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Humanities and Social Sciences News

Graduating Senior Wins Philosophy Prize

Displays student awardee
Gary Comstock presents Sophie Korenek with a poster of an article about her contributions to the development of a critical thinking course

The NC State Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies held its Student Awards Reception in Withers Hall on the afternoon of March 9. The purpose of this annual event is to name the winners of awards for top seniors in philosophy and religious studies; and to recognize and celebrate their academic achievements. Because of unusual circumstances, this year we had only one award-winner.

The Philosophy Prize in Honor of Professor Robert S. Bryan is awarded to the outstanding senior majoring in philosophy. This year’s winner was Sophie Korenek, who was introduced by Gary Comstock, professor of philosophy, who has worked very closely with her. Sophie had previously won the GlaxoSmithKline Women in Science Scholarship, the S.F. and Mozelle Parker Scholarship and the SECU People Helping People scholarship. She is also a Jefferson Scholar and a participant in the University Honors program. She is graduating in May 2023 with a B.S. in Philosophy, a B.S. in Biochemistry and a minor in Biotechnology. After graduation, Sophie will enter the M.D. program at the School of Medicine at UNC Chapel Hill with the ultimate goal of becoming a surgeon—but with a commitment to maintaining her interests in philosophy and drawing on it in her professional life.

Sophie worked with Comstock on the development of an online, freely accessible critical thinking course, How We Evaluate. She contributed significant pedagogical content to the conceptual structure of the course and delivered one of its five core lessons. At the awards reception, Comstock, who has taught over 4,000 students, said that Sophie is “better prepared to succeed in medicine, or any other endeavor to which she sets her mind, than any other undergraduate I have ever taught.”

Asked how she has benefited from the major in philosophy, here’s what Sophie had to say: “To me, the benefits of studying philosophy go far beyond the classroom. Taking the ideas that I have learned here to heart has built my self-confidence as an ethically guided, open-minded person. This personal growth and the guidance that I have received from this department’s incredible mentors have been instrumental in helping me to define and achieve my career goals.”