Nic, who holds degrees in mathematics as well as philosophy, counts Philosophy of Mathematics and Philosophy of Science among his areas of specialization in the department. He’s taught with SFU Philosophy since 2013, covering courses such as PHIL 110: Intro to Logic and Reasoning, PHIL 332: The Mathematics of Morality, and PHIL 310: Logic, Proofs and Set Theory, in addition to a variety of graduate seminars for our MA program.
It’s not just the traditional—he also has an eye to showing how philosophy applies in real life. During the spring 2017 term, Nic delivered PHIL 131, a selected topics course that dealt with Conspiracy Theories. The course led students through an analysis of conspiratorial beliefs, introducing the critical scrutiny required to assess them and judge their plausibility. Assessing these real-life issues helped students enhance their critical thinking skills.
His approach to teaching philosophy is well received by undergraduates and graduates. Student recommendations supporting his nominations for the award note that high-energy delivery, use of humour, and selection of just the right examples helped explain tricky concepts. They also describe how his mastery of difficult subject areas translates into success in the classroom, leaving no one behind – not even for liberal arts students learning logic.
According to one student, “…his passion for teaching never fails to reach his audience. To my mind, he has achieved one of the greatest academic feats: getting liberal arts students excited about (and even to understand) logic—that dreaded mandatory requirement for philosophy majors. …it no longer felt like an arduous task with Dr. Fillion [as he] understands the struggles students go through.”
This is echoed by the Cormack Award selection committee, which found that [Fillion] gained converts to a course (Logic) that students do not think they'll understand or enjoy. The committee noted that enrollments in PHIL's logic courses have increased significantly since Fillion began teaching them.
According to Sean Zwagermann, FASS associate dean and committee member, “[The] committee [was] impressed with his commitment to pedagogy, particularly his open-source textbook.”
Out of the classroom, Nic is equally committed. Student recommendations for the award also note that his presence at Philosophy Student Union meetings helped moderate the casual conversation along philosophical lines, which helped increase undergrad interest in philosophy.