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Photo from Leo Charney

Jane Coyle Morris will take over as executive director of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships,  Provost Wendell Pritchett and Vice Provost for Education Beth Winkelstein announced this month. 

Morris has led several undergraduate research centers at other top universities. She is currently executive director of the Office of Undergraduate Scholars and Fellows at Duke University, and she previously led Villanova University's undergraduate research center.

Morris will replace Harriet Joseph, who served as CURF's executive director from 2008 until her retirement in 2018. Ann Vernon-Grey, associate director for undergraduate research at CURF, will serve as acting director until Morris assumes the position on June 17.

CURF runs various programs to promote undergraduate research and help students apply for grants and fellowships. CURF also oversees the Benjamin Franklin Scholars and University Scholars programs, the President's Engagement Prize, and the President's Innovation Prize. 

As she begins her new role soon, Morris said she is excited to work with other groups on campus to better serve students.

"There are so many departments and centers that are really invested in this process with the students, particularly with undergraduate research but then even more broadly with nationally competitive scholarships," she said. "I met some really wonderful people and I'm really looking forward to developing strong partnerships." 

Specifically, Morris said she hopes to reach a more diverse group of students by collaborating with the cultural centers and creating programs for freshmen and sophomores.

“We are very fortunate to bring to Penn one of the country’s most innovative leaders in student research and scholarships,” Pritchett wrote in the Jan. 8 announcement. “Jane Morris has consistently brought vision, creativity, and a collaborative spirit to her work. She will help us further advance the crucial roles of undergraduate research and life-changing scholarship opportunities for our students.” 

Morris received a bachelor's degree in biology from Villanova University and a master's in biology from Bryn Mawr College. She has also worked as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry and taught biology at Villanova.

"I really believe that research is such an important part of the academic program," Morris said. "You learn differently during research than you do sitting in the classroom, and I think it enhances the liberal academic experience."