Educator honored with Emerging Scholar Award for global work to expand critical public health knowledge

Contact: Deanne Puca

Dr. Shannon McMorrow

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University’s Dr. Shannon McMorrow is being celebrated for her teaching and research that has impacted multiple disciplines and shows great potential for future work.

McMorrow, associate professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Health Programs and returning master’s of public health program director, is the recipient of Western’s Emerging Scholar Award, an honor to be recognized during the Fall Awards Celebration on Friday, Sept. 29

“Dr. McMorrow’s dedication to advancing knowledge in the public health field is remarkable, and this recognition is a testament to her hard work, innovative ideas and commitment to excellence,” says Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “I am truly inspired by the impact she’s made at Western and across the globe.”

McMorrow joined Western’s faculty in 2016 and earned her Ph.D. from Western, a master’s degree from San Jose State University and bachelor’s from Miami University.

She conducted research and taught as a Fulbright Scholar from this past September to May at the Makerere University School of Public Health in Uganda. During her nine-month appointment, she sought to expand critical public health knowledge and skills by teaching students, training faculty and conducting research through Photovoice, a research method where participants take photos and describe what their photos mean. This approach was used to generate powerful visual evidence to inform policies and programs for Congolese refugee women in Uganda.

In fall 2021, she also orchestrated a month-long exhibit, “Dimensions of Bloom,” a Photovoice project featuring 14 women of color and international women students from WMU who took photos and shared stories to capture their health and stress experiences during the previous academic year, including their response to the COVD-19 pandemic, racism and social activism.

This project and her work in Uganda contributed to two colleagues writing to support her Emerging Scholar Award nomination, noting her research’s broad impact, international recognition and commitment to continuing her outstanding work in the future.

“With her unique contributions to advancing qualitative Photovoice scholarship in the discipline of public health, making a broad impact across multiple disciplinary boundaries, exhibiting Photovoice research designed explicitly for advocacy in the general public and notable international recognition through a recent U.S. Fulbright Scholar Award and ongoing international collaborations, there is ample evidence for an outstanding promise for her to achieve renown as she advances her research at WMU,” writes WMU professors Drs. Ron Cisler and Bridget Weller. 

Meeting McMorrow more than 15 years ago when she was a lecturer at Uganda Martyrs University, Dr. Peter Waiswa, associate professor at Makerere University, had the opportunity to work with her again when she returned to the country as a Fulbright Scholar.

Her scholarly work has been shared widely internationally and across disciplines, he writes, and her endeavors “will undoubtedly keep her on the path toward continued international professional recognition for her Photovoice research and beyond.”

During her first six years at WMU, McMorrow was awarded six grants to advance her scholarly work, including four external grants from funders such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Association for Prevention and Teaching and the Indiana Minority Health Coalition as well as two awards from the WMU Faculty Research and Creative Activities competition. Her writing has resulted in 14 peer-reviewed publications, including a co-authored book on Photovoice.

“She has demonstrated significant impact with research achievements in a relatively short time since joining WMU in 2016, including notable impact beyond her discipline of public health into the realms of international studies and the general public,” writes Dr. Jyotika Saksena, professor of history and political science at the University of Indianapolis. “I am certain this track record will lead to Dr. McMorrow representing WMU as a distinguished scholar as she moves on to the next stage of her career in pursuit of full professorship and beyond.” 

Alongside McMorrow receiving an award at the Fall Awards Celebration are recipients of other prestigious campuswide honors: Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Distinguished Service, Distinguished Teaching, Excellence in Diversity and annual Make a Difference awards. The event begins at 11 a.m. in Kirsch Auditorium of the Fetzer Center with a luncheon to follow and concludes at 1:30 p.m.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.