New Ethnic Studies Professor Brings Albion College, The Philadelphia Center Even Closer Together

The joint tenure-track appointment of Dr. Jeana E. Morrison continues Albion’s focus on innovating the liberal arts college experience of today and tomorrow.

May 12, 2021

Dr. Jeana E. Morrison

“Albion has been on a community-wide pursuit to think a little bit more deeply about issues of equity, identity and diversity,” said Dr. Jeana E. Morrison, who joins Albion College and The Philadelphia Center as assistant professor of ethnic studies and director of academic innovation.

A new faculty hire is deepening, and at the same time expanding, the connections and collaborations between Albion College and The Philadelphia Center (TPC), the off-campus urban experiential learning program managed by the College.

Dr. Jeana E. Morrison joins both Albion and TPC in a unique dual appointment as assistant professor of ethnic studies and director of academic innovation, effective August 1. Morrison, whose research focuses on higher education access, equity and policy and the educational experiences of underrepresented students, will be based in Philadelphia and visit Albion during each semester.

Her ethnic studies classes will synchronously include Albion students with in-person TPC participants. Additionally, Morrison will be a faculty leader in exploring and developing new ways to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into teaching—from the broadest modes of inquiry to program curricula, to the syllabi of individual courses, and to advising and mentoring outside the classroom.

“Albion has been on a community-wide pursuit to think a little bit more deeply about issues of equity, identity and diversity,” said Morrison, a Philadelphia native who is wrapping up her current position as an associate program officer with the Chicago-based Spencer Foundation. “I’m super excited to learn from the Albion community; I’m looking forward to meeting the students there and being in that space. And what makes TPC special is that it offers another layer for students to express themselves, develop and mature. And I want to be a part of that.”

Strengthening the Albion-TPC Link

Since its establishment in 1967 by the Great Lakes Colleges Association, The Philadelphia Center has offered rewarding experiential learning and academic coursework opportunities for a semester or summer to thousands of undergraduates. Over the decades, TPC has maximized its relationships with dozens of the most well-established companies in the city to provide excellent internships for students.

Albion, one of U.S. News and World Report’s 50 most innovative national liberal arts colleges for 2021, assumed management of The Philadelphia Center in 2017. According to Dr. Lynn Verduzco-Baker, associate professor of sociology and chair of the College’s interdepartmental Ethnic Studies Department, the hiring of Morrison into the newly created tenure-track position will greatly enhance the program’s ability to expand its offerings to students.

“Dr. Morrison brings a passion for providing students with experiences inside and outside the classroom to broaden their understanding of race and ethnicity in the U.S.,” Verduzco-Baker said. “We’re excited to have Dr. Morrison develop unique and innovative courses in which she and TPC students find creative ways to bring the Albion campus students into the city with them virtually.

“Ultimately, we hope this position will build a bridge between TPC and Albion’s ethnic studies majors so they can gain internship, professional development and off-campus experience at TPC as a built-in part of the program,” Verduzco-Baker added. “This would go a long way to creating equity in the accessibility of these important career-launching experiences.”

After earning her Ph.D. in educational leadership and learning technologies from Drexel University, Morrison completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Boston University’s Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. She received her M.Ed. in urban education and B.A. in African American studies and psychology from Temple University.

Meeting the Moment

Morrison recalled revisiting the job description during the search process.

“It was describing how Albion is moving toward intersectionality and counternarration, and I think that is an innovative discourse at a college,” she said. “Counternarration means to move away from dominant narratives of what we understand human experience to be—bringing marginalized perspectives to the center to inform how we think about academics, undergraduate experiences and even adult learning.

“It’s a reflection of the current moment we are in,” Morrison continued, “and I think you’re going to see more around this—around equity and using equitable frameworks. But the action piece is yet to be determined. And, from what I’m hearing, I think Albion is in a great place, that the action is forthcoming.”

Gretchen Mielke, executive director of The Philadelphia Center, said the new faculty addition is already helping to further establish the Center as Albion College’s urban innovation hub.

“TPC’s programs and initiatives engage students and our partners across Philadelphia in community-based, purpose-driven learning,” she said. “We are beyond excited at what Jeana is bringing to the Center as we, with Albion, create with courage and demonstrate the relevance and significance of the liberal arts to the challenges of today and tomorrow.”