It’s an esteemed award created for intellectually distinguished young Americans to study at a university in the United Kingdom. The Marshall Scholarship is extremely competitive, and the chances of winning it are slim, but Kevin Morris, ’17, persevered and was recently granted the award—a first for Georgia College a alumni or student.
In fall 2019, he hopes to pursue a master’s degree at the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies at the University College London (UCL), where Morris can enhance his research skills and learn more about various regional histories.
“I am particularly interested in identities, especially ethnic identities,” he said. “My academic concentrations center on how ethnic identities coalesce, evolve and influence decision-making at both the group and individual level.”
Each year, up to 40 Marshall scholarships are awarded nationwide. It is one of the most selective awards for US graduate students, with an average four percent acceptance rate. Marshall scholars are selected based on academic merit, leadership potential and ambassadorial potential. Morris’ application was one of a few selected for the Atlanta region, encompassing seven states. The Marshall receives approximately 1,000 university endorsed applications annually from across the US.
Past Marshall scholars include Pulitzer-prize winning authors, two U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Stephen Breyer, 12 MacArthur Genius Grant awardees and a Nobel laureate.
“I have a community of people and organizations at Georgia College which made this moment possible,” said Morris. “My involvement in the Honors program played a huge role in providing me with the community of brilliant and perspicacious people who inspired me to work harder, dream bigger and push myself to produce my best work.”
At Georgia College, Morris excelled academically, while earning a dual degree in economics and history, conducting independent research and earning over 50 credits of Honors coursework.
“The Honors community at Georgia College allowed me to engage in thought-provoking conversations that shaped the way I thought and encouraged me to step outside my own experiences and biases,” he said. “The Honors students creatively and unabashedly pursued their passions and set the example for me to do the same. In many ways, this program is microcosmic of the wider Georgia College community.”
In addition to being involved in the Honor’s program, Morris was the recipient of a Fulbright grant where he went to Stip, Macedonia serving as an English teaching assistant and also teaching young Macedonians about the foundations of democracy. Plus, he spent two summers during his time in college interning at the US Embassies in Zagreb, Croatia, and in Skopje, Macedonia.
“I’m so grateful for the incredible staff at the International Education Center for helping me apply to university scholarships and travel grants that funded both of my trips to the Balkans,” Morris said. “That was my first exposure to Macedonian affairs and the different challenges the country is facing. This experience solidified my desire to engage with the Balkans region as a professional.”
Currently, he is a project assistant with the Central and Eastern European Team at the National Democratic Institute in Washington, D.C., where Morris works with Macedonian and Serbian programming. He engages with field staff, monitors different programs, designs and implements various programs for training political candidates, gets citizens involved in local government and their political parties and helps nongovernmental organizations become more organized. He also helps plan advocacy workshops for local activists from ethnic minority communities in the region.
“At Georgia College, Kevin excelled as a leader through his work with 4-H and the Georgia Education Mentorship program,” said Anna Whiteside, assistant director of the Honors Program and coordinator of the National Scholarships Office.
“He also demonstrated considerable potential as an ambassador, bridging the gaps between our respective countries' interests,” she said. “As a Marshall Scholar, Kevin will learn about ways that he can work with the United Kingdom to facilitate US/UK relations as they pertain to Central and Eastern European affairs.”
Morris spent months working on his application for the Marshall Scholarship, while traveling back to the U.S. from his year in Macedonia and then moving to Washington, D.C. to start a new job. Then, he interviewed with faculty and staff to determine if the university would endorse him. Morris became a regional finalist and interviewed at the British Consul General’s region office in Atlanta.
He credits the education he received at Georgia College with becoming a Marshall Scholarship recipient. During his interview, the Marshall Scholarship Interview Committee questioned him extensively on his knowledge of the German language, which is a regionally important language in Europe and the Balkans.
“I know that my background in German played a huge role in the success of my application,” he said. “A command of European and Asian languages seems to be a common feature among Marshall Scholars, and I am indebted to the German faculty at Georgia College for preparing me for this opportunity.”
Although the interview for the Marshall award was one of the most intense experiences of his life, Morris drew from his leadership skills he learned while at Georgia College.
“Leading tours with the Ambassador team, facilitating public forums with the American Democracy Project and performing in plays have given me extensive practice in thinking on my feet,” he said.
Morris hopes to begin earning his master’s at UCL, a school famous for the breadth and quality of its research. UCL has the largest library on Eastern and Southeastern European topics in the world.
“I am eager to begin my own research with the help of such excellent resources,” Morris said. “I’m also excited to explore the theatre scene at UCL and in London as a whole.”
After getting his master’s degree, Morris plans to continue working in international affairs.
“I want to contribute to our understanding of how economic policy can mitigate the obstacles faced by people and groups with marginalized identities and establish more cooperative, inclusive relationships between different communities,” he said. “I am incredibly excited for this next chapter.”