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Libby Morris named Zell Miller Distinguished Professor

Libby Morris
Libby Morris

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Institute of Higher Education has named Libby V. Morris the Zell Miller Distinguished Professor in Higher Education. Morris, who is currently interim senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, will begin the appointment on Feb. 1.

The Miller Distinguished Professorship was established in 2005 to foster research, instruction and outreach relating to economic development policy. An anonymous donor funded the professorship to honor former Georgia Gov. Zell Miller. The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved the appointment at their January meeting.

“From the beginning, the professorship has been conceived as connecting the university to the ongoing and emergent challenges of fostering economic and social development through educational initiatives, policies and innovations,” said Jim Hearn, professor and interim IHE director. “Dr. Morris is a perfect selection for the Miller professorship. Her remarkable career continues to reflect the very highest ideals of the University of Georgia and the Institute.”

Morris has been a faculty member in the Institute of Higher Education since 1989 and served as its director from 2006 to 2013. She was named vice provost for academic affairs in 2010 and was named interim provost last year. In addition to holding the Miller Professorship, she will resume her responsibilities as director of the IHE.

“Libby Morris is an extraordinary citizen-scholar of the University of Georgia, and someone with whom I have worked with very closely for many years,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “She has served as interim provost and vice provost with distinction, and the university community is indebted to her. I am very pleased that she will be filling the prestigious Zell B. Miller Distinguished Professorship in the Institute of Higher Education, and I look forward to working with her for years to come.”

Throughout her career, Morris has translated her research and scholarship into actionable solutions to persistent challenges in higher education. In 2009, for example, she launched the Georgia College Advising Corps, a program sponsored by the IHE and part of the national College Advising Corps. The corps trains recent college graduates to work with professional guidance counselors in high schools to increase college attendance among under-represented, lower-income and first-generation students. The program has garnered $1.6 million in private support and has grown dramatically in recent years, serving 16 high schools across the state. In the last academic year alone, GCAC advisers served more than 6,000 students.

As vice provost, Morris implemented several policies to facilitate interdisciplinary research, oversaw the merger of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography with UGA and led the working group on distance education that established the UGA Office of Online Learning. She established the UGA Arts Council in 2011 and spearheaded the inaugural Spotlight on the Arts festival, which grew in 2013 with more than 16,000 attendees over the nine-day festival of events in the performing, visual and literary arts.

“I am honored to be named the Miller Distinguished Professor of Higher Education,” Morris said. “I share with Gov. Miller a deep commitment to the state of Georgia and post-secondary education. Without doubt, the merit-based HOPE scholarship program, which was implemented just over 20 years ago by then-Gov. Miller, has done more to support college attendance in Georgia than any other effort. His legacy of support to education continues to this day, and I will work diligently to promote his emphasis on access, affordability and increased graduation rates for the citizens of our state.”

Morris has received numerous awards, including a 1991 proclamation by Athens-Clarke County that lauded her for “substantial and distinguished service” to the community. The Southern Rural Sociological Association has awarded her its Excellence in Public Service Award as well as its Excellence in Teaching Award. She also has received the university’s ARCH Award for Community Betterment and is a member of the UGA Teaching Academy.

Morris has been editor of Innovative Higher Education, a peer-reviewed, international journal focusing on innovations in postsecondary education, since 2002. Under her leadership, the IHE’s doctoral programs moved from 14th to 5th in U.S. News and World Report’s ranking.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from UGA and a Ph.D. in adult and higher education from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

For more information about the Institute of Higher Education, see