SCU Philosophy Department Flourishes in STEM-Dominated World
Over the past decade, teaching awards are of abundance in the department
By Isabelle Jia ‘22 and Riley O’Connell ‘19
In the past decade alone, the Department of Philosophy has won five major teaching awards, including four Louis and Dorina Brutocao Awards for Teaching Excellence—the highest teaching honor conferred upon an SCU faculty member by the University. Along with a 2010 David E. Logothetti Teaching Award, the highest honor given to an instructor by the College of Arts and Sciences, these recognitions have been conferred upon nearly one-third of the philosophy faculty.
Himself the winner of last year’s Brutocao for “ignit[ing] a passion for learning” and “helping students learn how to self-analyze and question,” senior lecturer Brian Buckley says he and his colleagues “believe that philosophy can change lives. Exposing students to ideas and goals and critical thinking matters in life… Students would not major in something as different (strange) as Philosophy if they didn't see some relevance to their young lives.”
Three years prior, Shannon Vallor won the Brutocao for her “intense passion for her subject matter and clear interest in fostering a deeper student understanding of complex philosophical questions,” according to the announcement of her award. One of her students said she taught them to "judge less, think more, and never stop asking questions” and that "you leave the classroom with a new vigor and a sense of cognitive satisfaction.”
Scott LaBarge (Philosophy and Classics), in 2010, received the Brutocao, and was recognized by his students for promoting “active learning through a classroom environment in which tangential questions are not discarded, but redirected, and abstract questions are made more concrete.” Hoping to “emulate him,” one student said his learning process “must be witnessed to be believed.”
Also a fan of the abstract, William Prior was awarded the Brutocao in 2009 for encouraging his students “to express and defend their own ideas, and to challenge and engage the professor, in an open atmosphere reinforced by the professor’s amiability, humor, and humility.”
Hand in hand with his colleagues’ recognition, Philosophy Department Chair Larry Nelson was the 2010 recipient of the Dr. David E. Logothetti Teaching Award, of which he said, “I was honored and pleased that the College and my colleagues believed that my teaching offered something valuable to our students,” further noting that he tries “to challenge my students and push them into thinking more deeply into pressing ethical and controversial problems.”
Looking into the department’s future, Buckley noted interests in cross-departmental collaboration and “continuing to reach out to the university and community through emphases on...politics, law, technology (especially AI and VR), and the environment,” as well as “recognition of non-Western and indigenous philosophies [and] the importance of Philosophy of Race.” All of this combined, he and Nelson hope, will “help shape good citizens, an essential component to a democratic republic” and “continue to improve our work as surgeons of the mind, soul, and conscience.”
About the Louis and Dorina Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence
The Louis and Dorina Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence recognizes outstanding faculty who promote intellectual curiosity and active learning; model and foster intellectual rigor and honesty and a zest for learning; develop connections between course material and life outside the classroom; are available to students, attentive to their needs, and enjoy the teacher-student relationship. This award honors those teachers who, over a period of years, have made a real difference: those who have served as exemplars in the Santa Clara, Jesuit tradition of service, who have challenged their students in ways that have forced them to look at the world afresh, who have exerted a major influence over the intellectual and moral development of their students, who have, in short, made an imprint that is still felt in some way years after graduation.
About the Dr. David E. Logothetti Teaching Award
The Dr. David E. Logothetti Teaching Award is awarded to a faculty member in recognition for having established among colleagues and students a well-deserved reputation for an energetic, engaging, and effective teaching style, and having demonstrated the ability to motivate other teachers and learners.