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Scholar in the Spotlight

Hannah MorrisHannah Morris is a senior in the College Scholars Program studying a program titled Education Reform & Policy. Her program was designed to address the issue of education disparity in America using a comprehensive approach that considers each of the different disciplines that are relevant to education. It focuses specifically on early childhood education and elementary schools in the public education system, intending to ensure that students of all backgrounds receive an appropriate and equitable education. Accomplishing justice in education requires an understanding of various components, such as child development, public policy, and an understanding of how inequity exists in the public school system, so the curriculum of the Education Reform & Policy program includes courses from the disciplines of child & family studies, political science, sociology, and psychology.

As a student at UT, Hannah has sought to be involved both on her campus and in the greater Knoxville community. On campus, she is an active member of the Haslam Scholars Program, the Student Alumni Associates, Pursuit: the Undergraduate Research Journal, Reformed University Fellowship, and Chi Omega. In the Knoxville community, she enjoys working with local students at Thrive Lonsdale, where she assists with schoolwork, ACT prep, and mentors high school students, and through the Community Schools program where she has been a recess mentor and led after-school programs. She also has gained policy experience in various realms including with the US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the United Way of Greater Knoxville Bright Start Program, and the Department of Health and Human Services Early Childhood Mental Health Team.

Being a member of the College Scholars Program has allowed Hannah to shape her undergraduate experience to her unique interests, and this is especially evident in her research. Titled Play and the Built Environment: An Interdisciplinary Examination of Children’s Access to Play in Knox County, her work considers the critical importance of play in early childhood and examines how the built environment may impact children’s access to high-quality and diverse play opportunities. It utilizes geographic data and software (ArcGIS) to create maps that display the locations of playspaces in Knoxville-Knox County and how access to these playspaces differs across a variety of factors such as socioeconomic status and race. Hannah also coded play at various playgrounds to observe what type of play is afforded by the different playspaces and to what extent communities are accessing the playgrounds. Most recently, she has had the privilege of presenting this work at Harvard University’s National Collegiate Research Conference and Posters at the Capital. She is immensely grateful that the College Scholars Program allows her to pursue interdisciplinary coursework and research.

In the future, Hannah is hopeful to participate in the US Fulbright Program, where she is currently a semi-finalist to receive a master’s degree in Finland. She is also considering a variety of graduate programs in education policy. She ultimately hopes to end up in Washington, D.C. where she aspires to positively impact early childhood and education policy at the federal level.

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