At BYU’s Commencement exercises this month, Michael Morgan will represent the graduates as the student speaker. Like his fellow classmates, Morgan, who is earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy with a minor in business management, has accomplished a lot during his time at BYU.
Michael Morgan recently defended his honors thesis, “A defense of mandatory HIV testing of pregnant women in Uganda: A qualitative study with moral considerations.” After returning from his mission in El Salvador Santa Ana, he started volunteering at Camp Kesem, a camp for kids whose parents have cancer. Morgan is a research and teaching assistant in the Philosophy Department under Dr. Daniel Graham. He interned at the Utah Office of the Attorney General and authored an article, “Rethinking the Legal Definition of Privacy,” published in the BYU Prelaw Review in 2016. Leading up to graduation, Morgan was involved in BYU’s mentored research program in Uganda where he designed his own research project and analyzed qualitative data. Morgan is a member of Phi Kappa Phi & Golden Key International Honors Societies and is a recipient of multiple scholarships, including the Brigham Young Full Academic Scholarship and the Excellence in Philosophy Heritage Scholarship.
University Communications’ intern Kristine Hoyt recently talked with Morgan to discuss his BYU experience and what advice he’d give other students.
Kristine Hoyt: You’ve been involved in several societies, classes, research and volunteer opportunities during your time at BYU. What motivates you?
Michael Morgan: I believe I have something unique I can offer to society — something that nobody else can. I am sure this is true of everybody. My involvement in classes, research and volunteer opportunities have been my attempt to both find out what it is I can offer and to prepare myself to contribute to society after I leave BYU.
KH: You researched HIV testing of pregnant women in Uganda for your honor’s thesis. What led you to pursue this subject?
MM: One of my favorite topics in philosophy is applied ethics. So when I had the opportunity to travel to Uganda on one of BYU’s mentored research programs, I knew I wanted to research something that was pertinent and controversial. I chose HIV testing because the government of Uganda had recently changed its testing policies from voluntary testing of pregnant women and their spouses to mandatory testing. I learned that a number of influential human rights groups were highly critical of the change. After learning about the issue, I realized that I wanted to study and contribute to this debate.
KH: You volunteer in several different positions: at Camp Kesem, and as an EMT. How has volunteering helped you, even though it must have been difficult to fit everything into your schedule?
MM: When I tell people why I volunteer, I tell them that it makes me happy. It really does. At the same time, I have to admit, there are nights that I come home from school and my volunteer work feeling very tired and even frustrated. So how does it make me happy? For me, even when I am exhausted from volunteering, I take comfort in knowing that the price I am paying is meaningful. It saddens me to see people stop volunteering when it becomes inconvenient or difficult. If people keep volunteering through these rough times, they will find that their work becomes even more significant.
KH: Looking back on your BYU experience, what advice would you give to students still working toward graduation?
MM: Go volunteer! Yes, it can be exhausting, but my experience at BYU improved dramatically once I started volunteering (and I didn’t even know it needed improvement). Volunteering has many benefits: it looks good on a resume — regardless of one’s career plans — it will probably increase one’s self-esteem and the friends one makes while volunteering are the type of people who think outside of themselves, are empathetic and inspire others to be better. And of course, volunteering makes the world a better place. So go volunteer!
KH: Between your major, minor, volunteer work and Honors thesis what do you plan to do with your BYU education?
MM: Upon graduation, I will be a client manager for Mighty Penguin Consulting. Mighty Penguin is a Utah-based consulting firm that helps non-profit organizations in strategy development. Really, I owe landing this job to both the experience I had and the connections I made while volunteering. However, after working for a few years, my goal is to attend law school. Law is fascinating and it affects every aspect of our lives. I hope to use a law degree to benefit non-profits.