Todd Richardson, an associate professor in the Goodrich Scholarship Program, recently received a 2019 Alumni Outstanding Teaching Award. Established in 1997, the award honors distinguished instructors and is presented to nine faculty members at the annual Faculty Honors Convocation.
This year, Richardson was selected by peer committees in UNO colleges to receive the award for the College of Public Affairs and Community Service.
Since 2011, Richardson has taught in the Goodrich Scholarship Program after receiving his Ph.D. in English at the University of Missouri that same year. He teaches English Composition, Autobiographical Reading and Writing, and Perspectives on American Culture for the program. Richardson also teaches courses for the Department of English, the Honors Program, and the Division of Continuing Studies.
Richardson said he was shocked to learn had won the award.
“I had been nominated a couple of times before and didn’t win, so I wasn’t counting on it, which made it a surprise,” Richardson said. “And surprises like this are nice. It’s both flattering and reassuring.”
For almost 20 years, Richardson has taught at the postsecondary level. He began teaching in 2001 when he was a graduate teaching assistant in the UNO Department of English graduate program.
Richardson said his classes at UNO showed him how much he enjoyed learning. He shares his knowledge of subjects such as folklore and literature in every class he instructs.
Richardson’s interest in folklore developed while attending the University of Missouri. His original plan was to specialize in creative nonfiction, but that dream vanished in his first week when two of his professors quit and the program came apart due to the university’s disapproval.
“It was a complete, bizarre sequence of accidents that led me into the folklore field,” Richardson said. “It was one of those moments where I thought, ‘Uh oh, I’ve got to find something to do’ and folklore presented itself through a professor named Elaine Lawless who insisted I take her classes.”
Inspired by his folklore background, Richardson promotes creative thinking in his classes and encourages students to develop their own ideas. A fan of storytelling, Richardson has taught courses on contemporary culture, ghost stories and nostalgia.
In his classes, Richardson also encourages discourse.
“I love it when a class generates a new insight or idea together,” Richardson said. “I especially like it when it emerges during discussion. It’s like the idea belongs to no one and everyone at the same time.”
Richardson enjoys observing students as they gain knowledge and confidence in their skills.
“It’s like they suddenly grow one foot taller, at least intellectually,” he said.
After completing his Ph.D., Richardson said he gained a better understanding of his teaching and research techniques. His roots in creative nonfiction (the use of literary techniques to write factual narratives) caused him to take an unconventional approach to folklore.
“I can’t do anything but be me,” Richardson said. “I would rather write a funny, critical essay than a scientific, traditional history of folklore.”
In his research, Richardson blends his love of literature and culture with his interest in folklore. His book, “Implied Nowhere: Absence and Folklore Studies,” co-authored with Shelley Ingram and Willow Mullins, will be released in June 2019.
While he enjoys research, Richardson said he has gained the most perspective from his Goodrich students.
“The best thing about Goodrich classes is the diversity,” Richardson said. “There’s never a consensus that people feel like they have to share, which opens a space for so many more voices. I’ve taught at a lot of places, and I’ve never encountered anything like it.”
Learn more about Richardson’s book: