Fordham Five: Successful Professors You’ve Probably Never Heard of


Paul Levinson; courtesy of

Fordham University is chock full of professors who are great at what they do, but there is a surprising number of educators at this university who excel in other areas outside of the classroom.

There’s no doubting that the insights and experiences from the previous careers of these five great professors have helped to shape their teaching methods. These first-rate teaching methods make each educator worth taking at least once during your four years at Fordham.

1. Paul Levinson, Communication & Media Studies

Professor Levinson is both a favorite in the Communication department, and amongst his loyal readers. He is a well known science fiction writer, having published six novels.

He’s also written 10 non-fiction books and over 100 songs that were picked up by major record labels like Warner Bros. and RCA in the 1960s and 70s.

Levinson was the chair of the department from 2002 to 2008, and has taught at Fordham since 1998. You won’t be disappointed if you take one of his classes (I recommend Writing Workshop), as he gives great feedback as a result of his background in creative writing.

“Walking into a classroom and teaching makes me feel plugged into the universe, and that energy fuels my writing,” Levinson said.

2. Asif Siddiqi, History

Professor Siddiqi is on leave from the university for the 2013-14 school year. He is currently serving as the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Siddiqi is the author of the highest regarded book in the English language on Russian space exploration. The book was even ranked by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top five books on space exploration ever written. That being said, Siddiqi is a very humble man.

“I remember being assigned a book to read for his Modern European History course, and he didn’t tell us that he contributed a ton of research to it until after we brought it up,” remembers former student Robert Bruce (FCRH ’15). “He was like, ‘it’s no big deal really.'”

Other than European History, Siddiqi also teaches a class entitled “The Cold War Space Race.”

3. Saul Cornell, History

With Second Amendment rights the focus of much of today’s national news, it’s worth considering taking a course with Saul Cornell. Cornell is the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History, and one of the most well-respected authorities on the Second Amendment in the nation.

He has contributed to several Amicus Curae briefs in court cases regarding the Second Amendment, and was even the co-author of a brief in the District of Columbia v. Heller case.

“I think as a general rule when a Professor is an active researcher, a certain level of  intellectual excitement spills over into teaching,” said Cornell. “In the case of this issue, I have had the added benefit of working on two major Supreme Court cases on guns.  I have actually had the chance to make constitutional history, not just study it. I think that is pretty awesome and most students find that it is pretty cool, as well.”

Cornell’s course, American Intellectual History, allows students to experience this wealth of knowledge and passion first hand.

4. Beth Knobel, Communication & Media Studies

Professor Knobel had a 20-year career in journalism before becoming a professor at Fordham. She previously spent seven years as the Moscow Bureau Chief for CBS News. In 2002, Knobel won an Emmy award for her coverage of the 2002 siege of the Moscow theatre.

“Going abroad was incredibly beneficial to my career as a journalist,” Knobel said. “Being in Russia allowed me opportunities to move up the career ladder much faster than I would have at home, and also gave me great material for my reports.”

She currently works as a freelance producer for CBS News, and her experience in the field makes her an asset to the Communication department at Fordham. Not only does she have contacts in the industry—she is a contact herself.

Knobel is perhaps best known at Fordham for her TV News Innovators course, a class worth taking for students looking to fulfill their Interdisciplinary Capstone Core, as well as get an in-depth look at some of the brightest minds in TV news.

5. Phylicia Rashad, Theatre (Lincoln Center)

Phylicia Rashad, also known as Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show, is the first ever Denzel Washington Theatre Chair at Fordham. The position was made possible after a generous donation from Washington himself.

Rashad also won a Tony Award in 2004 for her role in A Raisin in the Sun, becoming the first African American actress to win a Tony for a dramatic leading role.

It was, of course, an honor that she was thrilled to receive (via “Often I have wondered, what does it take for this to happen? And now I know. It takes effort and grace.”

Having Rashad at Lincoln Center for theatre students is a fantastic resource for those looking to get into drama and the arts.

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