At this year’s annual Fellowship Breakfast, the crowded room of students, faculty, staff, and donors didn’t just get thanked, they got inspiration. “We understand that graduate school takes vision, courage, and heart to complete,” Professor and Dean Emerita Dr. Gale Morrison said, addressing the many graduate students in the audience. “I would encourage you to remember the heart that brought you to this place and use it as a centering conviction to keep going, to continue to pursue your first loves, and go out into the world and make us proud!”
The event celebrated the 61 students who received funds from 29 different fellowships awarded in the Department of Counseling, Clinical & School Psychology (CCSP), the Department of Education, and the Teacher Education Program (TEP) during the 2019-2020 academic year.
The breakfast featured remarks by two donors to the Gevirtz School: Dr. Morrison, and Jon Clark ’82, President of the J.S. Bower Foundation. Current graduate students, Jacqueline Kemp and Monica Rojas, offered reflections on the impact of fellowships on their academic careers.
Gale Morrison and her husband Rich always knew they wanted to give back to the Gevirtz School. Gale taught and mentored students in the Gevirtz School for over thirty years and was the Dean of UCSB’s Graduate Division from 2007 to 2012. Additionally, she served twice as Acting Dean of the Gevirtz School. Dr. Richard Morrison received his MA in Counseling Psychology from UCSB in 1969 (back before we were the Gevirtz School, even back before CCSP was a department). After earning his PhD at UCLA, he went on to a long and distinguished career in public schools, ultimately retiring as Asst. Superintendent of Human Resources for Ventura Unified School District in 2007.
As Graduate Dean, Gale became acutely aware of the pressing need to support students through private fellowships. As one way to answer that need, in 2018, the couple established the Gale and Richard Morrison Fellowship, which is awarded to top applicants to the Gevirtz School to pursue a PhD, or deserving students who have advanced to PhD candidacy and are completing their dissertations. “We realized that graduate school is a slog,” she admitted to the room. “Five to seven years is a long time, so there is a need at the front end and the back end to have support.”
This year’s Morrison Fellow, Jacqueline Kemp, is a Ph.D. candidate in Education hoping to complete her dissertation this year. Over the past five years, she has conducted ethnographic research in local early childhood classrooms to understand more about how children interact and collaborate. Kemp aims to provide early childhood educators with knowledge to build supportive interactions and curriculum for all children. She expressed her gratitude for the financial assistance which allows her to focus on her research and reflected on the ripple effect of this support: “When graduate students in education receive financial support, it enhances our work with children in the local community and the undergraduate students we teach.”
Representing the Bower Foundation, Jon Clark spoke to this theme of community impact when he described the PEAC Community Fellowship. This initiative is a closely coordinated partnership among the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD), the Bower Foundation as a key funding partner, the Gevirtz School’s Teacher Education Program, and the SBUSD PEAC program. (PEAC provides key academic and social supports to students from traditionally underserved populations and does whatever it takes to ensure they graduate from High School college-ready.) The Gevirtz School works with the Bower Foundation and a handful of key supporters including the Helen and Will Webster Foundation, to offer those interested students a full-ride fellowship to the Teacher Ed Program. Additionally, the Gevirtz School works with SBUSD to offer those students a provisional job-offer to be finalized after they complete their credentials. Essentially, if a student wants to teach, it costs them nothing to get a teaching credential and they have a guaranteed job when they are done. The goal of this work is to build an exceptionally strong local teaching workforce that mirrors and serves our community’s diverse student population.
“Each of the partners gets what they want,” Clark explained. “The district gets the teachers they want for their kids, the Gevirtz School gets to train the next generation of leaders, and we, as a private foundation that cares about community, get to help the best and brightest of Santa Barbara come back and actually change the outcomes we fight for.”
One of this year’s four PEAC Fellows, Monica Rojas, knows the impact of this type of support. She is a first-generation college graduate, a former DACA recipient, and a single mother. Receiving a full-ride to pursue a career as a special education teacher is a “dream come true,” she said, “not only for me but also for my family.” She thanked the Helen & Will Webster Foundation for stepping up in the final hour to support another student pursuing their credential. “I hope that this does not end here,” she added, “because there are tons of students just like me who would benefit from opportunities like this.”