Professor Anthony Thompson, who teaches the Criminal and Community Defense Clinic and the Offender Reentry Clinic, was one of five NYU professors to receive NYU’s Distinguished Teaching Award on April 29. Given to outstanding faculty members across the University, the award honors those who have made significant contributions to NYU’s intellectual life through teaching.

Students, faculty, and alumni nominate candidates. The nominations are then examined by NYU’s All-University Selection Committee, which makes the final determinations. Awardees receive a medal and a $5,000 grant. Selection criteria include outstanding teaching effectiveness both inside and outside the classroom; the ability to inspire students’ intellectual development; an innovative pedagogical approach; and significant contributions to curricula in the professor’s field.

Thompson, whose teaching and research have been focused on the criminal justice system in his 14 years on the NYU Law faculty, said he has striven to “explore the impact of race, power and politics on individuals and communities as they come into contact with our system of justice. I have taught fieldwork clinics where, under my supervision, students work on actual cases representing individuals charged in the criminal justice system or where I help to guide the learning as a student works directly with an attorney employed by an agency where the students are placed. Each learning environment offers a different pedagogical opportunity to help students see the far-reaching impact of our justice system and the critical role that lawyers can play in giving voice to individuals and communities affected by our system of justice.

“My principal aim in each of the courses I teach and have created over the years has been to facilitate and enable students to think critically and deeply about the role of both the lawyer and the law in a range of settings,” Thompson said. “For example, I try to expose students to the complexity of decision-making in constantly changing environments where their decisions must be guided by the goals of client-centered representation and a constant check with their clients to ensure that they are assessing choices through the lens of the client’s objectives. One of the core principles of my teaching is that lawyers must be aware of—and open to—the range of interests that a client or issue presents in representation. My teaching consciously explores the fact that lawyers are often of a different race, class, or gender or bring vastly different life experience to the relationship, and that to be effective representatives of their clients, they need to acknowledge rather than ignore these issues as they work to forge a relationship of trust and to advance the aims of their clients.”

Past recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award include University Professor Anthony Amsterdam; Peggy Cooper Davis, John S.R. Shad Professor of Lawyering and Ethics and director of the Lawyering Program; Ingrid Gould Ellen, professor of urban planning and public policy at NYU and co-director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy; Professor Randy Hertz, director of the Clinical and Advocacy Programs; Burt Neuborne, Inez Milholland Professor of Civil Liberties and legal director of the Brennan Center for Justice; Ellen Schall ’72, dean of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service; and Professor Bryan Stevenson.

Posted on April 30, 2010