Best of the best

Mar 282011
Authors: Erin Udell

Professor Debbie Crans expected Dec. 6, 2010 to be just another day as she began the lecture for her organic chemistry class, C341.

But, when two students got out of their seats, stripped their clothes and revealed their secret identities as Spiderman and “O-Chem man,” Crans’ average day was gone almost as fast as the two men, who staged a fake superhero battle before running through the nearest exit.

While some teachers may have been annoyed by the disturbance, Crans found the students and rewarded them with five extra-credit points for raising class morale after a major exam.

It was this laidback demeanor, combined with her understanding of how students learn that students say set Crans apart, ultimately making her one of the six recipients of the CSU Best Teacher Award.

Since its inception in 1995, students and alumni have been nominating candidates for the annual award.

This year, the committee responsible for choosing the winners collected over 300 nominations before ranking the nominees and having a meeting to decide on the six recipients.
Senior Reporter Erin Udell can be reached at

Who are the best teachers at CSU?
Debbie Crans, Ph.D*
After teaching at CSU since 1987, this year marks the first nomination and win for Crans, a professor in the chemistry department who credits her three young daughters for helping her understand what most of her students go through.

Fun fact: Crans grew up in Copenhagen, Denmark where she studied at the University of Copenhagen before earning her Ph.D from Harvard University.


This anthropology professor, whose focus is in cultural identity, race, morality, gender and social theory, has completed two major research projects in the French Caribbean and collaborated on a documentary film, which followed Hurricane Katrina survivors and family members for two years after the disaster.

Fun fact: “When I was in sixth grade, I won the international BB gun championship, was featured in Field and Stream magazine and awarded a gold-plated plaque that began, ‘We the boys of America,’” Browne said.


As an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Communication Studies, Dickinson’s research focuses on “the intersections of rhetoric, place, memory, everyday life, consumer culture, and suburbia.”

Fun fact: “Probably few students know that I am a baker and a cook,” Dickinson said. “I have been making sourdough breads of one sort or another for years and have long conversations with friends about flours, baking methods, recipes and all things food.”


Krafchick, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies serves as director of the Campus Corps mentoring program as well as the assistant director of the Center for Couple and Family Therapy. Her research and teaching includes issues like mentoring, sexuality, gender, families and diversity.

Fun fact: Krafchick was as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Solomon Islands.


Serving as an assistant professor and the Borland Chair of Hydraulics for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Venayagamoorthy aims to bring the “three E’s” to his students: energy, enthusiasm and empathy, when needed.

Fun fact: This Sri-Lankan born professor, who grew up in Africa, can speak four languages fluently.

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