My History with SACAC
Morgan Fowler, Senior Admissions Counselor, High Point University
Tell us about your journey in the field of education and as an admissions/counseling professional. What are you most proud of accomplishing?
The first time I went to visit my college counselor at my northern Florida public school, she took a look at my transcript, took a look at me, and said, “So Florida State, UF, Howard, maybe Spelman?” I immediately informed her that I would be applying to FSU as my back up, but the others did not have a place on my list. I don’t remember the rest of that day’s meeting. But, I remember the next one. My college counselor made a point to speak to a teacher and coach that I was really close to. From those conversations, she began a conversation with me about liberal arts colleges. Inevitably, she helped me find my dream school.
My college process, as a whole, was so different from my parents’. They were student-athletes; they knew the universities they were attending with little hassle. That wasn’t the case for me, and they were very aware of that. They made a point to help me as much as they could without really knowing what the process entailed. Those two situations, separate but still connected, are why I was drawn to the admissions role.
I want to show my Florida students that they have amazing opportunities outside of the substantial Florida public school system. I want to assist families through their student’s college decision process, a process that can be stressful and ever-changing, with knowledge, support, and transparency. I want to help students find the institution that makes them feel the way I felt the moment I stepped on the University of Tampa’s campus.
Right now, my proudest accomplishment at High Point University is still happening. It is being able to play a lead role in intentional multicultural recruitment. In the past year, we have developed a Diversity Recruitment Board, begun a Diversity Mentorship Program, and created a brochure on Diversity and Inclusion at High Point University. Within all of this progression, the one constant is making sure students from historically underrepresented communities feel seen and heard and understood. These spaces we have created are doing that, and that’s the best thing we could ask for!
What would you like SACAC members to know about ways in which they can better serve their students and support their colleagues?
I believe the way we can better serve our students is the same way that we can better support our colleagues. It all comes from you.
Create a safe space, have conversations, and listen to what is being said. A safe space is incredibly important to any conversation, but especially those that may be emotionally charged or about a particularly laborious subject. Speaking from personal experience, I can have a conversation on the same topic in any space, but they will be different conversations. One will involve depth, communication, and feeling; the other will involve a tamed tone, a straight spine, and withholding. That’s why listening is so important. Listening, not just hearing. When you listen to someone, you take in the information provided. By doing that and adapting, you can create a safe space from an uncomfortable one. Then, you develop real communication with both students and colleagues.
Continue to educate yourself, and digest the information. We are constantly learning, as individuals, as a people, as an institution, as a country. Without additional knowledge, there is no progress. I believe that whenever anyone feels as if they “know enough,” they constrain themselves. Read. Have the difficult conversations. Listen to the bold podcasts. Watch the uncomfortable documentaries. And, I’m not talking about the true crimes documentaries on Netflix that are the kind of uncomfortable that sends a shiver up your spine. I’m talking about the uncomfortable that makes you want to crawl into yourself, that can cause a visceral reaction. It took me months to watch I Am Not Your Negro. It took me months to watch 13th. It took me months to watch When They See Us. But after watching each one, I knew I was better for it. I had more answers and more questions. I was reminded what was done and what was given for me and others like me to be where we are now. I was reminded why I speak up and push the way I do, so that my students and colleagues know they have an ally or an accomplice whenever they need one.
Be consistent. There is so much going on in the world. Black Lives Matter took center-stage for a moment as the pandemic had us all cooped up with nowhere to go and nothing to do but be active on social media. This led to an overall higher acknowledgment of America’s historically underrepresented and historically underserved communities. As the country tries to return to normalcy, the blind eyes are returning as well. That’s why consistency is so important.
Performative allies of both students and colleagues are engaging less, on social media and in-person. We see it; we feel it. But we also feel the continued affirmation and support of those who are truly with us. And we greatly appreciate it. I am by no means saying that connections need to be made every single day. But when a student comes to speak with you about a situation that you may not fully understand, make a point to validate their feelings because they matter. When a colleague has been holed up in their office the day after an unarmed person is shot, make a point to reach out and acknowledge that situations like that are not normal.
We realize this has been a trying year for us all, particularly those of us who are members of the BIPOC community. What continues to affirm your passion for your work and the students you serve?
I think my lived experiences and the students and families I am lucky enough to work with have and will always be my driving force in this work. I was born in Atlanta, GA. The Black Mecca, if you will. To begin my education, my parents made a choice to send me to Hopewell Christian Academy, an all-black private Christian school that was 45 minutes away from our home. Beauty Baldwin was my first principal. (If you don’t know who she is, look her up!) She and the Academy made sure that I knew one thing: I am Black excellence!
When we moved to Tallahassee, FL, I experienced being the only one in a space for the first time. My Blackness was questioned by my brown peers because I spoke the Queen’s English and had never seen Friday. My Blackness was questioned by my white peers also because I spoke the Queen’s English and had seen all the Mary-Kate and Ashley movies. After hearing it so much, I questioned it as well. And, it took me longer than I care to admit to get back to acknowledging that I am Black excellence.
I do not ever want my students to feel that way, to question themselves in that way. I want them to know that who they are is more than enough. I want them to be seen and heard in every space that they occupy. To understand that their ethnic background or religious belief or socioeconomic status matters. That their lived experiences are important. That how they identify should be respected. That if someone pronounces their name wrong, they should correct them every single time. I want to help in creating inclusive environments where they always feel like they are enough and always feel that they belong.