Professor receives YWCA award
Michael Thornton, faculty director of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Morgridge Center for Public Service and professor of Afro-American and Asian American Studies, received the individual Racial Justice Award from the Madison YWCA at its fifth annual Racial Justice Conference on Oct. 19.
“Mike’s professional and personal interests include breaking down racial and cultural boundaries and reaching out to all segments of the Madison community,” said emcee Katy Sai of WISC-TV as she presented the award.
“Mike has made a difference in the struggle to eliminate racism through his teaching and his connections to community,” said Sai, noting that Thornton has used service learning in his classes to integrate community service into the curriculum.
“The impact on students lasts beyond the class. Several of them continue to volunteer at their placement site, get job offers from the agency, or pursue career options related to social change, such as Teach for America,” she said.
Thornton told the audience he was humbled to be included among those who were similarly recognized before him, such as his colleagues and friends Seema Kapani of the Equity and Diversity Resource Center and music professor Richard Davis.
“I know any good work I may happen to do is really about a collaborative effort. That is especially true for me, since the work that I do is to act as a catalyst for others, an intermediary, an instigator. I see my service to our community as one who brings people together to do the important work.”
Thornton said he is privileged to be able to do that work as faculty director of the Morgridge Center.
“Here, too, I cannot do much good without the assistance, the prodding and the insight of a wonderful staff,” he told the audience.
Seeking Tolerance and Justice Over Hate (STAJOH), a collaborative project involving representatives from more than 53 governmental agencies and community organizations, received the group award for its efforts to address hate crimes in the community. UW Police Sgt. Jerome Vannatta serves as the university’s representative in the group.
STAJOH was a key partner in hosting a three-part spring series on “Communities United Against Hate.” The workshops included an overview of hate crimes and their occurrences, testimonials by victims, and brainstorming strategies for a community response.
“The workshops catalyzed further coalition building between leaders of the groups most affected by hate crimes, government, labor, business leaders and others community-wide,” said Sai.
The YWCA began giving out its Racial Justice awards in 1990.