SUSCC Teacher Honored

Published 10:20 am Friday, April 26, 2024

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Southern Union Theatre and American Government instructor Michael Williams, Jr. is one of 24
instructors across the United States to be chosen to participate in the Civic Engagement and
Voting Rights Teacher Scholars hosted by Clemson University and supported through the
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The program recruits outstanding faculty across disciplines and

This summer he will attend a Teacher Scholar institute at Clemson University, where he will
collaborate to develop innovative classroom materials. This will be followed by a virtual, year-
long program that focuses on developing a dynamic collection of open-source civics education
resources. Designed for adaptability across college campuses nationwide, these pro-democracy
materials will be ready-to-use and integrate seamlessly into various curriculums.

Williams stated that he was surprised to be selected for the program, since he had not taught
government courses very long. However, he felt compelled to return to college and earn a second
master’s degree to teach government after the last election cycle. He stated, “I asked the class if
anyone needed to leave early to vote, and only one student turned out to be registered. That
student did not realize he could only vote in the district that he had registered, and as a result,
nobody voted.”

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Clemson University’s Associate Dean of Engagement and General Education, Bridget Trogden,
and Professor and Humanities Hub Director, James Burns, are spearheading the Civic
Engagement and Voting Rights Teacher Scholars initiative. Trogden highlighted a pressing
issue: college students struggle to link their studies with civic implications across time. Burns
echoed her concern, noting “Many faculties don’t have the luxury of time to create materials that
connect their coursework to real-world issues.”

Williams noted that an email from a former student thanking him for his work in American
Government encouraged him to apply for the grant. “He wanted me to know that he was grateful
for the work we did and how it prepared him for his four-year college courses, even leading him
to add a minor in political science. That same week, I learned of this grant opportunity,”
Williams said.

He added, “When I am teaching theatre, I am teaching my vocation, but when I teach
government, it is my avocation. Many students are passionate about their politics but are still
learning how their politics apply to a functioning government.”

With campuses in Wadley, Opelika and Valley, Southern Union State Community College is the
second oldest community college in the state and is accredited by the Southern Association of
Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate degrees.