Maya Angelou "It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength."
Feature: Molly Morgan
This individual team member feature is part of our series highlighting outstanding contributions to the Literacy Development among Diverse Learners (LDDL) research lab at the University of South Carolina.
Molly Morgan joined the Literacy Development among Diverse Learners (LDDL) team in the fall of 2018. Alongside Jaddey and Kaiela, she has been closely involved in the initial establishment of the lab, supporting the growth and training of the team, and developing our work into increasingly meaningful spaces. After graduating from UofSC in 2020, Molly has remained active in the lab while also working outside jobs and preparing to apply for medical school. Notably, Molly was awarded a Magellan Scholar Award in Spring 2020 to support her work focused on investigating how home and family systems contribute to Spanish-speaking children's language development. This internal grant is awarded to high-achieving students through a rigorous application and review process conducted by the Office of Undergraduate Research at the University of South Carolina.
Molly has contributed to the lab through a wide variety of activities (partial list at the bottom of this feature), but there are three specific areas that stand out:
Molly has shown her leadership in many ways, from supervising and guiding others, to leading by example, to amplifying the skills and strengths of those around her. After only a few short months on the LDDL Team in 2018, Molly had already demonstrated strengths in thinking quickly on her feet, being highly teachable, and supporting others on the team. In spring 2019, she moved into a Research Assistant position and quickly became instrumental to the team in brokering our first community research partnership with the Good Samaritan Clinic of Columbia (SC). Molly has volunteered at the free medical Clinic since 2017 (with over 400 volunteer hours logged as of June 2021!). She was integral to the establishment of bilingual language screenings held at the Clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week, and to training LDDL Team members to work with Clinic staff and patients visiting the Clinic. This partnership required care, attention, and initiative from Molly, and was key to securing the lab's first external research grant (an ASHFoundation Grant awarded to PIs Lisa Fitton & Marc Goodrich in late 2019). Upon receipt of the grant, Molly was nominated by her peers in the lab for one of two Lead Tester positions alongside Kaiela Campos. In this larger role on the team, Molly was responsible for organizing trips of undergraduate testers to conduct bilingual educational assessments with elementary school students, training lab members, and contributing to day-to-day problem-solving related to the grant. She and Kaiela were essential to the success of the team in reaching the data collection goals of the project in just a few months, prior to major changes made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020.
Molly also has clear strengths in scholarship and academic writing. During 2019, she developed her Magellan Scholar grant application. After one round of reviewer feedback, Molly refined the proposal, which was then funded to support her research during 2020. Molly planned for and designed the project, which she had just started to implement when the pandemic halted in-person research. Molly not only adapted the project to be conducted remotely, but also brought on Manaal Ahmed and several additional team members (including Jaddey Feliz-Cabrera) to develop it into a publication-quality project. She did this while continuing to work as a Lead Tester, contributing to team problem-solving as we shifted our in-person work to all-virtual for the remainder of 2020, and completing her undergraduate studies. In May 2020, Molly graduated with Leadership Distinction on the President's Honor List with a B.A. in Public Health and two Minors, one in Spanish and one in Applied Computing. Since graduating, Molly continued to work with Manaal to write up the project findings into a manuscript that she is lead author on. Molly has conducted the majority of the writing for the work, with Manaal's support as second author. We expect to submit the paper for publication in summer 2021.
It is also important to highlight Molly's experience and ability in navigating spaces of cultural and linguistic difference, particularly in considering how systemic biases and power dynamics influence individual interactions. Molly actively contributes to, engages with, and learns from conversations among team members about racial, cultural, and linguistic stigmatization. Notably, Molly lead an effort with Manaal and Jacob Wilcox to develop resources for administrative staff at a local elementary school to encourage more culturally-responsive interactions with Spanish-speaking families of students enrolled at the school (see several examples here). Molly demonstrates strengths in cultural humility, drawing on past experiences to continually learn and apply this learning to her behavior, while also encouraging others along the way. This attitude toward the importance of ongoing learning is at least as important as her Spanish language skills, which are functionally strong.
Additional Work by Molly*
We will be posting more regular features to highlight individual contributions within the Literacy Development among Diverse Learners Team. If you have any questions about any team members, please do not hesitate to reach out to me (FITTONL@mailbox.sc.edu)
quantitative research. methodology. statistics. diversity. bilingualism. equity. education. assessment. speech-language pathology.