First-Generation Success Story: Dr. G. Scott Morgan

Dr. G. Scott Morgan, Associate Professor of Psychology at Drew University

  • Find Mentors.
  • Be Kind.
  • Be Curious.
  • Work Hard. Be Tenacious.

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”  ~ Vince Lombardi

I sat down with Dr. Scott Morgan to find out about his life and how his journey to success was informed by being the first in his family to attend college. When Prof. Morgan was an undergrad he experienced many of the challenges experienced by other First-Generation college students, including feeling like a fish-out-of-water and financial struggles, but he strongly believes that hard work and tenacity helped him achieve success.  He also loves teaching, not only because he gets to share knowledge he is passionate about, but teaching gives him an opportunity to give back, providing skills that can help his students in their academic and professional development. Teaching also allows him to model kindness in a world that needs this more than ever. He recommends that First-Generation college students find other like-minded students and mentors that can help answer their questions and guide them as they work their way through college. Lastly, he has great respect and admiration for his students who he sees as earnest, hardworking, justice oriented, thoughtful, and funny. You could not ask for more in a professor or mentor.

Where were you born and raised? 

Louisville, Kentucky.

Where were your parents born and raised?

Louisville, Kentucky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have any siblings?  What are they doing today?

I had two sisters (one passed away) and a brother.  My sister is a clerk in an elementary school in Louisville.   My brother was a science teacher and is now a middle school Vice Principal in Grayson County KY.

Did your parents encourage you to go to college?  If so, how did they encourage you? 

It was assumed that my siblings and I would go to college. My older sister got her Associates degree and my other sister had a few years of college.  My brother received a Master’s in Education.

 Were you a good student?

Yes, I was a very good student, starting in 3rd grade when I had an amazing teacher and got excited about doing well in school.

Where did you go to high school?

I went to Valley High in Louisville, Kentucky.  .

When did you graduate high school?

2000

Where did you go to college?

Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. It was a mid-sized State School and it was the furthest in-state college from Louisville.  My brother went there too.  I have deep affection for this university.  There were a high number of First- Generation students and it is the type of school that has a mission to reach out to those types of students.

 

Did you know what you wanted to major in during your first year of college? 

No, I did not decide to major in psychology until my 4th semester. What I liked about psychology was that it was simultaneously numbers oriented (based on data) but also about people.  I ended up in a career that was about people and data.   I think I could also have been a doctor or architect.

Did you know what you intended to do with your major?

Not at first.  I was good at school and really loved it. So it wasn’t long before I decided I wanted to be a professor.

What were your greatest challenges as an undergrad?

I was aware of the socioeconomic differences in students, where some came from privileged backgrounds and others who had financial struggles.  I had never been out of my hometown and that presented a challenge.  School felt far from home.  I would have to call my parents collect (this was before cell-phones).  I did not have a care. I felt cut off among a group of peers who were from other socioeconomic backgrounds and were used to being away from home.  I also didn’t know about the resources that were available to me including scholarships, like the McNair scholarship.

What surprised you the most about college?

I had no expectations so I was not surprised.

Were you conscious that you were a First-Generation college student?

I was increasingly made aware of this fact.  It took time but I came to realize the things I was experiencing were not what many other students experiencing.

How did that manifest itself in the way you handled college?

It was more definitely more challenging.

Were your parents able to pay for your college or did you depend on scholarships, grants and student loans?

I went to college on a full scholarship though I did get loans in my last year.  I was confident about my intellectual abilities and I leaned into that.

Did you find yourself socializing with other First-Generation Students?

Yes, I did.

Did you feel a sense of community?

Not explicitly but I was drawn to students with similar backgrounds.

Did you have a mentor(s) as an undergrad?

I did not have an all-encompassing mentor.  I didn’t know I even needed a mentor, but I did have connections to faculty who helped me in a variety of ways.

What could have made your experience as an undergrad better?

It would have been a better experience if I had a greater sense of financial security, having a car, having food in my room, other than always having to go to the cafeteria. Also, it would have been helpful to have something in place at the university to help me identify other students like me, like a First-Generation group or an Equal Opportunity Scholars program, a place to communicate with other likeminded students.  For my scholarship I had to do a study abroad for a full semester in Bavaria, Germany. I had never flown before and it felt like I was going to Mars.   I remember feeling a pronounced difference between myself and other students who had already travelled out of the country.  Those from more privileged backgrounds had an excess of money and I observed them buying everything they wanted. Meanwhile I got my first credit card just so I could get by.

How was your experience in grad school at the University of Illinois in Chicago?

It was a great experience to be around other people who were fascinated with the same subjects I loved.  I used loans to go to grad school but I wish I knew in a more concrete, and less abstract way, that you have to pay these loans back.  Unfortunately, I did not possess financial literacy when I first started grad school.

Did you know you were going to pursue a Ph.D. after your M.A.?

By the time I got to my senior year in college I knew I wanted to pursue either a Ph.D. or join the Peace Corps.  I chose to stay in this country because I was in love with the woman who would become my wife.

What was your first teaching job?

I first started teaching in graduate school. I was a teaching assistant for many of the courses I still teach today: research methods in psychology, social psychology, etc. The first course I ever taught on my own was also in grad school; it was statistics.

 What do you believe is the secret or recipe for your success?

I was lucky because in spite have economic problems, I was healthy and my family was supportive. As unstable as things were at home, my parents never set up obstacles to my success.  I was also lucky to have some natural abilities.  I had a strong work ethic. Tenacity and hard work were key.    I never stopped. I worked, worked, worked.

How did you learn resiliency?

I was able to lean into my confidence as a student when things felt insecure and difficult.  My parents were very resilient. They took hits and kept going and I modeled this behavior. My mom and dad inspired me.  Their hard work was the name of the game.  I learned you just have to keep going.

 What do you think is the most important characteristic of a successful person?

Kindness, curiosity, and hard work.

What advise could you give First-Generation students who are just starting college?

Find people, other students, mentors, who have been there and can understand and guide you.  They will answer your questions and you can get valuable advice from a common perspective.

 Some fun questions:

Do you have any hobbies or special interests you would like to share?

Chasing children. Coffee.  Going to see movies in the theater alone.

What do you like the most about teaching?

I love teaching! Teaching is a place to express my cardinal values.  I can pursue what I’m curious about and inspire curiosity in others.  I can also model kindness and teach students skills they can use for success.  I have such great students.  My students are earnest, hardworking, justice oriented, thoughtful, and funny.  I love working with students and enacting those core values.

 What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?

A physician.  I was interested in going to medical school when I was in college but at the time I did not think it was possible for someone from my background. I discounted med school for a lot of the wrong reasons.

 If you could travel to anywhere in the world tomorrow where would it be

A cabin in the mountains in the Pacific Northwest in Washington or Oregon.

Favorite time of year and why?

It’s fall because it represents comfortable things – hot chocolate, cozy, sweaters, and coffee.  It’s also the start of the fall semester.

 Is there anything else about you, you would like to share?

My life is all about my family – my wife and daughters.

 

 

Scott Morgan is an Associate Professor of Psychology. His work investigates people’s moral and political worldviews, and the ways that people’s worldviews shape their thoughts, feelings and behavior. Specifically, he explores (a) the nature and consequences of attitudes held with moral conviction, (b) the psychological underpinnings of political ideology, and (c) the motivational factors that shape whether people engage in activism and protest in the name of their beliefs. Scott has a PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago. smorgan@drew.edu | 973-408-3970

 

Yasmin Acosta coordinates the Arts, Communications, & Languages Career Community and the First Generation Identity/Affinity Community. She also manages the Peer Career Coaching Program, counsels and advises students on career, job, and internship plans, critiques resumes, cover letters, CVs, and personal statements, and presents career development workshops. She also assists with the Student Employment program.  Prior to this position Yasmin was the Program Coordinator for Drew University’s Center for Holocaust/Genocide Study. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Psychology from Rutgers University, a Master’s degree in Arts & Letters (Literary Studies) from Drew University, and is pursuing a Master of Education also at Drew. Yacosta1@drew.edu | 973-408-3710

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