Alumnae Spotlight: Brittani Morris '98

By Sarah Stringer '12 ,Contributing Writer

The students who currently populate the Scripps campus are just the tip of the iceberg. There have been an astounding array of people involved in making the College what it is, what it has been and what it will be in the future. This legacy began with the original Ellen Browning Scripps, and continues with the academic community here today.

I was reminded of this enduring legacy when, last year, I started looking up psychology alumnae who might be interested in sharing their experiences with current Scripps students like myself. Sitting at tea mere minutes after sending an email to one such alumna, I got a call back. Not only was she willing to speak with me, this alumna was also incredibly helpful. Eventually our conversation turned to chatting about campus life and her involvement on campus. “Do you still have afternoon tea?” she asked, before revealing that she was part of the group that restarted the tradition in the 1990s.

I almost choked on my cookie. I was speaking with someone who—through her engagement when she was a student—had essentially made my experience in that moment possible.

Participating in such an established Scripps tradition, I had forgotten that there had actually been students involved in launching, maintaining and reviving such traditions. I was talking with someone who had played a huge role in shaping my daily life on

campus. Scripps has a past, and an amazing one at that. As we live and study here, being

shaped by its history and its academia, we are inevitably effecting our own changes on the College and the values it embodies.

No matter how much Scripps may seem to have changed from previous years, it is important to historicize our daily activities and remember the students who have come before us. The topics we address and studies we pursue may seem different on the surface, but underlying threads of community connect Scripps students across the ephemeral differences of time, knitting its past to its future.

As I started to recognize this awesome history, I wanted to hear more voices and share them with our community. I am starting with Brittani Morris (‘98), the alumna whose engagement with the College, through its Tea, inspired this whole endeaver. Morris inspired my search to find and build community on campus. She is a reminder that there are students behind every significant movement at Scripps.

What we do now in our efforts to create community will influence future generations of students. You never know who you will inspire by doing what you love. Keep going, and keep your voices strong.

Brittani Morris, Class of 1998

Studied: Psychology major, fine arts minor

Why you are connected to her: If you take your requisite study break every Wednesday Tea, if you’ve signed up for an inordinate amount of 5C clubs at a Turf Dinner or if you’ve gone on any A-Team excursions, you’re participating in the legacy Morris and a group of other students helped to create.

What’s she doing now: Morris works for a community mental health organization in Los Angeles. She is a licensed social worker and a project-driven manager, now working to train other therapists. She is actively involved in the Black Alumni Association for the Claremont Colleges, and gets to meet and support students through on-campus events and student scholarships.

Her advice: Stay connected and use your resources here.

Thoughts on her time at Scripps: “Quite simply the best years of my life.”

Brittani Morris entered Scripps in 1994. Her involvement with the 5C community and devotion to Scripps was virtually immediate, and would endure throughout her four years as a student and beyond.

As a first-year, Morris was a peer counselor, a tour guide with the Admissions Office, the dorm activities coordinator for Dorsey and the first year representative on the Board of Trustees. In addition to all of these positions, Morris was an active member of Wanawake Weusi, serving as treasurer, secretary, vice president and president during her four years as an undergraduate at Scripps.

Morris knew from the beginning that she wanted to major in psychology, but Introductory Psychology with Professor Amy Marcus-Newhall served as a wake-up call in terms of her study habits. Morris quickly realized that reading her textbook a week before the final was not the best study skill. Motivated academically by her Scripps classes, Morris began to mature as a student.

“Amy Marcus Newhall gave me a run for my money,” Morris said. “She is an absolutely phenomenal professor. Intro courses are tough, but this helped to set a precedent for my future work.”

By the beginning of her sophomore year, Morris was ready for her next challenge. Working with Dean of Students as a peer mentor coordinator over the summer, Morris recognized the untapped potential the Dean of Students Office had to reach out to students. With a group of about five other Scripps students, Morris collaborated with the office to create A-Team.

This original A-Team’s biggest event, which coupled recreation with business, was the “movie on the lawn” which has since morphed into the 5C Turf Dinner. A-Team set up an inflatable screen on Jacqua quad and played a movie for students. Morris reached out to organizations on other campuses that had similar functions as A-Team, and invited clubs from all five campuses to

set up booths where they could recruit interested students.

As a tour guide for the Admissions Office, Morris had become familiar with earlier Scripps traditions. One that stuck with her was afternoon tea, which had disappeared from campus life. Morris worked with the Dean of Faculty and Dean of Students to resuscitate this tradition with a more informal, modern feel. Morris saw the potential for Tea to get students, staff and faculty from all the colleges to interact outside of academics.

Overall, Morris looked to create a sense of acceptance and community between all the colleges. She recognized that students held their allegiances to individual schools, but wanted to encourage cross-Claremont unity.

“Each college was functioning as a silo,” Morris said. “We wanted to show that it was okay to eat meals at another dining hall, or to have friends on other campuses. We were giving students permission to be elsewhere, and wanted to open up to the wider community for other people to feel welcome.”

Morris was passionate about what she was doing. “A-Team was my baby,” she said; but her extensive involvement on campus led to a period of burnout during sophomore year. As a junior and senior, Morris continued her activities, and was slowly able to relinquish some of her duties and share responsibilities with other students. Her senior year, she worked on a first-semester thesis and was able to use the second semester to decompress.

Now working with a community mental health organization, Morris integrates working with clients and with the administration. Her work allows her to see multiple perspectives and levels interacting to impact community mental health. Applying her experience as a Scripps student, Morris is able to bridge direct personal contact and managerial aspects in her job.

“My work is extremely rewarding,” Morris said. “I get to see the clinical side and the administrative side,

and what makes a community health facility tick.” Morris did not know what she wanted to do when she left college, and did not have any job prospects until the summer after her senior year. She worked in Admissions in a private school during her first years after college, but it was mainly through her connections to Scripps faculty—particularly Professors Sheila Walker and Judith LeMaster—that Morris discovered social work andfound her current career.

Her Scripps connections were a major factor in helping Morris construct her career path. Her advice to stu- dents now is to develop those connections and use the bidirectional relationships entailed in the resources at Scripps.

Morris suggests that students always retain a connection to academia, and use on-campus resources as much as possible while they can.

“You don’t know the value of it until it’s gone,” Morris said. “The whole Career Planning & Resources Center is there for a reason. And I think if people can be brave enough to be savvy and network, they’re going to fare much better when they graduate.”

Beyond that, Morris encourages alumnae to get involved.

“You’ll always maintain that sense of home, and you’ll always feel grounded someplace,” Morris said, of why to stay involved in the alumnae network.

There is no one true way to stay involved, and Morris emphasizes finding a way that feels right. Morris’s own involvement has included working as a recent graduate trustee on the Board of Trustees for a several years. Morris’s current involvement is mainly through the Black Alumni Association. There are, Morris emphasized, countless other ways to engage with the Scripps community. “Find a way with which you’d like to stay connected, and that you feel comfortable staying connected. But stay connected.”