Ruthie Yow is SLS’s new Service Learning and Partnerships Specialist. She has a PhD in American Studies and African American Studies; her research focuses on educational equity, and her book, Students of the Dream: Resegregation in a Southern City, is forthcoming from Harvard University Press this November.
I was raised in metro Atlanta, and like many Tech students who also were, I didn’t really consider myself an Atlantan until I arrived here at Tech. In 2014, I was hired as a Brittain Fellow to teach courses in the Writing and Communication Program, and I wanted to deepen my understanding of Atlanta so I could better connect my students to their adoptive city. I came to Tech equipped—or so I thought: I knew Atlanta’s civil rights, Civil War, and student activist histories; I also knew, from my own research, how critical a role Atlanta will continue to play in the educational justice struggles to come, as a city of immigrants, of low-income families, and of students striving to overcome structural barriers and entrenched inequality. I “knew” Atlanta in these scholarly senses, and in the context of community work I’d been engaged in over the past decade. But my efforts to present Atlanta in ways that resonated with students brand new to the city and prompt them to invest in its past and future revealed the fact that scholarly knowledge doesn’t necessarily produce transformative teaching. Enter: Serve-Learn-Sustain. In teaching my Student Activism course and co-teaching Documenting Atlanta, I affiliated with SLS and, with its guidance, partnership facilitation, and event support, was thrilled to see my students immerse themselves deeply in Atlanta’s challenges and opportunities as budding oral historians, urban planners, community builders, and—of course—engineers!
As an equity researcher, SLS makes intellectual sense to me. As a teacher, it more than made sense—it was a revelation about how to engage students in both curricular and co-curricular activities that changed how they thought about their capacity to contribute powerfully to sustainable community development in Atlanta and, by extension, to the communities they will live and work in after they leave Georgia Tech. In light of my experience with SLS as a teacher, and my investment in its mission as a researcher, I feel truly lucky to join the staff as the Service Learning and Partnerships Specialist. Sustainable community development may mean something different in each community, but what it means to us as a university is a host of opportunities to call on our abilities, relationships, passions, and resources to bring about a world that is socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable. I am so excited to support you—students, faculty, and partners—in our shared work, and grateful for the opportunity to do so! Please call on me with your questions and ideas (firstname.lastname@example.org; 404-385-8578) or come see me in Clough 205A; I can’t wait to meet and talk with you.