Amanda Morris: an extra(ordinary) academic in ECP who is ‘creating a space in the world for the student to flourish’

In our second installment of the (extra)ordinary academic in ECP series, we profile Amanda Morris, currently a lecturer in the Design Foundation and previously ECP coordinator for the Graphic Design Foundation. Recently we caught up with Amanda and learnt more about her deep passion for design education, love for teaching and commitment to improving the learning experiences of all students who step over the threshold of her classroom door.

Amanda is a true example of the institution growing its own timber. She completed her Graphic Design diploma at Peninsula Technikon, one of the pre-merger institutions that became CPUT in 2005. Her passion for teaching developed early, when after just a year in industry she decided to quit her job, pursue her BTech degree and jumped into the world of education. She was so enthusiastic to join the ranks that she initially worked ‘for free’ – doing observations and acting as a teaching assistant in the Graphic Design classrooms at Pentech. She then started teaching part-time on a certificate course which was to become the pre-cursor to the ECP in the department. She then went on to join the lecturing team in the Foundation Year on the Bellville campus. Between 2014 – 2017 Amanda took on the role of ECP coordinator in Graphic Design and in 2018 the new joint Design Foundation was implemented on the Cape Town campus.

It is no surprise, given Amanda’s interest in design education, that her MTech degree focused on this topic and specifically the learning preferences of students and how multimodality shaped the teaching and learning setting. Amanda finds that the start of each new year, with its new cohort of students brings a flood of possibilities, excitement and enjoyment; as she is able to share in her students’ experiences of exploring the field of design – a field which without ECP they might not otherwise have had access to. She sees her role as primarily linked to helping students find their sense of identity in  finding out what it is like to be a designer. But this does not diminish the continued frustrations she has that the ECP project is still misunderstood in the wider departmental and institutional community. Or the lack of follow-through and uptake of ECP pedagogies, principles and work ethic into the mainstream. All too often ECP resources are still not fully utilized to accord the all-important access and there isn’t always clarity about what the ECP learning experience should be like for students.

A lot more could also be done to appropriately assist ECP academics to fully realise the role, principles and ethos of the project – with Amanda asserting that a distinction must be drawn between students either being ‘underprepared’ for university study or ‘unsure’ about their chose of study. She insists ECP should not be treated as a ‘waiting room’. She also believes that the next frontier for ECP should be around creating meaningful access and support for students with disabilities. Hard questions also need to be asked about the extent of support (academic and others) that the ECP can or cannot provide.

Amanda’s social justice principles associated with her ECP location, easily crosses-over to her after hours’ activities, where in addition to being an active mother of three young children, she is involved in community and fellowship work on the Cape Flats. She also finds time to feed her graphic designer-self and frequently undertakes part-time design work.