Philosophy tutor wins teaching award

Philosophy PhD candidate and Student Tutor of the Year, Camden McKenna, on winning a EUSA Teaching Award, inspiring students and overcoming adversity.

Camden McKenna photo
Camden McKenna

The Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) Teaching Awards take place annually and celebrate the very best of teaching and support at the University. They also reflect the diversity of our community and provide a space where staff, who may not have access to more formal recognition, can be rewarded for their work.

Student Tutor of the Year Award

The Student Tutor of the Year Award recognises tutors who have created an engaging space for learning. Camden was nominated for bringing enjoyment, inclusivity and motivation to his students. From creating engaging spaces for discussion to being on hand to offer support whenever students needed it, Camden was commended for reminding his students why they chose to study philosophy in the first place.

“I absolutely never expected to be chosen for Student Tutor of the Year and I was overjoyed to discover that I was! I’d like to thank my students for their incredibly thoughtful and encouraging nominations and for making me want to continue discussing philosophy with them until we get kicked out of the room!”

Philosophy as self-care

Camden believes there are many benefits to studying philosophy, including gaining an understanding of the human condition and developing tools to support your wellbeing.

He reflects, “This year has been the most difficult one of my life, so it was truly shocking to win an award like this now. I think it is possible that, as a result of my interminable struggles with ill health, I may have subtly changed my approach in a way that really resonated with students. I especially felt I needed to emphasize that philosophy is much more than a hard-edged analytical tool, though it certainly can be that. It is also an attitude that can be applied to help cope with life. I feel now that we are incredibly fragile, soft and squishy beings in a world of our own making that, for better or worse, routinely ignores this fact.”

Overcoming adversity

Camden was commended by his tutees for his support and honesty, opening up to his students about his experience of panic attacks.

He reveals, “One of the first things I told my classes is that I occasionally have panic attacks. I told them I might go blank mid-sentence and have to leave the room. Fortunately, this never actually happened. But I want to mention this publicly here because I think many students have the impression that to present well or even just to minimally function in society we cannot be the deeply feeling creatures that we are. It might even seem these days that being a machine has many advantages over being a human. Personally, I would say there are unsung benefits to our often inconvenient humanity and perhaps this award is a vindication of that idea. At least I am choosing to see it that way. Thank you all!”

The School would like to thank Camden for starting a conversation with students about mental health and wellbeing, his dedication to tutoring and for spreading his infectious passion for philosophy.

See the full list of winners