Jennifer Morton is awarded the Grawemeyer Award in Education

Jennifer Morton author photo

Author Jennifer Morton has been awarded the 2023 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education, announced today. The $100,000 prize is given in honor of a recent idea or study that has “potential to bring about significant improvement in educational practice and advances in educational attainment.”

Dr. Morton—an associate professor of philosophy, with a secondary appointment at the Graduate School of Education, at the University of Pennsylvania—was awarded the prize for ideas set forth in her PUP book, Moving Up without Losing Your Way: The Ethical Costs of Upward Mobility (2019), which reframed how disadvantaged students experience higher education and offered solutions for how their institutions of learning can provide better support.

“By focusing on the dilemmas first-generation and low-income students can face when pursuing a degree, Morton shed light on an important but often neglected issue,” said Jeff Valentine, the Grawemeyer education award director. “She also offers strategies that colleges, faculty and students themselves can use to navigate these challenges.”

Upward mobility through higher education has been an article of faith for generations of working-class, low-income, and immigrant college students. But very little attention has been paid to the deep personal compromises made by these students. Moving Up without Losing Your Way factors in not just educational and career opportunities but relationships with family, friends, and community, to reframe how disadvantaged students experience college. Finding that student strivers feel their sense of self negated, the book urges educators to empower students with a new narrative of upward mobility—one that honestly situates ethical costs in historical, social, and economic contexts and that allows students to make informed decisions for themselves.

Moving Up Without Losing Your Way draws on philosophy, social science, personal stories and interviews, as well as Morton’s own experience as a Peruvian immigrant and first-generation college student. It has been described as “compelling and momentous” (Studies in Philosophy and Education) and praised for its “empathetic and clear-eyed analysis” (Chronicle of Higher Education). The book was awarded the Frederic W. Ness Book Award, given by the Association of American Colleges and Universities in acknowledgement of contributions to “the understanding and improvement of liberal education.” In 2021 Princeton University, Morton’s undergraduate alma mater, assigned Moving Up without Losing Your Way as the university “Pre-read” for all incoming freshmen.

A scholar of philosophy of action, moral philosophy, philosophy of education, and political philosophy, Jennifer Morton was the recipient of inaugural Israel Scheffler Prize in Philosophy of Education given by the American Philosophical Association. In addition to her appointments at the University of Pennsylvania, she is a senior fellow at the Center for Ethics and Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.