Coming Home

The Harward Center’s new Associate Director for Community Engaged Research and Learning, Morgan Kinney, is no stranger to Maine. Growing up in Bowdoin, Maine, she attended the University of Maine for both undergrad and grad school. With an original intention of obtaining a PhD in Social Psychology, Morgan eventually pivoted away from the PhD path as she searched for ways to have a more direct human impact than that path offered at the time. Looking back on that decision now, she realizes there was not much guidance available to students who wanted to connect the dots between their formal academic work and their desire to effect social change.  Helping students make those connections is her goal here at Bates. 

Morgan is coming to us from Rice University in Houston, Texas, where she was Associate Director of the Center for Civic Leadership, working primarily with student leaders and specifically with social justice initiatives on campus. Her job at Bates will still include students, but it will focus more intently on working with faculty and community partners to enable opportunities for community-engaged learning throughout the Bates curriculum. In addition, she will assist students with community-focused research projects through select courses, capstone projects, and senior theses. She will also co-lead the Harward Center’s Community-Engaged Research Fellows program, which is offered each Winter Term and provides a supportive community of practice for qualified seniors undertaking community-engaged capstones or theses.

Personally having experience with a CEL class, I know the impact they can have on students. For Morgan, her philosophy is that “any profession is going to have a social impact (that’s the way things work just by living in a society). So you should definitely have an element of that in your education, to at least know how to make that social impact positive or at least not harmful.” She says that she did not have any CEL opportunities in her undergraduate experience, or “at least none I was aware of.” Helping students connect the dots is an important part of this role for her. “The classroom experience versus out of classroom experience are not as separate as we think. It is hard when schools do not have the resources and passion to make CEL part of the curriculum, but here at Bates, we do. And it really prepares you for doing real work outside the classroom.” One example she gave is her partnership with an Economic Statistics class this Fall at Bates, in which there will be a semester-long project working with real data sets from community partners. “These are real problems with messy data sets. There will be ethical questions you just do not encounter with computer generated data. This kind of work will translate well in the future when trying to problem-solve in the workplace.” 

Of course, there is no Bates or Harward Center without Lewiston. Originally just trying to relocate to be closer to family in Maine, Morgan is really excited to explore the L/A area and get to know the community partners better. With a plethora of what she describes as “potential, L/A is diverse, growing, has a lot of exciting things going on, and is [full of] young energy. Similar to Houston, I think both places get a bad rep, but there is so much opportunity to grow here.” She is excited to do direct work with community partners, as she was previously more removed from direct community interaction. “I am excited to be in Lewiston, and excited to be in this position as it allows me to be more creative and figure out how to fit all the puzzle pieces (faculty, students, and partners) together.” 

Starting in July, Morgan is still new to the Harward Center but has already found her footing. “I am not too nervous about this role. There will be shifts from my previous job, but the group we have here is super caring.” She specifically mentioned things like grounding rituals at the start of every staff meeting, signifying to her that she found a great match here at the Bates Harward Center! If you want to reach Morgan, her email is