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  • Sincerely, Southern

Through unconventional journey, Morris finds her niche in teaching

Updated: May 2, 2021

By Cassandra Buchanan

Photo courtesy of Marla Morris

Marla Morris is a professor of education on Georgia Southern University’s Statesboro campus, her main focus is curriculum, foundations, and reading. However, her interests stretch way beyond the basics of Education. From queer theory to Holocaust Studies, Morris is fairly well rounded in terms of education.

She began her educational journey in 1980, where she attended Carnegie-Mellon University, studying music performance. However, her experience was limited to two short years.

“I ended up really hating music school,” Morris said. “It just wasn’t for me.”

After dropping out of music school, Morris admitted to being lost, with no plan. It was at this point Morris said she moved to Louisiana because that’s where her dad lived.

“I had no idea what I was going to do with my life,” Morris said. “It was like a life gone wrong, my plans had failed. I had no money, no support, I couldn’t find a job, so I went to one of those unemployment agencies”

It was through the agency that Morris was able to get a job at a gun shop, and one day while at work two police officers from Tulane came in and told her about an opportunity to be a dispatcher. Morris wasn’t initially interested, but the incentive was the school would pay for your tuition for working this position. With that being said, in 1991, she attended Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy.

Choosing Philosophy as a degree wasn't planned out. Morris said she found it hard to find a job in the field of Philosophy. Remaining in New Orleans, she received a full ride scholarship to Loyola University where she obtained her Masters of Arts in Religious Studies. Which Morris said was interesting because she was Jewish in a school filled with Catholics.

The last step along Morris’ educational journey was Louisiana State University, where she gained her Ph.D. in Education. Morris says even her Ph.D. happened by accident because she had no plan.

She had been sending out her academic vita, trying to get into a theological school for her Doctorate, but somehow she stumbled upon a friend of a friend, who wanted to read her Master's thesis and after reading it, he offered her an opportunity to study curriculum theory. Which is how she went about pursuing a degree in education.

“I didn’t even know what it was,” Morris said. “But next thing I know, I’m getting a Ph.D. in a field I don’t know anything about.”

Now, Morris has been a professor for Georgia Southern for two decades, she is a published author of six books, she’s received a handful of awards such as the Jack Miller Award, Faculty Achievement and even a Critics Choice Award for a book she’d written titled Curriculum and the Holocaust. Her most recent achievement is being elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

“Becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society is jaw dropping for me,” Morris said. “They engage in global projects, I’m going to be working with people from all over the world, trying to make the world a better place.”

Morris has had many trials along her academic journey. Even though it happened by accident, Morris enjoys being an educator.

“I love teaching students,” Morris said. “I really love working with young people, because I learn from you guys, you guys teach me.”

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