Adrian College ranked 6th for ‘Best Undergraduate Teaching’

When it comes to undergraduate teaching, Adrian College has some of the very best professors around, according to the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges 2021 rankings released in September that has the institution listed sixth as a Regional Midwest College for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.”

To be recognized as a best undergraduate college, top college administrators from around the country cast their votes for institutions that are “putting a particular focus on undergraduate teaching.” There were 76 ranked Regional Midwest Colleges.

Adrian College has presented an Exemplary Teacher Award to its top professors during convocation each year since 1992. However, this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions forcing the event to be cancelled, the award presentation was postponed. Adrian College’s Academic Affairs Department is currently accepting nominations for the award until January, so it can be presented, hopefully in the spring, if COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Another honor, the Ross Newsom Teaching Excellence Award, first awarded in 2001, was also put on hold. Nominations are currently being accepted.

The Exemplary Teacher Award is sponsored by the Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church (UMC). The award was created to recognize outstanding teaching at the College and includes a cash prize. Criteria for selection includes five years of full-time or half-time teaching, a record of exemplary teaching, demonstrable success in areas of academic advising and mentoring, and professional development and/or college/community service. The UMC board notes that this is a special award as nominations are determined by their institution’s leaders.

Dr. Elizabeth McGaw, associate professor/department chair for Adrian College’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, received the Exemplary Teacher Award last year. She began teaching at the College in the fall of 2011.

McGaw said she chose to work at Adrian College because she really enjoys teaching undergraduate students and wanted that to be her main focus.

“I was also interested in Adrian College because of the smaller class sizes where I would have a chance to get to know the students better and also have a chance to interact with the students in multiple classes throughout their time in college,” McGaw said, adding that the students are the best part about being at Adrian College. She hopes she’s made an impact in their lives.

“There is a lot of growth that occurs during the college years, intellectual and emotional,” she said. “As a professor, I strive to push the intellectual boundaries, to get them to get to the next higher level of thinking, to apply and integrate the concepts rather than to just memorize and repeat. As an advisor, I hope that I can lend a listening ear and thoughtful questions to help them find the courage to finish something that is hard or to try something that is new. I am always sad to see the students graduate but pleased to have been a part of their story.”

The Ross Newsom Teaching Excellence Award was created by a generous donation from the sons of Ross Newsom, Adrian College Class of 1936.

Criteria for selection of this award is the same as the Exemplary Teacher Award.

Adrian College Journalism Professor Renee Lapham Collins received the Ross Newsom Teaching Excellence Award during last year’s convocation.

“I am so very proud of the teaching award and I’m so grateful for the opportunities I have had since coming to Adrian,” Collins said.

She began teaching at Adrian College in 2007 on a one-year contract and quickly came to love the campus.

“I did not expect to be a college professor, but when I heard about the job here, which was to teach journalism, I applied and was hired while the school did a year-long search for a permanent faculty,” Collins said. “After three or four weeks here, I knew it was a perfect place for me, so I applied for the permanent position and eventually was hired.”

She taught courses as an adjunct professor at her alma mater, Siena Heights University, as well as Jackson Community College, Adrian College and the University of Toledo (where she earned a Master’s in English and did post-graduate work) before working in the newspaper business as a reporter with the Saline Reporter and the Daily Telegram.

“I teach journalism and created the current program [at Adrian College], but have also taught Core 1 and Core 2, English 200, and public speaking,” she said. “This spring, I’ll teach a course in the Honors program.”

Collins has had several students tell her she’s made a positive impact on their lives.

“I have many students who have gone on to graduate programs and successful careers,” she said. “I adore my students — they are so eager to learn, to please, to do well in their classes.”

For more information about Adrian College and its recent U.S. News and World Report awards, visit or