Shawnee State University President Rita Rice Morris, Ph.D, began her term in May 2003 as the first female president to serve the university. She took a moment to reflect upon the significance of this being Women's History Month, noting the advancements women have made in academia and around the world.
Morris said she worked her way through her degrees in communications and computer science, attending colleges such as California State University, Northern Illinois University and State University of New York at Buffalo.
“If it hadn't been for state programming, I wouldn't have gone to college - I couldn't have gone to college,” Morris said.
Today, according to Morris, more than 50 percent of SSU's student body is female.
“Our lives are very different from the lives of our mothers, in terms of our ability to move through the professional ranks,” she said.
With a career spanning nearly 30 years, Morris was appointed the first female president of SSU in December 2002, and officially took office the following spring.
“I wanted a school that was of the community and of the region, because that's where I think I can make a difference,” Morris said.
She also said she was pleased to work on SSU's capital planning campaign to help fund a number of projects and programs, including some devoted to women's studies.
SSU offers a women's studies minor, as well as the Women's Center, which was achieved, Morris said, with the help of SSU Women's Forum.
“The Women's Forum came out of the efforts of (former president) Jim Chapman, who was here before me. He worked with a league of women who were interested in advancing the role of women in the university,” Morris said.
The Women's Center, she said, offers an array of information for women of this region, and the Women's Forum features a variety of programs and speakers.
“I think the thing about Women's History Month is that it is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the accomplishments of women, and the potential of women,” she said.
Morris said she believes it is particularly important in the university setting to examine the achievements of not only women, but of all groups.
During the month of March, Shawnee State is hosting several events in celebration of women's history.