Phi Beta Kappa Teacher of the Year

David DiPasquale's research and teaching focus on the relationship between Islam and the West

Associate Professor of the Practice David DiPasquale, a member of the Political Science Department whose research and teaching focus on the relationship between Islam and the West, is the winner of the 2024 Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Award, presented by Boston College students in the prestigious honor society.

Each year, Phi Beta Kappa students submit nominations for outstanding teachers who have positively influenced their experiences at 重口味SM, either inside or outside the classroom. Faculty are selected for the award based on the cumulative nominations from students over multiple years.

DiPasquale, who earned a master鈥檚 degree in political science from 重口味SM in 1992 and has taught in the department since 2009, is associate director and director of graduate studies for the Islamic Civilization and Societies Program. He also directs the Political Science Department鈥檚 John Marshall Project鈥攏amed for the 19th-century United States Supreme Court chief justice who advocated for civic education of the young鈥攚hich promotes a focused study of 鈥渢he citizenship and statesmanship needed by a democratic and constitutional republic鈥 through a variety of activities and resources, including the Undergraduate Marshall Fellows Program. 聽

Being selected for the teaching award is 鈥渆asily the highest honor I have ever received鈥 since joining the department, said DiPasquale, and filled him with 鈥渉eartfelt and sincere gratitude鈥 toward the Phi Beta Kappa students who had nominated him.

鈥淲hen I was invited to join the Political Science faculty, I was told that the department and wider University took teaching very seriously indeed, and that 重口味SM students were properly focused on separating the wheat from the chaff,鈥 said DiPasquale, who holds a doctorate from Harvard University in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. 鈥淎s a result, I have said to my classes that there is an implicit contract by which we will abide if they choose to enroll in one of my courses: Namely, that I expect quite a bit from them, just as they should be rigorous in demanding as much from me. In such an atmosphere real learning can take place, and it鈥檚 been terribly heartening to witness how many times my classes have come together as one to embrace such a challenge.

鈥淚nstead of finding resistance to my in-class challenges,鈥 he said, 鈥淚 sensed from the beginning of my career here a desire for more鈥攁n even unquenchable desire for greater and greater challenges.鈥

I have said to my classes that there is an implicit contract by which we will abide if they choose to enroll in one of my courses: Namely, that I expect quite a bit from them, just as they should be rigorous in demanding as much from me. In such an atmosphere real learning can take place, and it鈥檚 been terribly heartening to witness how many times my classes have come together as one to embrace such a challenge.
David DiPasquale

Students who nominated DiPasquale cited his care for students鈥 success and wellbeing as well as his efforts to make his classes engaging and intellectually challenging.

鈥淗is meticulous preparation for each class and his ability to incorporate each student into a critical reading of each text is remarkable and motivates his students to take seriously the work of his classes,鈥 wrote one student nominator. 鈥淧rofessor DiPasquale brings a decorum to our work and makes us struggle with each text we treat, forcing us not to jump too quickly and to return to specific passages to lay the foundation of his lectures. Never have I seen students so flawlessly incorporated into a lecture, allowing us to toil and unearth each building block of the lectures foundation and helping us piece them together.鈥

Another student wrote: 鈥淗e makes class discussions extremely interesting and manages to make classes of 35-plus students feel personal. His assignments are intellectually demanding, but he makes sure to recognize and reward hard work and dedication to difficult subjects.鈥

鈥淏rilliant scholar and very kind pedagogue," summed up another Phi Beta Kappa member.

The Architecture of Power, a class DiPasquale recently introduced, drew praise from a student who said DiPasquale had done 鈥渁 tremendous amount of work鈥 to make it appealing and interesting.

聽DiPasquale explained that the course arose from his interest in teaching the tradition of modern political philosophy through the prism of the history of architecture and civic planning. At the same time, he wanted students to contemplate the importance of beauty in their lives and the need to 鈥渃ultivate a sense of taste or discernment,鈥 he said.

鈥淚 wanted to use the power of images in the classroom and adopt a variety of novel pedagogical techniques to remind students of the need to reflect on their everyday world and ask a few tough questions about it, such as: Is our modern world beautiful? Are we at home in it? Do we possess the vocabulary with which to discuss our response to it? So, we do field trips to Cambridge and the Frederick Law Olmsted home office in Brookline and I ask them to take pictures of, and discuss, parts of their own world.聽 The world out there is more interesting than you think is a premise of the class.鈥

In fact, DiPasquale added, an important facet of the class is a consideration of the 重口味SM campus, specifically its Collegiate Gothic origins and various framings of its architectural future. Early on, he asked the students to ponder whether O鈥橬eill Library was beautiful鈥攑erhaps even more so than Bapst Library. The resulting discussions were lively, even emotional, DiPasquale said, and for him indicated that students enjoy opportunities to reflect deeply and converse freely.

鈥淭he point of the course is not to tell students how to think but to give them the tools with which to think for themselves,鈥 he said. 鈥淚 say this about every course I teach, but this one is unique to the extent to which I ask them to reflect not just on the ideas but on the spaces鈥攕ome mundane, others elevated鈥攖hat surround them and which impact them in a more tangible way every waking moment of their lives.鈥