Literacy scholar Ernest Morrell elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Author: Josh Weinhold

Ernest Morrell, the Coyle Professor of Literacy Education, is pictured in a professional headshot wearing a blue suit and blue and gold tie, outside leaning against a building
Ernest Morrell

Ernest Morrell, the Coyle Professor of Literacy Education at the University of Notre Dame, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers.

Morrell — who is also the College of Arts and Letters associate dean for the humanities and equity, a professor of English and Africana studies, and director of the Institute for Educational InitiativesCenter for Literacy Education — was one of the 250 members of the newest AAAS class announced today. Other notable names among the group include filmmaker George Clooney, Apple CEO Tim Cook, novelist Jhumpa Lahiri, and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist and 1993 Notre Dame alumnus Carlos Lozada.

“I am extremely honored and humbled to receive this recognition from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,” Morrell said, “and I am indebted to Notre Dame for allowing me to do this work and for being a place that connects cutting-edge academic scholarship with its mission to be a force for good in the world.”

Morrell came to Notre Dame in 2017 after faculty appointments at Columbia University’s Teachers College; the University of California, Los Angeles; and Michigan State University. His scholarly interests include critical pedagogy, English education, literacy studies, postcolonial studies and youth popular culture.

His recent research focuses on how the use of popular culture in the classroom can successfully engage urban youth and communities, with an emphasis on translanguaging — the idea that students can maximize their learning by using the many different languages they use in their everyday lives.

Morrell will be formally inducted to the AAAS in a Sept. 21 ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as part of the Education Section, whose roster of current fellows includes Harvard University developmental psychologist Howard Gardner; Louisiana State University President William Tate IV; Na’ilah Suad Nasir, president of the Spencer Foundation; and Linda Darling Hammond, the Charles Ducommun Professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education.

“This honor is reflective of my 30-year relationship with literacy studies,” Morrell said. “I’ve simply tried to learn from the ways that people use language every day to develop ways of teaching formal literacies that are pathways to academic gain, economic empowerment and social engagement for our most vulnerable populations.

“It has been an incredible journey so far, but there is so much left to be done.”

Morrell is the author of more than 100 articles, research briefs and book chapters and 15 scholarly books, including “Educating Harlem: A Century of Schooling and Resistance in a Black Community” (Columbia, 2019), “Stories from Inequity to Justice in Literacy Education: Confronting Digital Divides” (Routledge, 2021), “New Directions in Teaching English: Reimagining Teaching, Teacher Education and Research” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) and “Critical Media Pedagogy: Teaching for Achievement in City Schools” (Teachers College Press, 2013), which was awarded Outstanding Academic Title by the American Library Association’s Choice magazine.

An elected member of the National Academy of Education and an elected fellow of the American Educational Research Association, Morrell has for the past decade been included in the Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, an annual listing published by Education Week that highlights academics who have the biggest impact on educational practice and policy.

“Election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is a remarkable honor, and it is wonderful to see Ernest Morrell receive this well-deserved recognition for his superb scholarship and innovative leadership in literacy education,” said John T. McGreevy, the Charles and Jill Fischer Provost at Notre Dame.

Since its founding during the American Revolution by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots, the academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the 20th.

Morrell is the 30th AAAS fellow elected from Notre Dame. Other Notre Dame fellows include Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.; R. Scott Appleby, the Marilyn Keough Dean of the Keough School of Global Affairs; Robert Audi, the John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy; Declan Kiberd, the Donald and Marilyn Keough Professor of Irish Studies; George Marsden, the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus; Dianne Pinderhughes, the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Professor of Africana Studies and Political Science; Jean Porter, the John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology; and James VanderKam, the John A. O’Brien Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Scriptures.