JEA established the scholarship in 2016 to support scholastic journalism advisers who are planning on a career change into school administration. Morgan will receive $5,000 to go toward educational expenses while he pursues his doctoral degree.
Morgan previously advised at Starkville (Mississippi) High School and quickly built a comprehensive award-winning program. He was named the state’s Broadcast Adviser of the Year in 2011, Newspaper Adviser of the Year in 2012, and Yearbook Adviser of the Year in 2013. He was the Teacher of the Year in the state’s 3rd Congressional District in 2010 and a finalist for the state teacher of the year.
“’I’ve wanted to be a school administrator from an early age,” Morgan said. “My working-class hometown had few flashy or notable features except for its school system. The town valued, above almost all else, its public schools.”
Morgan currently serves as the director of the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association and teaches journalism at the University. He is also the Mississippi state director for JEA.
“R.J. is a people person with an innate ability to make others feel comfortable and empowered,” JEA Vice President Sarah Nichols wrote. “Despite being in positions of “power” (as a teacher, director, adviser, workshop coordinator or contest judge) he listens and provides space for others to share their ideas and make decisions. His leadership both in the classroom and as director of the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association are strong indicators of the kind of empowering experiences R.J. will create as an administrator.”
Morgan plans on building on those traits as a school administrator.
“The best administrators develop quality relationships and help develop the skills of their staff without simply handing down orders.” Morgan wrote. “They empower their teachers and challenge them, and eventually hold them accountable for the quality of their work. The coach/adviser model of leadership is a successful one, and my time in the journalism classroom has given me a great understanding of how to use it to motivate a variety of individuals to pursue a coordinated goal.”
As an adviser and state director, Morgan has a strong reputation in his state.
“I think perhaps his greatest gift is the integrity he has and on which he bases his decisions,” wrote Beth Fitts, MJE, the former MSPA director. “One can always count on his work to be professional and ethical. Whenever he undertakes a task, one can be sure it will be done well for all concerned, be on time, and be a work of value. In addition, he has a love for people and a natural desire to help others.”
The Journalism Education Association, founded in 1924 and the largest journalism education association in the nation, is headquartered at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas. The nonprofit organization supports free and responsible scholastic journalism by providing resources and educational opportunities and by promoting professionalism in student media education and advising.