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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Commencement 2014: Leading international scholar to address students at URI's Graduate Commencement Ceremony, May 17

Media Contact: Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 1, 2014 – More than 700 students at the University of Rhode Island will receive their master’s or doctoral degrees at the Graduate Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 17 at the Thomas M. Ryan Center on the Kingston Campus.

During the ceremony they will also receive insights into the state of graduate education worldwide from J. Kent Morrison, past-president of Walden University, Minneapolis, Minn. and former dean of URI's Graduate School. Morrison had served at URI from 1989-1995 before being named vice president for Academic Affairs at Walden University. In 1998 he became Walden's fifth president and subsequently served as their chancellor from 2002-2004.

During his eight-year tenure at Walden, the school initiated the first accredited online master's and doctoral degrees in the country, brought more than a dozen new academic and professional degrees online, and gained professional association accreditation for its existing and new degree programs. When he left, the university had tripled its enrollment and enlarged its faculty fourfold.

Morrison's specialized research interest is in Chinese politics and political thought, and he spent about 20 years researching, writing and teaching Chinese politics and foreign policy at a number of universities and research institutes.

Before joining URI, Morrison had been a consultant in a variety of academic, public and private sector capacities on matters related to Chinese trade, foreign policy, domestic politics and economics, foreign investment, graduate education and research in the People's Republic, and formal partnerships between Chinese educational and research institutions and Western counterparts.

Earlier in his career, Morrison had received both National Science Foundation and Social Science Research Council fellowships for research in China. In 1983, as a Senior Fulbright Professor, he became the first American social scientist to serve on the faculty of a key university in that country since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.

A native of Minnesota, Morrison received a Bachelor's degree in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia, Master's degree in history from Eastern New Mexico University and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Washington. Following his college graduation he served for three years with the U.S. Air Force.

He and his wife, Karen, now live in Whidbey Island, Washington.