School of Information Studies (iSchool) associate professor Michelle Kaarst-Brown will be named a 2018-2021 Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence at a ceremony to be held on Friday, April 20.

The Meredith Professorships are made possible due to a substantial bequest from the estate of L. Douglas Meredith, a 1926 graduate of Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences. First awarded in 1995, the professorship recognizes and rewards outstanding teaching and scholarship at the University while offering new opportunities for professional development and student engagement.

This award encourages faculty members to look upon the many dimensions of teaching as opportunities for constant improvement, highlights the great importance the University places upon teaching by investing in student-centered activities, and encourages innovation in the teaching and learning processes on campus. Faculty selected for Meredith Professorships receive a supplemental salary award and additional funding for professional development for three years to focus on a unique project. As a Meredith Professor, Dr. Kaarst-Brown will be enrolled for life in the Meredith Symposium as a signal honor and to provide a permanent forum for the discussion of teaching and learning at Syracuse University.

Each Meredith appointee carries out a project that supports their research and professional development goals and creates new learning opportunities for students. Kaarst-Brown’s project expands on her 14-plus years of teaching Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) classes at Syracuse, seeking to engage students in increasing community resiliency in the face of natural disasters and other crises.

“It was an honor to be nominated, and I was thrilled when I found out that I had been selected,” said Kaarst-Brown. “I’ve been trying to make a difference here through the courses that I teach and the administrative roles that I’ve held, and I’ve always wanted to do more. This will provide me with that opportunity.”

Since their inception, Kaarst-Brown’s ERM courses have included an opportunity for students to work with small businesses in the Syracuse and Central New York area. The students conduct site visits, meet with business leaders, and develop an understanding of existing or lacking risk practices in these smaller organizations. In the years she has been teaching, Kaarst-Brown estimates that over 2,000 students have worked with nearly 350 area businesses across many for-profit and not-for-profit sectors.

“The businesses in the Syracuse community have been incredibly generous in sharing their experiences and challenges, which allows both our students and these local organizations to better understand risks and the idea of risk management,” Kaarst-Brown explained. “It has been an incredible learning experience for our students as they study the host companies, but I’ve always felt we could do more.”

Kaarst-Brown hopes that the Meredith appointment will help to grow the services that her students can provide for these local organizations.

“I plan to bring together students from programs across campus to create an interdisciplinary opportunity for students to create and offer resiliency and risk education workshops for small businesses in the region,” said Kaarst-Brown. “We’ve been learning quite a bit from these companies as the students visit for their coursework, and now we’ll be able to give back to the community by developing and hosting these workshops. My goal is that the students will drive the focus of the workshops based on their multi-disciplinary backgrounds and passions.”

“Our focus will be on businesses that might not have resources to do this,” Kaarst-Brown said. “ERM training can often be expensive and time consuming, and we hope this can address that issue in Syracuse and the broader community. ERM training is important for these business owners as it can allow them to think about their businesses in a different way, better understand the issues and risks that they’re facing, and consider ways to address them. Most important, it can help them increase their resiliency, individually and as a community, as they face both risks and new opportunities. 

In addition to the development of workshops, another part of the project will involve collecting case studies and data to aid in the completion of an ERM textbook.

“While there are many suitable trade books on ERM topics for larger organizations, there are no suitable ERM books for instructors that include practical case studies focusing on small and medium sized enterprises,” Kaarst-Brown said.

“I am pleased that Michelle has been honored with Syracuse University’s prestigious Meredith Professorship,” said iSchool Dean Liz Liddy. “The award recognizes her strong history of exemplary teaching at all levels, and her innate ability to develop meaningful and relevant learning experiences that benefit our students and the local community.”

“One of the things I am most looking forward to as a Meredith Professor is the engagement with the other Meredith scholars across the University,” said Kaarst-Brown. “This is a fantastic opportunity to connect with faculty in the other schools and colleges and get outside of my discipline. On all dimensions, I feel privileged by this tremendous honor.”

Kaarst-Brown will be officially recognized with the professorship at the annual One University Awards Ceremony on Friday, April 20 at 4:00 p.m. in Hendricks Chapel.