During the course in Ancient Political Thought, Taylor remembers reading about Plato and Aristotle and talking about what makes for a good life. During the discussion, Lindsay played a scene from the 1999 film American Beauty where two characters discussed the meaning of life as a plastic bag blew in the wind.
“I vividly remember this class discussion because it really made the class engaging in a way that was simple but innovative,” Taylor said. “He just stood out to me and I just kept taking his classes. … He showed me the influence a faculty member can have.”
Taylor said those courses inspired him to pursue a career in teaching, and today he is an assistant professor of political science at Kennesaw State University.
Lindsay’s impact in his field, along with his dedication to working with students, led the American Political Science Association (APSA) to recognize him recently with the annual Distinguished Teaching Award.
“When I saw that he won the award I thought, ‘well obviously.’ ” Taylor said. “He is the kind of teacher that I always wanted to have and he’s the kind of teacher that I want to be.”
The APSA Distinguished Teaching Award is presented annually to honor outstanding contributions to the undergraduate and graduate teaching of political science at a two or four-year institution.
“It was pretty shocking and I’m very grateful,” Lindsay said. “I owe a lot to my students and my colleagues. It’s not just me winning the award alone. I had a lot of help and owe a lot to my family.”
Lindsay has won multiple awards throughout his teaching tenure, including the Georgia Board of Regents Hall of Fame Teaching Award.
Lindsay, whose courses include political philosophy, environmental ethics and economic justice, has worked at Georgia State for more than two decades. He said the diversity of the students he teaches as well as his relationships with colleagues and research keep him passionate about his teaching journey.
“Education is a lifelong journey. If you do anything long enough you run the risk of getting burned out. My interest in political philosophy was simultaneous to my interest in teaching. You can’t have one without the other,” Lindsay said.
In addition to his work at Georgia State, Lindsay is the co-founder of the Georgia State Prison Education Project. The effort, which began in 2016, helps teach inmates who are serving time in federal and state prisons. The program also connects Georgia State students with former and current inmates, creating a dynamic learning environment for the students.
Lindsay said the majority of inmates he teaches are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. Working with them has enlivened his teaching and given him a new perspective.
“Once you work with inmates, you understand that there is redeeming humanity in everyone,” Lindsay said. “I always say I learn far more from teaching in prison than the inmates do from my teaching. The (Georgia State) students always come away shocked that the inmates are not the hardened monsters that people think they will be and that’s an important lesson.”
Eddy Nahmias, Chair of the Philosophy Department, said Lindsay is dedicated to undergraduate teaching as well as a strong mentor to graduate students.
“He has rave reviews from the undergrads and he always manages to inspire the undergrads to discuss these complicated issues in political theory,” Nahmias said.
“He’s a model for what we’re trying to do in those classes, which is to not lecture at the students but to get the students to think on their own.”
Photo by Steven Thackston