The Daily Gamecock

USC professors named to Princeton Review, ‘Best 300’ list

Hughes: 'It makes me really proud of what I've done'

USC administrators love to tout the university as the best in the state, but according to the Princeton Review and student reviews on, it has some of the best professors in the nation.

Three current USC professors and one former professor — Tom Hughes, Bradford Collins, Mariah Lynch and Mark Sibley-Jones — were named in the collaborative “Best 300 Professors” guide, published April 3.

Hughes, who teaches business law in the Darla Moore School of Business says one of the most crucial parts of teaching is engaging his students — “My first goal is to keep them awake,” he joked.

He works to make the course relevant to students’ lives, which he said is easy for business law because it’s relevant to everyone, regardless of their interests.

“It’s a really easy course to teach,” Hughes said. “It teaches itself.”, a website where students can write anonymous reviews of professors, contributed to the selection of the best professors. Hughes said he checks the website only to make sure students are saying his class is hard.

The majority of his 61 reviews concur that his class is indeed difficult, but worthwhile.

“Hughes is a great professor but [his] tests are next to impossible,” one review said. “If you are concerned about your GPA, I would not [advise] taking him because YOU WILL NOT GET AN A IN THIS CLASS! But the way he teaches his information is superb.”

He earned his undergraduate degree at Tulane University and a law degree from USC’s School of Law. Hughes tutored while he was at Tulane and taught night courses before taking his current job. He has been teaching for 21 years.

He practiced law for a while but decided he didn’t like the profession and preferred teaching law instead.

“I don’t have to call myself an attorney anymore,” Hughes said. “I call myself a legal scholar — that’s academia for you.” Hughes said people will walk into an attorney’s office and ask for help, but walk into a legal scholar’s office and ask for advice in hypothetical situations. He said he looks up to his students for inspiration.

Both of his parents were from South Carolina, and even though Hughes grew up in Louisiana, he said it was a “seamless transition” to come to the Palmetto State. “I am a Southerner,” Hughes said. “And I enjoy being in the South and I enjoy teaching at a flagship university for the state of South Carolina. It makes me really proud of what I’ve done in my life.”

Brad Collins teaches art history at USC and he said he was “tickled” and honored to be one of the top 300.

Collins said students like him because of his clarity and attentiveness to students’ understanding of the material.

Collins admits, like Hughes, that being entertaining is a key in teaching.

“I am funny,” Collins said. “I’ll be the first one to admit it. I really am quite amusing and that helps. It really does help keep them awake.”

He also equated teaching to theatrics and being on stage.

“I feel so sorry for anyone who isn’t a teacher,” Collins said. “It’s a great field, wonderful field.”

One of the 73 reviews on said Collins was “Sooo interesting. Would be great on TV!”

Collins is passionate about art history and considers himself fortunate to teach it.

“There are lots of pretty things to look at like beautiful landscapes, beautiful women, handsome men and exciting images so that helps a lot,” he said.

Collins has taught for 25 years and in that time has learned that empathy is important when dealing with students.

“I tend to be understanding of students,” Collins said. “I know how hard students at a public university work.”

He said some of his students work 20 to 40 hours a week in order to pay for school and he’s always willing to listen to their excuses.

Collins is particularly grateful for the award because it is generated from student interest.

“That means everything to me,” Collins said. “Knowing that the voice of the students is what made the decision is really gratifying.

Collins said his biggest joy is watching students’ faces when they have a sudden realization in class.

“It’s that ‘Ah!’ light bulb moment,” Collins said. “I feel that experience of ‘getting it’ along with them and it’s great.”

Collins’ reviews all agree he’s a great professor.

“Probably one of the best lecturers to have lived. Ever,” one student wrote.

Lynch was unable to be reached after several emails, calls and office visits. Sibley-Jones was also unable to be reached by email or phone.

An administrative assistant told a reporter he left the university to teach at the Governor’s School of Science and Mathematics in Hartsville, S.C.