Dr. Johanna Selles has been named the 2013 recipient of the United Church’s Davidson Trust Award for “excellence in teaching and scholarship in theological education.”
Dr. Selles is Associate Professor of Christian Education at Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto. She previously served as Assistant Professor from 2003 to 2009.
In her teaching and scholarship Selles contributes to the United Church’s mission of educating students for ministries in which faith seeks social justice. She responds to recent concerns, on the part of students and the church, for increased attention to spiritual formation. In addition, Selles contributes to the United Church’s increasing interest in church renewal, as she stresses creativity and imagination among her students. These foci have also influenced the development, not only of her classes, but of the Emmanuel College curriculum.
Bill Kervin, Associate Professor of Public Worship at Emmanuel and a former Davidson scholar, writes, “One of the major contributions Johanna Selles has made to our shared work of theological education at Emmanuel has been to connect us more deeply with our context and community. She was in on the curriculum task group that caught this vision years ago, which led eventually to the Chair in Church and Community and fed into the re-developed Contextual Education program and our colloquia and other programs highlighting contextual diversity. Johanna planted these seeds probably more than any of us; she saw the necessity for this before our institution got on board, and indeed modelled it in her own approach and very lifestyle, nurturing the early stages of the relationship with the Christian Resource Centre almost single-handedly.”
In her lectures, Selles introduces themes of social justice that are often focused on racial and gender marginalization. She fosters a classroom environment where students feel safe to offer their contributions and to risk being both vulnerable and innovative. Johanna’s teaching style encourages lifelong learning and instills a love of scholarship in others.
One student notes that “Johanna’s passion for lifelong learning is evident in her enthusiasm and reflected in the way she models what she teaches. Concepts and ideas are not simply taught through lectures or presentations, but students are encouraged toward personal journey of experiential discovery. Her teaching style embodies the hospitality and inclusiveness that she so values.” A former student shares that Selles’ scholarship and ability to connect with students goes well beyond the classroom. She takes interest in her students’ interests and continues to teach even after a student is no longer in her class.
Selles has held several key positions on committees and organizations within the Toronto School of Theology and the University of Toronto including the following:
She is the author of Methodists and Women’s Education in Ontario, 1836–1925 (McGill-Queens’ U.P, 1996); A History of the World Student Christian Federation, 1895–1920 (Pickwick, 2011); Compassionate Communities: Educating for Justice (Wipf and Stock, 2011); and the forthcoming Educating for Empathy: A Workbook (Wipf and Stock).
Selles completed an R.N. diploma from the P.G.H. School of Nursing in Chatham and went on to graduate with an Honours B.A. from the University of Western Ontario; an M.Phil.F. in Political Theory from the I.C.S., Toronto; a Master’s in Religious Studies from McMaster University; and an M.L.S. from Southern Connecticut State University. Her Ed.D. in the History and Philosophy of Education was completed at OISE/UT in 1996 under the supervision of Dr. Alison Prentice.
The Davidson Trust Award is made possible through the visionary generosity of Roy Mitchell Davidson. Mr. Davidson was a resident of Ottawa and active in Dominion-Chalmers United Church. He was keenly interested in the United Church’s commitment to sound theological study and teaching. The award will be presented to Dr. Selles at a suitable occasion at Emmanuel College. She will be awarded $5,000 in recognition of her contributions.