For Morris, ‘it is good’ to be educator

By: 
Ryan Winn
Columnist

Jennifer Morris’ favorite Menominee word is wēskewat. It translates into English as “it is good.” A member of College of Menominee Nation’s teacher education department, Morris’ efforts were deemed wēskewat by the school’s administrators. At the school’s May commencement, she was announced as CMN’s Faculty of the Year. I caught up with Morris on her return to campus this August, and she agreed to share her thoughts on the eve of CMN’s fall semester.

Morris received her bachelor of arts degree from Alverno College, majoring in history with minors in biology and chemistry. She earned the first of her master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in history with an emphasis in Museum Studies. She returned to Alverno to earn her second in education.

As a graduate student, Morris had stints working as a “pathology lab technician, assistant theater technical director, cafeteria manager and a chemical manufacturing operator.” Her diverse resume reveals that prior to taking a position at CMN, Morris also worked as a museum curator, classroom teacher and a vice principal.

Morris began CMN in 2011, seeing her employment at the school as “an opportunity to move back by family and explore a new area of education.” Since then, she has served in various roles that include “STEM resource coordinator, adjunct faculty member and the dean of retention.”

In the last dozen years, Morris has worked on various initiatives that include retention efforts such as Project Success and the Carnegie Math Pathways. She also serves on grant and scholarship projects, such as the First Nations Launch Rocket Team, which is a tribal college and university competition that “requires students to conceive, design, fabricate and compete with high powered rockets.”

Morris also serves on academic committees at CMN, including the Higher Learning Commission writing and steering teams. In this capacity, Morris contributed to the school’s reaccreditation proposal this past academic year. In July, CMN learned their application was approved, thereby ensuring students that the standards set in their coursework is nationally recognized.

I asked Morris what led her to stay at CMN. She responded: “It’s the best place I’ve ever worked. An amazingly kind, talented and accepting community that teaches and inspires me to be a better person every day.” She added: “I want to provide relevant experiences that help students gain the knowledge and skills they feel are meaningful to them, their family and their community.”

In the coming year, Morris is excited to “continue celebrating CMN’s 30th anniversary and also the 50th anniversary of the Menominee Restoration Act.” She explained that “The dedication of the people who led these efforts is awe-inspiring. The opportunity to celebrate them together is inspirational.”

Morris’ message for new students is to know that “You are brilliant, we love you, and we are honored you are willing to share your time with us.” Her advice to new faculty is “the same advice I was given,” which is to, “build strong relationships by listening twice as much as you speak.”

CMN’s fall semester begins Aug. 14. A tribal land grant college, chartered by the Menominee People, the school offers courses in both Keshena and Green Bay. CMN is open to all, and staffed with instructors such as Morris who said education is “all about you, your community, your organization, your needs and your success.”

Wēskewat, indeed, Jennifer.

Ryan Winn teaches communications, English and theater at the College of Menominee Nation. Visit www.menominee.edu for more information about the school.