A Virginia Tech graduate has distinguished himself as one of the world's top professors having been named to the RateMyProfessors.com Top 25 list for 2011-12. 

The website features more than 14 million student comments on more than 1.7 million professors in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Chris Dula, an associate professor of clinical psychology with East Tennessee State University (ETSU) who received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Virginia Tech in 2003, was also named ETSU’s Teacher of the Year in 2011.

The introduction to psychology professor said his time at Virginia Tech and his experiences with his doctoral mentor motivated him to get into teaching.

“I was the graduate assistant to Scott Geller (Alumni Distinguished Professor of Psychology and director of the Center for Applied Behavior Systems) and while there I started to understand really large classes and to emulate his student-friendly approach to teaching,” Dula said. “Scott is very passionate and I took good notes on the things he did. I got to watch him in action in front of hundreds of people at a time, and as his assistant, I was able to help him by being in charge of exams and grades for more than a thousand people.

“I realized I loved to teach, and perform, during that time,” said Dula who plays guitar in a band with Geller (drums) and other former students and friends from around the country who get together annually for holiday parties at Virginia Tech.

While Dula teaches small classes of a handful of graduate students, he says his big love is introduction to psychology courses, where there are often several hundred in a class at one time and the dynamic is entirely different.

In addition to a more lecture-based style in a large setting, Dula said he also looks at things like texting in class differently than many of his contemporaries. “My policy is text, don’t talk,” he said. “Students hate it when people talk, but they aren’t bothered by people texting. It’s not distracting to them and it’s not disrespectful to me if I don’t feel disrespected by it. My job is to serve students and if I do it well, I care about how they engage and I know I need to be student-friendly and entertaining if I want to get my message across.”

If being ranked 24th out of 1.7 million isn’t enough, some of the student comments leading to Dula’s spot on the top 25 list indicate he’s getting his message across loud and clear:

  • Dr. Dula has an excellent method of relaying information that holds your attention while you’re there, and stays with you when you’re not.
  • He always answers questions and commits himself to his classes.
  • His class made me decide to become a psych major.
  • I use things Dula has taught me on a day-to-day basis. This class made me a better student and a better person in general.

While getting his message out in the classroom, Dula is also working with Geller on getting his message across in another way – by writing a book.

“Chris and I are writing an intro to psychology book,” explained Geller. “We’re going to incorporate some of the work we’ve been doing here at Virginia Tech and we want it to be the kind of book people don’t give away or sell. It will be an "Ut Prosim" (that I may serve) book in that it’s getting psychology to make a difference in the real world, which is what we’ve been doing here through our efforts in safety, sustainability, and alcohol abuse. We want this book to appeal to the public, not just students. The idea is to provide evidence-based information to improve people’s lives at home, in the community, in schools, and in industry.”

Dula also wrote a chapter in Geller’s latest book, “Actively Caring for People” which is being printed this month and is about serving the public through human dynamics.

“He’s a good one from Virginia Tech and he’s a helluva teacher,” Geller said.

“I’m proud of coming from Virginia Tech and I attribute a lot of my success to Scott’s mentorship and my experiences in Blacksburg,” Dula said. “Virginia Tech is important to me.”