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Q&A with PhD Student Jules Morris

Jules MorrisAfter spending most of career in the marketing and communication fields, Jules Morris is pivoting to education and research while pursuing her PhD in Communication and Information with an emphasis in Journalism and Electronic Media.

Morris had spend the last six years as the Director of Marketing and Communications for the UT College of Education, Health and Human Sciences. She is now a lecturer in the Haslam College of Business Department of Marketing.

What made you choose to get your PhD in Journalism and Electronic Media? 

I am all-VOL. My undergraduate and master’s degrees are from UT in Journalism and Electronic Media as well. I was a returning student with middle school-aged children when I finished my undergraduate degree and coming up on my 50th birthday when I finished my master’s degree. My journey has not been typical. I had thought that my masters would be the end of my academic road, but during my studies found a passion for teaching and research in my area and couldn’t wait to start on my PhD as well. I chose to continue in JEM because of my own media background, my love for story-telling, great faculty expertise and relationships, and the appreciation and acceptance that they offered for my interdisciplinary experience and interests.

How does your coursework and research aid you in your job here on campus as the Director of Marketing and Communications in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences?  

I served as the director of Marketing and Communication for the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences for the past six and a half years, but am currently transitioning to a full-time faculty role in the department of marketing in the Haslam College of Business. My original coursework and faculty support in JEM prepared me for my industry role as the director of marketing and communications for WBIR-TV10, the NBC Affiliate in Knoxville. I left that role and started my own successful marketing agency, BombDiggity, LLC, where I have offered marketing, communications, and media strategy and support to more than 30 local and national companies over the past almost 10 years. A little over six years ago, I returned to UT in a marketing and communications role, and am now heading into an exciting new teaching role that will expand the digital marketing track within the Haslam College of Business. As I reflect on my path, I am so appreciative of the faculty support, mentoring, public relations, marketing, writing, digital, design, production, and leadership skills that UT has nurtured in me and that have prepared me for each step of this professional journey.

On that note, how do you balance having a full time job while pursuing a PhD?

Honestly, I have never known anything different that working full-time and pursuing my education. Sure, it is challenging sometimes. PhD work is supposed to be challenging, right? I just choose to enjoy the challenge and pace and lean in. I am a lifetime learner. I think that if you are excited about what you are doing that you will be smart and make time for the activity, whether it be an education or a hobby. You just have to set priorities.

What has been your favorite part of the PhD experience?

I love digging in and putting focused effort into topics that I am passionate about. I actually enjoy the process of researching the concepts that apply to my area of interest. You don’t often make time in your life for that sort of intentional study and a PhD forces you to do just that.

That said, I love people. I so enjoy my cohort, learning from other students and perspectives, and the faculty.

What do you plan to do once you obtain your PhD?

I want to teach. I am lucky enough to have already reached this goal with my new position and am so excited to have the opportunity to pour into students full-time.  I want to consult. I will continue to consult and grow in my niche expertise of creativity and innovation in media marketing. I want to continue to conduct research in my area of interest.  While this isn’t a requirement for my faculty responsibilities, I think that I will always want to add to the body of knowledge in my area.

What would you say to someone on the fence about getting their PhD? 

What are you waiting for? Someone asked me why I was bothering to spend three years getting my PhD in my 50’s—My answer is always “if you rest you rust.” It seems silly to me to have a long time goal that you just let go because you are not a certain age. The effort is never wasted if you are learning and growing.