Carnegie Mellon University

Dietrich College’s Top Teaching Award Announced

Alex John London

Alex John London is the 2015-2016 winner of the Elliott Dunlap Smith Award for Distinguished Teaching and Educational Service in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

London, professor of philosophy, joined the CMU faculty in 2000. Since then, he has developed and taught courses on topics including theoretical and applied ethics, political philosophy, medical ethics, human rights and the capstone course for the Ethics, History & Public Policy major, which he directs. In 2007, he was named director of the Center for Ethics and Policy.

“Since coming to CMU, I’ve seen a constant effort to get as many students as possible excited about philosophy,” said London. “It is really rewarding to be in a department of people who are so passionate about what they do.”

In a letter announcing the award, Dietrich College Dean Richard Scheines noted that London’s contributions have significantly impacted the teaching of ethics — particularly medical ethics — both at CMU and at the national level.

As co-editor of several editions of “Ethical Issues in Modern Medicine,” London has helped shape bioethics curricula for medical students. With London’s input, the newest editions of the text present contemporary moral dilemmas as they relate to healthcare, such as whether pharmacists should be allowed to refuse to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception and whether health professionals are duty-bound to risk personal exposure to pandemic flu and other highly contagious diseases.

Since many of London’s courses deal with highly-charged ethical issues, he strives to create an open atmosphere where students can learn how to reason with each other respectfully.

“I try to push my students not just to be critical reasoners, but to be productive reasoners—to articulate and defend as clearly as possible the reasons they support the positions they adopt,” said London. “This is something students are hungry for and something that is sadly missing in our public culture.”

According to Scheines, London’s students consistently describe his courses — which currently include Ethical Theory and Medical Ethics — as both challenging and fun.

“In the classroom, Alex combines great humor, intellectual rigor and classic teaching strategies to fully engage the students and to push them to go beyond shallow impressions or uninformed opinions about ethical issues. He represents the best in collegiate instruction, consistent with the world-class reputation that we strive to maintain,” wrote Scheines.

Learn more about the Elliott Dunlap Smith Award, including past winners.

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By Emily Stimmel

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