May 25, 2006

Two doctoral students win Morris Fellowships

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Doctoral students Kevin W. Spencer, a native of Joplin, Mo., and Seth C. Vannatta, a native of Oklahoma City, Okla., will receive $15,000 Morris Fellowships and free tuition to Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Morris Fellowships, renewable for two additional years, support scholars with strong potential for academic research. Administered by SIUC's Graduate School, they honor the late Delyte W. Morris, head of the University from 1948 to 1970, and his widow, Dorothy.

Fellowship winners with master's degrees have earned at least 3.7 grade-point averages on a 4.0 scale. Those with bachelor's degrees have at least 3.25 GPAs with scores in the top 25 percent of those taking a national standardized test for prospective graduate students.

Here's a closer look at this year's winners.

Spencer, 33, earned his bachelor's degree in sociology and a 3.71 undergraduate grade-point average in 2003 from Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. He completed his master's degree, also in sociology, this month from Oklahoma State University, earning a perfect 4.0. He will study for his doctorate in the College of Liberal Arts' sociology department.

His studies will concentrate on deviance and crime, inequalities as demonstrated in race, class and gender, and social movements. He plans to teach at the college level, where he can continue to pursue his research interests.

Spencer is the son of Joplin residents Henry J. and Martha J. Spencer (3505 Hawthorn).

Vannatta, 32, earned his bachelor's degree in history in 1995 from Colorado College in Colorado Springs with a 3.43 GPA. His master's work, completed in philosophy in 2002 at Oklahoma City University, came in at a solid 4.0. He will enter the philosophy department's doctoral program in the College of Liberal Arts.

There, he will focus on the American pragmatist tradition, working with the Center for (John) Dewey Studies, which has extensive Dewey source material. He has a particular interest in the philosophy of education. He will also continue with research begun in his master's program in phenomenology and process philosophy.

Vannatta is the son of Oklahoma City residents Jerry B. and Marianne B. Vannatta (626 N.W. 15th St.).

Leading in research, scholarly and creative activities is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.