Jackson Morris: Student Spotlight
Inspiration for life aspirations can come from anywhere. For Omaha-native, rising junior and Vice President of the Student Body, Jackson Morris, his fuel for disabled advocacy was ignited by Shakespeare. During Morris’ freshman year at Hopkins, he enrolled for a course called “Expository Writing: Shakespeare’s Richard III and Disability” Morris noticed that Richard, aware of the social forces at work against him, utilizes the ableism of his society to his political advantage. “The class really left an impression on me and let me know that I can really be an advocate for students with disabilities at Hopkins because of its deep examination of the different ways you can use your own disabled status to create positive change,” said Morris.
Prior to his freshman year, Morris was cautious about identifying his disability. He reported to being afraid of disclosing his disability status out of fear of being rejected from college programs because of the culture of higher education. At Hopkins, he was able to connect to other students who had similar experiences as well as faculty and staff members who privately disclosed their conditions to him.
Since the conclusion of the class, Morris took charge in owning his status while advocating for fellow students. He believes that “disability is something that is very unique because it is very personal. It is medical, but [approaching disability] from a medical perspective [alone] makes it so that it is difficult to identify as disabled due to privacy concerns. It is a unique problem that is also uniquely empowering as you connect with other academics who have disabilities and are successful in academia.”
Morris collaborated with other students and staff to advocate for cultural changes at Hopkins so that disability becomes part of the student experience. His goal is to “make sure that “disabled staff members and faculty feel safe to identify as disabled without [professional or academic] repercussions,” including the respect of their work. “Staff and faculty model inclusion for students, helping students to feel free,” Morris said.
Morris joined a group of likeminded students from several University divisions who either had a disability or were allies of the disability community. Morris was one of the inaugural members of DiSCO (Disabled Student Community Outreach) (@disco.jhu). His advocacy work and push to change the culture at Hopkins gave him the opportunity to be named a 2023 Lime Connect Fellow and connect with the world’s leading companies, like JPMorgan, Google, etc.
Morris hopes to expand advocacy work by creating a Disability OUTlist for Hopkins students, faculty, staff, and alumni model on the current OUTlist (https://studentaffairs.jhu.edu/lgbtq/outlist/) to bring the feeling of acceptance into the Hopkins community and collaborating with other institutions to discuss how negative perceptions towards disability in higher education can be changed on a national scale. His professional goals include U.S public office and disability advocacy work, as he wants to “work with the U.S. House Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus to better support higher education.”