The Top Owl Social Justice Award is given to recognize contributions toward helping the university achieve its mission of creating and sustaining an inclusive community that appreciates, celebrates, and advances student and campus diversity.
This award, selected by the President’s Commission on Social Justice, are being awarded this academic year during the months of December, January, February, March, and April to recognize the contributions, leadership, and service of a worthy faculty, staff, part-time student, and full-time student.
For the month of March, the Top Owl Award winners are undergraduate student Madison Caruso; Michelle Mann, department secretary in the Department of Public Health; and Meredith Sinclair, assistant professor of English.
Madison Caruso is an Honors College student who is committed to pursuing social justice for those suffering from mental illness. Her honors thesis concerns advocacy for social justice by inviting the SCSU community to a talk on mental illness, then offering them the opportunity to make artwork in response to the talk. Those who complete the artwork will have a chance to share stories and come to a better understanding of how mental illness impacts us all, as well as how art has the potential to heal us all.
Caruso took advantage of SCSU’s Social Justice Grants program to provide the Southern community with these opportunities to both learn and create, and, her nominator wrote, “I applaud both her initiative and care.”
Her nominator continued, “Madison is going above and beyond what is required of an Honors Thesis to also better all of us at SCSU, especially those struggling with mental illness and/or those who know someone struggling with mental illness.”
As the department secretary in Public Health, Michelle Mann was described by her nominator, a student worker in the department, as “Office Mom!” and “the glue that keeps this department together.” Mann, her nominator wrote, is thoughtful and caring, baking cakes for birthdays, taking student staff on museum trips, and open to learning about others’ backgrounds and cultures. “I have never seen Mrs. Michelle be biased, judgmental or close minded to any topic, culture, or any challenge,” her nominator wrote. Her nominator particularly noted Mann’s care and concern for her department’s student workers, writing, “Mrs. Michelle is the kind of person who would encourage me to go to counseling services rather than clocking in. Mrs. Michelle is the kind of person who will take a walk with you just to listen about your concerns. Mrs. Michelle is the kind of person who will slip $10 in your backpack after you persisted to tell her not to just to help you out. Mrs. Michelle has opened her home, and her arms up for me, and I am ever so grateful. She has encouraged me to challenge myself, and believe in my abilities.”
Further, when it comes to social justice, Mann’s nominator wrote, “she is not complacent nor quiet in the eyes of oppression. Graduating from UCONN with a history degree, she found her stance against racial discrimination and promotes cultural awareness to her child and the rest of her staff. She is ready to march at any time, to open her mouth against things that aren’t right. She is open minded, and exposes herself to many cultures. She is the woman on all of the boards, has the huge dinners for her church, and orchestrates fellowship among different cultures and people.”
Meredith Sinclair has taken a leading role at SCSU in promoting anti-racist and culturally responsive pedagogy for future PK-12 teachers and for university educators. She is a co-director of the Urban Education Fellows, a student-driven organization for future teachers who are committed to teaching in urban schools and promoting activism through education. She is also a member of the SCSU Racial Justice Pedagogy Project and of the Faculty Senate Curricular Task Force for Social Justice and Human Diversity, as well as being a leader in AAUP Committee W. Her nominator wrote, “Dr. Sinclair integrates Social Justice in her teaching, research, and outreach, and many teacher candidates are grateful for her guidance, support, and struggle against inequities in education.”