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Steven Daskal: Value the exploration of ideas

April 13, 2015
Steven Daskal

Steven Daskal

Like many college students, Steven Daskal didn’t have a specific career in mind when he ventured off to Amherst College in 1991. Reflecting on his time in college, the Mt. Prospect native recalled having fleeting thoughts of becoming a novelist.

However, after taking a broad range of classes, he found himself being drawn to philosophy. He says it was the constant pursuit of answers to deep questions that intrigued him – the ones that grab you; the ones that you can’t help but ponder about relentlessly.

“I went to college to explore ideas,” Daskal said, “and that’s what pulled me to philosophy. There are often no clear answers, but the process of looking for answers is itself valuable.”

Daskal, who earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from University of Michigan in 2005, arrived at NIU in 2010. Since that time, Daskal has left a long and meaningful impression on his students.

Former philosophy student Bridget Gamboni said that Daskal’s passion for teaching was inspiring.

“He was always respectful and fair toward his students and their views,” Gamboni said. “I personally found myself more motivated and actively engaged in the assigned readings and class discussions.”

Daskal said he compares his classroom to a lab, an environment where students are allowed to be comfortable expressing their thoughts and exploring issues collectively. He said that type of classroom allows for some great discussion.

“You can learn a lot from students,” he said. “Students think differently. They have a tendency of producing some really great responses.”

David Buller, chair of the Department of Philosophy, said he has worked with some tremendous colleagues throughout the years, but Daskal is in a league of his own.

“In a department of excellent teachers, all of whom are dedicated to becoming even better teachers, I have never seen a colleague quite as dedicated to the improvement of instruction as Professor Daskal,” Buller said.

Daskal teaches a number of courses on campus, including Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy. Additionally, he became the first member of the Department of Philosophy to become involved in NIU’s Themed Learning Communities (TLC), designing a section of PHIL 231, Contemporary Moral Issues, to be linked with two other courses as part of a pre-law TLC.

“It’s a real honor,” Daskal said of being a recipient of the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award. “I put a lot of work into constructing courses, and to hear that students like the classes and find them worthwhile makes this very rewarding.”

Daskal resides in Sycamore with his wife, Jen, a school teacher, and his two children, Jack and Natalie.