to be up checking my email at 10 or 11 p.m., though, because that’s when you tend to email professors with questions.”
Snyder, like Dr. Hutchinson, teaches his classes with the future careers of his students in mind. “I can’t think of a job that doesn’t require critical and creative thinking,” said Snyder, and accordingly he tries to foster of combination of critical and creative writing in his classes.
Perhaps the most infamous course that Dr. Snyder teaches is Intermediate Writing (to English majors), also known as Pedagogy of Composition (to education majors). Until this past year, all education majors were required to take Pedagogy of Composition, but now (because of some sketchy administrative decision-making) education majors can choose between several English courses.
The administration cheated education majors by removing Pedagogy of Composition as a required course.
“If you get up in front of a classroom and don’t know how to comport yourself professionally, if you send your students’ parents emails that are full of grammatical errors, you are going to get pwned,” said Snyder, expressing his desire to properly prepare education students for their future careers.
Snyder developed Intermediate Writing/Pedagogy of Composition specifically for English and education majors. During the semester, students will be taught and quizzed on the fundamentals of language and logic, and by the end of the semester, students will have completed a résumé and a magazine showcasing their creative and technical writing abilities.
Snyder is aware of his reputation as a tough professor. “I’d rather have students hate me at the time,” said Snyder, “and like me five years later because they actually leaned something from my classes, than have students like me now and feel cheated later.”
To sum up: TAKE INTERMEDIATE WRITING/PEDAGOGY OF COMPOSITION WITH DR. SNYDER.