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David Thorstad: 2019 Derek C. Bok Award Citation

An outstanding teacher across a broad range of levels and subjects, David Thorstad has excelled as a teaching fellow for logic courses in the Department of Philosophy that are notoriously hard to teach. Logic, Professor of Philosophy Bernhard Nickel states, is an incredibly difficult subject to teach because the level of abstraction required, but, he says, “David has consistently excelled in ways that are hardly ever seen.” David went the extra mile in every aspect, continuing to work with students well after office hours had ended, drawing out responses from them that deepened their understanding of the material. In evaluations, students commented on his generosity with his time and his accessibility outside of class.

“David did a phenomenal job of sharing his passion for logic through weekly sections and (additional) weekly problem sessions,” said former student Tez Clark. “His explanations during section and office hours were extremely clear and accessible to all students, no matter their background in logic.”

Warren Goldfarb, W. B. Pearson Professor of Modern Mathematics and Mathematical Logic, comments that section leaders often find it difficult to formulate logic classes more interesting than a review of the lectures or an opportunity to work on sample problems—but here, David exceeded expectations. “He devised creative presentations that the students found both stimulating and highly effective,” says Goldfarb. “Most important for me was the enthusiasm for the subject matter that David elicited from students.” This was particularly noteworthy in Philosophy 140, which is an introductory course in logic that, over the years, many students have found to be somewhat dry. “I was bowled over by the 100 percent of respondents who said David was excellent or very good in generating enthusiasm for the material.”

Beyond his facility for making what can be a difficult subject engaging for students, David is an extremely caring and supportive mentor, and his guidance has the potential to shape the future of a field in which women are underrepresented. “David consistently went above and beyond in encouraging me and other female students to continue our studies in philosophy,” Clark says. “I can honestly say that David’s encouragement was a large part of the reason that I decided to continue in philosophy and do my graduate work in the field.”

“I have almost always been pretty satisfied with my teaching fellows in these courses,” Goldfarb says. “David, however, was in a completely different category from the rest.”

David, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is pleased to present you with the Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching of Undergraduates. Congratulations!

Read More about the 2019 Bok Awards

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