Teaching

IMG_2430

I am currently a visiting lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Northeastern University. Prior to coming to Northeastern University, I was a teaching post-doctoral fellow in the department of philosophy at Stonehill College and an instructor for the Clemente Course in the Humanities. While I was a Ph.D student at Boston University, I also taught courses in the Writing Program and underwent a year-long course in writing pedagogy through the Center for Teaching & Learning.

This semester, Spring 2021, I am offering one section of Early Modern Philosophy and two sections of Ancient Greek Philosophy and Political Thought. Last semester, Fall 2020, I offered two sections of Ancient Greek Philosophy & Political Thought and two sections of Environmental Ethics. I have also taught courses on Happiness, Disability Ethics, Intro to Philosophy, and others. Most of my teaching centers on topics in ethics and the history of philosophy. I am particularly passionate about introducing students to philosophy through sources and traditions that have often gone unrepresented in the discipline.

If you are a student for one of my courses I suggest that you pop on over to Student Resources for more on writing and research tips. Continue below for more on how I view my role as a teacher and some testimony from former students on mine. 

IMG_5739

The starting point for how I think about teaching is Plato’s Laches. At a crucial point in the dialogue, Laches becomes discouraged when he fails to provide a satisfactory definition of courage. Just when he considers leaving the conversation, Socrates invokes the idea of philosophical courage; he urges Laches not to lose heart, but rather to commit to continuing the conversation despite its difficulty and uncertain outcome. Socrates reminds Laches that he possesses the ability to endure and that his interlocutors will be the better for his presence. My chief aim as an educator is to cultivate philosophical courage in my students. There are two aspects to this courage: first, one’s toolbox is equipped with the skills necessary to feel confident in one’s abilities; second, one is willing to embark on a process of self-discovery alongside others. My experiences as an educator and as a student inform how I understand and cultivate both aspects of philosophical courage.

First, the skills that I work to develop in my students are comprehensive literacy and effective communication. Comprehensive literacy involves knowing what is required to understand and engage with different types of texts. Our students should feel confident enough to navigate any text so that they do not forgo the experience of overcoming what they take to be their own limitations. Effective communication requires being able to charitably represent the ideas of others as well as effectively express one’s own ideas. If a student is only interested to the extent that they can make an incisive point, they will only be conditionally committed to the educational process. I therefore focus my attention on exercising the students’ innate curiosity to leverage their ability to be receptive to new ideas and to reason with others.

Prior to developing the skills necessary to feel confident – one must be secure enough to accept uncertainty. Accepting uncertainty requires having trust in others and in the process of self-discovery, which brings me to the second aspect of philosophical courage. The willingness to embark on a process of self-discovery alongside others only comes when there is mutual trust in the classroom. Once I began to treat the classroom as a community, I noticed a marked improvement in the quality of my students’ work. What changed was their level of trust in myself and their peers, which led to an openness to the experience of working through questions with others. It was less important to my students whether we settled what “the self” happened to be, so long as they learned something about what the concept entailed and how it bore on issues central to human life.

While I have referred to this species of courage as “philosophical,” its utility expands far beyond my classroom. After all, Socrates aimed to rethink the common conception of courage, which was tied to  acts of war. This way of conceiving courage placed it too close to arrogance and foolhardiness. For Socrates, true courage proceeded not from self-certainty but from receptivity to others and the fruits of inquiry. Not all of our students will pursue a major in philosophy, but they will still be confronted with uncertainty throughout their lives; moments that will test their ability to remain open to self-discovery. My hope is to provide them with the tools necessary to meet those moments with the courage and grace necessary to live well with others and to do right by themselves in the process.

IMG_8406

Here are a few pieces of feedback that I have received from my students:

“Professor Lustila leaves the ego and pompous intellect at the door and lectures in a clear, concise, and efficient manner, which are characteristics that aren’t always present in professors. He consistently finds ways to make Ancient Greek philosophy digestible, relatable, and even humorous. Lustila never left the class in the dark about assignments or readings and was very diligent in making these materials known to us well ahead of time. He answers every question with grace and care and is sure to never leave anyone confused with the material at hand. Beyond the classroom, he is extremely well-rounded in many schools of philosophy, and has recommended to me works pertaining to subject matters not included in the course. He has taken the time to discuss these works with me as well. Lustila is one of the most personable and caring professors I’ve ever had here, and I don’t have enough good things to say about him.”

(Anonymous, Northeastern University)

“I feel very comfortable to share my ideas in class because of his demeanor. He seems very open and helps develop everyone’s ideas. He seems to really care about the work he is doing. He is always available outside of class. He is also funny (or tries to be) which gives the class a lighter mood. He’s also incredibly understanding.”

(Anonymous, Stonehill College)

“Although Professor Lustila had never taught a class at Northeastern before, he was easily one of my best professors during my three years at the university. He is extremely engaging and an incredibly eloquent speaker. His insights into the text are thoughtful and his presentation of the material is enthralling. Professor Lustila is the perfect example of what it is to have an innate understanding of how knowledge should be transferred from teacher to student.”

(Anonymous, Northeastern University)

“I feel that the instructor was very understanding of student’s limitations and lives as students. Was also very willing to explain anything again or in a different way if it was not understood and was able and willing to answer questions. The instructor was very understanding and did a great job of making the material accessible, but at the same time without making it too simple or easy. Rather, the teacher worked to help students understand on their own.”

(Anonymous, Stonehill College)

“This professor is one of the best I’ve had at Northeastern when it comes to his teaching skills. He was really good at getting people in the class involved and wanting to speak up but was also really patient and accepting of when people weren’t the type to talk in class a lot. When you did answer a question, he responded in a really affirming way, even if you weren’t exactly right, which motivated you to want to keep raising your hand and being involved. A lot of professors at this school, although they know the material well, aren’t really good at getting the class involved and passionate about it. It was exciting being in a class where I felt my opinions were really being valued and considered. I’m not even a philosophy major or minor, but I was always very excited to be in this class and intrigued by the material.”

(Anonymous, Northeastern University)

“The course will make you think about your day to day actions and thoughts. The material taught is applicable to all aspects of your life -You will 100% become a better writer. You will learn how to make your own claims and really insert your own thoughts into the papers. Professor Getty is there to help you every step of the way. He is very personable and funny and tries to form a relationship with you that many other professors fail to do.”

(Anonymous, Boston University)