April 9, 2018
SLS is pleased to announce Dr. Todd Michney, Assistant Professor, School of History and Sociology, as the winner of our inaugural SLS Award for Excellence in Community-Engaged Sustainability Teaching!
Todd's application packet reflected the many registers at which his course, “Semester in the City,” positively shapes his students and sets a high bar for community-engagement at the Institute. In their letters of support, Todd's students reflected on the impact not only of his innovative course design, assignments, and out-of-the-classroom experiences, but the particular framework he offered them for doing community-based research and projects. One student wrote: “We were not saving anyone. We were simply aligning ourselves WITH the community, engaging in roles they are currently doing themselves. . . . This is a crucial concept I take with me in my career from volunteer work to public involvement for projects.” Such a reflection testifies to both the immediate impact of the course on Todd's students as well to intellectual transformations with broad implications for his students’ professional practice and approach to supporting community-driven change. Similarly, another letter of support from the Grove Park Foundation spoke to Todd's genuine commitment to both student learning and to the aims and mission of the Foundation as a course partner. Executive Director Debra Edelson wrote appreciatively of his “commitment to the Grove Park community through . . . research, oral histories and by modeling local partnership” to your students.
Todd's own application materials were as thoughtful, conscientious, and rigorous as his approach to course design and instruction. The review committee was thoroughly impressed by the detail and sophistication with which Todd connected “Semester in the City” to SLS’s mission and vision. Identifying the class location at the intersection of environment and society, he also pointed to the registers at which the course engages economic transformation. In preparing students to undertake research that meets a local need as well as expands their perspectives beyond a GT-centered orientation to Atlanta, Todd guides students to “understand Westside communities on their own terms.” His course deliverables also reflected an often elusive balance between developing the expertise and research skills of students and centering the experiences, aims, and perspectives of community members. At these registers of student learning impacts, partnership principles, and SLS alignment, “Semester in the City” – and Todd's creative and effective pedagogy— are greatly deserving of this recognition and award.
Todd's award will be presented at the April 11th Faculty and Staff Awards Luncheon. Please join SLS in congratulating Dr. Todd Michney on this well deserved award for his work making the SLS mission of equipping students to create sustainable communities tangible and powerful through “Semester in the City.”