• October 24, 2014

Prof. Versus Prof.: How 2 Colleagues Competing to Succeed Eric Cantor Compare

By defeating Eric I. Cantor, the majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, in a Republican primary on Tuesday, David A. Brat will now face his faculty colleague, Jack Trammell, a Democrat, in the general election to represent the Seventh District of Virginia in Congress.

Both men teach at Randolph-Macon College, a private, liberal-arts college in Ashland, Va., just north of Richmond. The small college, with about 1,200 full-time students, touts its faculty as being focused on teaching and its average class size as 16, "with no large lecture classes and all courses taught by faculty."

Suddenly national attention is being trained on Randolph-Macon and its two professors turned politicos, a battle between academics that quickly became a punchline in coverage of the surprising upset of Mr. Cantor.

"It is amusing that this small college—Randolph-Macon College—is going to have its own congressman," Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said in an interview with Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show on Tuesday evening. "And all I can say is, I’m glad I’m not there because the faculty wars are bad enough when you don’t have two faculty members running against each other for Congress. So good luck to them."

So just who are these professors?

David A. Brat

Career:

Mr. Brat is an economics professor who has been at Randolph-Macon since 1996 and formerly was chairman of its department of economics and business. He also created and directed the college’s ethics minor. Mr. Brat was previously an economic consultant for the World Bank and did information consulting for Arthur Andersen, the former accounting firm, according to his LinkedIn page.

Education:

  • Ph.D. in economics, American University
  • Master of divinity, Princeton Theological Seminary
  • Bachelor’s degree in business administration, Hope College

Publications:

According to his CV, Mr. Brat has published many papers, including as co-author of "An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand." A profile of Mr. Brat, published in the National Review, summarized his views on the author and philosopher this way: "Mr. Brat says that while he isn’t a Randian, he has been influenced by Atlas Shrugged and appreciates Rand’s case for human freedom and free markets."

Other works of his include:

  • "God and Advanced Mammon: Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism?"
  • "No State Left Behind: Can State Policy Enhance Business Climate and Student Performance?"
  • "The Mortgage Crisis and Credit Crunch: From Housing Losses to Balance Sheets to a Decrease in Economic Growth"
  • "Human Capital in Eastern Europe: Revised Determinants of Student Test Scores" (co-author)

Student Views:

On ratemyprofessors.com, an unscientific and impressionistic sample of student opinion, Mr. Brat’s overall quality score is 3.4 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Like his opponent, he has been awarded a red chili pepper to indicate "hotness." Mr. Brat has been rated 24 times.

Sample comments:

  • "He’s so charming and really knows how to incorporate real world examples to keep the class exciting and relatable. He change assignments a lot and sometimes it’s unclear what he wants you to do. Plus he’s total eye candy!!"
  • "not a great teacher. great guy, but almost too smart to teach."
  • "Its only after you have left and begin to use or further the economic background that Prf Brat has provided that you truly understand how effective he was. One of the best teachers I have had."

Jack Trammell

Career:

Mr. Trammell, who has been at Randolph-Macon since 2000, is director of disabilities support services for the college and has directed its honors program. He is an associate professor in the sociology department. Mr. Trammell previously worked in the Hanover County Public Schools system and in the State of Kentucky’s Office of Contracting, according to his LinkedIn page.

Education:

  • Master in history education and Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Bachelor’s degree in political science, Grove City College

Publications:

Mr. Trammell published a book in 2012, The Richmond Slave Trade: The Economic Backbone of the Old Dominion, about how slavery fueled the state’s economy. He has also written a collection of stories about his life on a farm in Louisa County with his family, Reflections of a Southern Gentleman Farmer.

Other works of his include:

  • "Method in the Madness: The Freshman Mental Health Project (FMHP) and a Foucauldian Governmentality of the Mind"
  • Appalachian Dreams, Down on the Chickahominy: The Life and Times of a Vanishing Virginia River
  • The Postsecondary Student Survey of Disability-Related Stigma: Development of a Disability Stigma Measurement
  • Math in History

Student Views:

On ratemyprofessors.com, an unscientific and impressionistic sample of student opinion, Mr. Trammell’s overall quality score is 4.2 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Like his opponent, he has been awarded a red chili pepper to indicate "hotness." The sample size for Mr. Trammell is small; only five people rated him.

Sample comments:

  • "One of the best teachers I’ve ever had. He’s extremely smart and is always willing to help in any way he can. Genuinely cares about his students and wants them to succeed. Very clear instructions."
  • "BEST PROFESSOR EVER!!!! I have never had a better professor. He is passionate about what he teaches and makes you want to learn. Take any and every class you can with him. :)"
  • "Unclear, rambles."
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