Ken Morris, Jr.
Ken is a 1997 graduate of Illinois Central College with an Associate degree in Arts and Science. Ken is the Manager of Student Equity for the Cedar Rapids Community School District. He administers all criteria necessary to ensure compliance with all policies associated with student equity. In addition, Ken serves on the District Learning Supports Leadership Team and provides professional development to District staff in the area of bullying, harassment, cultural competency and behavioral interventions.
Ken answered a few questions for the Alumni Association!
Why did you attend ICC?
I attended ICC because I was not mentally mature and academically prepared for the traditional 4 year college /university setting. I would be remiss if I didn’t say it was a local and affordable higher education option. It helped me develop the requisite skills one would need to be successful at a four year institution.
What was your favorite class?
Who was your favorite Faculty member(s)?
Ken Williams, Mrs. Vance, Mr. Thomas, Mr. Bauer and most important the cafeteria employees that made the “Jays Muffin”.
What is your most memorable moment? Graduation, even though it was a two year degree, I became the first Morris man in my family to graduate college.
How did ICC shape or change you?
Following graduation from Peoria Manual High School, I struggled to succeed at ICC. Living in a predominantly black neighborhood and high school, my blackness was not the most salient part of my identity. While at ICC I quickly “faded into the background”, where for the first time in my life, I was in a learning environment with mostly white students. I didn’t engage academically, I would congregate with other African American students in the cafeteria and sometime skip class because I enjoyed the one hour of my day that I felt like I wasn’t being judged.
My lack of classroom engagement led to academic ineligibility and was put on academic probation then later dismissal. Ultimately I applied for reinstatement and was required to show academic progress every semester until I raised my GPA above a 2.0. When I started excelling in the classroom I was more confident in my ethnic identity and critical thinking. I exceeded my own expectations and transferring to a 4 year college/university was no longer inconceivable.
Throughout my ICC journey I learned how to navigate the higher education system; I was a first generation college student and was not familiar with the higher education landscape. I learned quickly if I needed to get something done it was imperative that I advocate for myself. Later in my ICC career I grown so sophisticated I no longer required the assistance of my counselor to put together my course schedule I made sure I was on track for graduation with the registrar’s office and would get a professor I was close to, to sign off on my class schedule. It was through my failures at ICC that provided me with lessons that I later thrived on. I leveraged those life experiences in a way that made me more successful during my undergraduate and graduate collegiate career.
Did you transfer to another school?
Monmouth College then Western Illinois University
What advice would you give current students?
Failure to plan is a plan to fail, I would advise students to purchase a planner and outline the academic and personal calendar so they are making good use of time. Develop a vision board and use backwards planning techniques so like Stephen Covey they can begin with the end in mind. Develop short term goals that lead into long term goals.
What is most important to you when hiring student interns or permanent employees?
I look for interns and professional staff who are self-starters, I also look for individuals who want leadership from their supervisor and have an insatiable appetite for learning. I enjoy helping people improve on their existing skill set so after 3 or 4 years they are prepared to take on a leadership role greater than the position they held with me. I believe evidence of a great teacher or supervisor is having your student or employee exceed the position or standing of that teacher or supervisor.
Are you involved in the community?
Diversity Focus Fellow, Board member for The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success, Commissioner for the Iowa Commission on the Status of African Americans