By Matthew Biddle
Published February 2, 2023
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Mickey Sperlich, PhD, assistant professor in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, will be honored as a SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador for 2023.
Sperlich was one of two UB faculty members nominated this year by the UB Educational Design Collaborative in recognition of her enthusiasm for and effectiveness in online teaching, as well as her advocacy for online teaching within the SUNY community. She and Stuart Inglis — an instructor in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB — will be recognized at the annual SUNY Online Summit on March 8-10 in Syracuse.
“I truly value online teaching, especially the ability it affords us to engage students who live remote from campus or who have accessibility or scheduling needs that might be better met virtually,” Sperlich says.
“It has been a steep learning curve for me to figure out how I can align the online learning environment with my inherently relational teaching philosophy and style,” Sperlich continues. “For me, this means creating opportunities to develop meaningful relationships between students and striving to build trust and mutual respect in the teacher-student relationship.”
Sperlich teaches several graduate-level classes fully online or in a hybrid format that offers lectures both virtually and in person simultaneously. Her online offerings include courses focused on trauma and human rights, working with survivors of sexual abuse, and infant mental health.
In addition, she regularly participates as an online faculty facilitator for interprofessional education forums and provides online training as part of her research on perinatal mental health interventions. Sperlich also is collaborating with Patricia Logan-Greene, PhD, associate professor in the School of Social Work, on a virtual continuing education course for social workers to help address gun violence among their clients.
For Sperlich, teaching online isn’t simply about moving a seated course into a virtual environment — it’s about using technology to provide interactive, immersive experiences for her students. In SW 589, for example, her students create a wiki detailing a therapeutic modality to assist survivors of sexual abuse. In her DSW course, Sperlich’s students use apps that promote mindfulness and movement. They also explore the benefits of virtual reality by donning VR headsets and stepping into a simulated mental health clinic.
“An added advantage of incorporating new technologies in my classes is that it keeps me on my toes and engaged as an instructor,” Sperlich says, acknowledging the support she’s received from her fellow faculty members and Steven Sturman, the school’s instructional designer.
“Being recognized as a SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador is such an honor and signifies that it is indeed possible for me to continue to learn and grow in new ways — which is exactly what I want to model for my students.”