Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

Dr. Michelle Neyman Morris

Dr. Michelle Morris

Hometown: Santa Rosa

Role on campus: Faculty diversity officer in the Office of the President, and a professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science

Years on campus: 18

Did you or do you have plans to continue your education beyond a four-year degree? Yes! Near the end of my undergrad years, I knew I never wanted to leave college so I immediately applied to the PhD program in nutrition at UC Davis.

Why did you choose Chico? I was offered my dream job of a tenure-track faculty position!

What first sparked your interest in a college education? My friend’s father was a defense attorney and during junior high we went to watch one of his cases in court. I was amazed at how he made a living. Afterward, he took us to lunch at a fancy restaurant in his fancy car. It seemed so different from my dad’s experience—who made an honest living as a mechanic and small business owner, but who was also often physically exhausted when he came home from long days at work. In contrast, my friend’s Dad seemed mentally challenged by his work and had a lifestyle that seemed pretty attractive to me.

What were some barriers that prevented others in your family from completing a four-year degree? Lack of opportunity, lack of financial resources, lack of mentors, lack of resilience, family responsibilities, lack of family support.

Who can you point to as a mentor or inspiration in your pursuit of a four-year degree and why? All of my friend’s parents who had degrees and seemed to benefit from them!

What does being first-gen mean to you? Big responsibility. All of my education and life achievements aren’t just for me—they’re for my family and my community. I love the Cesar Chavez quote, “The end of all education should surely be service to others.” That sums it up.

What challenges do you struggle with or have you overcome as a result of being first-gen? Fear of looking dumb, imposter syndrome, getting comfortable with asking for help when I need it.

What is your wildest ambition? To move the needle toward greater faculty and staff diversity on campus! Our students can’t be what they don’t see!

What message do you want to send other first-gen students? You can do this and we’re all here to help you! You may have other “first” experiences that are different from your family. Don’t let fear hold you back. One of mine has been travel. It’s the best way to learn about the world and yourself. Get a passport. Get it stamped in as many places as you can.