Wednesday April 24, 2013

As many of you know, last week was our department’s annual awards celebration and general end-of-the-year-party.

One of the things we do at this event is connect up with current Friends of the Department and invite new ones, and we were very glad our Friends Bob Ewan and Gerry Remers were able to join us and participate in the presentation.  It is always nice to see our Friends, and Bob and Gerry both shared interesting reflections on the role of a philosophy and arts education in modern life and modern business.

Our first agenda item was to formally install a new Friend of the Department, Brian Rudrick.  Having invited Brian to join our Friends recently, we were shocked and saddened at his sudden death several weeks ago.  Inducting him as Friend posthumously, Tim Kenyon shared with us his memories of Brian’s warmth and lifetime intellectual curiosity.  Here’s a picture of Tim holding the plaque that honors the occasion:

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Tim Kenyon posthumously installs Brian Rudrick as a Friend of the Philosophy Department.

Then the main event:  student prize giving!

The first year prize was split as a tie between Martin Zelko, prestented by Carla Fehr, and Bethany Roorda, presented by me, Patricia Marino.

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Carla Fehr presenting one of two first-year prizes to Martin Zelko

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Patricia Marino presenting one of the two first-year prizes to Bethany Roorda.

The second year prize was awarded to Julia Hill, presented by Mathieu Doucet.

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Matt Doucet awarding the second-year prize to Julia Hill.

The third year prize was awarded to Raya Sidhu, presented again by Mathieu Doucet.

Sidhu

The fourth year prize was also a tie, between Mike Kelly, presented by Shannon Dea, and Claire Gallant, presented by Dave DeVidi.

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Shannon Dea presenting one of the two fourth-year prizes.

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Dave DeVidi presenting one of the two fourth-year prizes to Claire Gallant.

Professor Emerita Judy Wubnig funds two prizes for papers in the history of philosophy, one at the undergraduate level and one at the graduate level.  The undergraduate winner was Robert Mason, for his paper “Abandoning the Silencing Requirement for Virtue,” and the graduate winner was Ben Nelson, for his paper “Unwritten Law: Three Selections from the History of Political Philosophy.”

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Ben Nelson, Judy Wubnig, and Robert Mason

Another essay prize honors the memory of our late Distinguish Professor Emeritus Angus Kerr-Lawson.  This prize is given to the best graduate or undergraduate paper in naturalistic philosophy or American philosophy, which were Professor Kerr-Lawson’s research areas.  I was very pleased to assist Kate Kerr-Lawson in presenting this prize to Eric Bendall, for his paper “Bangu’s Quasi-Empirical Strategy and Mathematical Naturalism.”

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Kate Kerr-Lawson presenting the Kerr-Lawson prize to Eric Bendall

Our awards ceremony was another opportunity to celebrate Paul Thagard’s winning the prestigious Killam Prize.  Associate Vice-President, External Research Bruce Muirhead joined us to help honor Paul:

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Bruce Muirhead and Paul Thagard

We were also very pleased to celebrate some graduate student degrees and honors.  Four students earned MA degrees over the past academic year; here they are with their thesis titles:

Christine Heffernan, “Everything is going to be Okay, Right?  Kindness, Compassion, and the Moral Responsibility of Self-Deception.”
Ryan Huckle, “Knowledge, First Aid and the Moral Requirements of Rescue.”
Jim Tigwell, three papers in lieu of a thesis, including “The Lions and the Little Bird: Authenticity in Social Media.”
Jessey Wright, “Quantum Field Theory:  Motivating the Axiom of Microcausality”

To cap it all off we were thrilled to honor our two most recent PhD’s both receiving SSHRC post-docs!  Eric Hochstein will spend his at Washington University, and Rachel McKinnon will spend hers at the University of Calgary.

We are grateful to Christie Digital for its generous support of this event, and to Vicki Brett, Debbie Dietrich, and Shannon Dea for organizing and planning.  Thanks to Vicki and to graduate student Ben Nelson for taking great photographs.  And thanks to all the department members who make these events possible.  Congratulations again to all the prize winners and nominees!

Some other news from last week comes to us from Nick Ray, who attended an intensive UW “teaching academy.”  Nick says, “I was very fortunate to attend the Teaching Excellence Academy, which ran from Wednesday April 17 to Monday April 22. The Academy is an intensive workshop that brings faculty together from around the university to discuss strategies for course development and design. There were 13 participants from across all 6 Faculties, as well as a host of facilitators from the Centre for Teaching Excellence, the Centre for Extended Learning, and former partipants of the TEA–one of which was our very own Chair, Dave DeVidi! He was kind enough to share with the participants his experiences from last year’s TEA, as was Wayne Loucks (Engineering). It was nice for us rookies to have some veterans from which to learn the ins and outs of the Academy.

The goal of the Academy is to apply conceptualization tools and principles of alignment in the process of re-designing a course syllabus. I was trying to improve my syllabus for 250B, Great Works: Modern. I quickly realized that my standard tools of assessment (mainly essay writing) were out of step with what I wanted the students to learn, both about Modern Philosophy, and the sorts of skills I wanted them to take away from the course. I also learned that the description of the course I had on offer, as well as the objectives I wanted to strive for, were a bit unclear for students. The Academy really got me thinking about how a student reads a course syllabus.

We also spent a great deal of time discussing strategies relative to student learning abilities, and the relevance of contextual factors that impact our teaching, including empirical research that shows how students in first and second year differ from students in third and fourth year as regards attitudes to knowledge, and how a university course, the professor, and fellow students can facilitate knowledge generation (as opposed to mere information transference). Generational differences in student learning were also addressed, as were strategies for how to utilize online resources (especially LEARN) in effective teaching.

Details aside, the Academy was a wonderful opportunity to think about course design for a number of days, and to share in the collective wisdom of the group. Each of us has a unique pedagogy, and it was fantastic to see how others handled those tricky situations that seem to accompany university teaching, regardless of the specific content of the course.I hope to be able to attend the Academy again, or other similar workshops. It really was a fantastic, informative, and transformational experience.”  Thanks, Nick, for passing that along.

I’ll end with one programming note from myself:  between now and September I expect there will be less news, so I will post every two or three weeks instead of every week. You can follow this blog by email using the wordpress gadget on the right hand side.  I always post these in our Facebook alumni and friends group, and soon I’ll also set up a department Facebook page — liking that page will also be a way to see updates.

Don’t forget, as always, you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website.

Hope everyone is well!

— Patricia Marino

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