Serendipitous Path Opens Doors to an Education at Penn

Jason Morgan held a variety of jobs through his 30s, but it was a job lay-off during the economic downturn that led him to the University of Pennsylvania

In 2009, Morgan lost his job as a wedding photographer but soon found a job as a clerk at a restaurant on the Penn campus.

That’s when Morgan learned that Van Pelt Library had public computers that he could use to search the Internet and to pursue his hobby of writing. 

Over a four-month period, Morgan crafted a novel about a crime committed in New York City.

“I sent out the unedited, raw, 128,000 word novel to agents in New York City,” says Morgan. “There were a lot of things I didn’t know. I was just writing to be writing.”

After getting many rejection letters back from agents, Morgan decided that he would like to develop his skills by taking classes at Penn.

Morgan, who was in his late 30s at the time, had never taken college courses. He contacted Penn’s Admissions Office to inquire about the application process and was directed to the College of Liberal and Professional Studies. Housed in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences, LPS is geared to students older than 21 who want to work toward college degrees.

An advisor at LPS told Morgan about the Honors Program at Community College of Philadelphia, which offers students an intense and intellectually challenging academic program to prepare them to transfer to a university.

“In the spring of 2010, I enrolled in CCP, but I was so unsharpened,” says Morgan. “A lot of stuff I learned in high school, I had forgotten. I didn’t even place into college level reading or writing.”

After taking some refresher courses, he was enrolled in CCP’s Honors Program and was another step closer to applying to Penn. In the spring of 2012, he applied and was accepted to Penn’s LPS program. Morgan took his first class in the fall of 2012, studying English literature with an emphasis in creative writing. 

As an 18-year-old in the early 1990s, Morgan says, he just wasn’t ready to attend college, but, 20 years later, he was a Penn student.

“I’ve always had a thirst for learning,” says Morgan.  “When I came out of high school, I knew college wasn’t right for me at the time. I was too young, too immature.”

He says Penn has broadened his interests and opportunities.

“When I first started studying literature, it took me a while to be able to read something outside of crime novels,” says Morgan. “There’s a certain way that crime fiction follows. There’s a pattern, there’s a template that most crime fiction has, whereas Jane Eyre doesn’t. So, it took me a while to get adjusted to reading that type of high literature.”

A Dean’s Scholarship recipient, Morgan takes two courses in each of the fall, spring and summer semesters.

He participated in a two-year undergraduate internship program with the Philadelphia district attorney’s office and had the opportunity to learn about how crimes happen, how crimes are solved and prosecuted, which has served as inspiration for his crime novels.

“I took a lot of notes while I was there,” Morgan says. 

Morgan has had the opportunity to hone his writing skills in his classes and through Kelly Writers House at Penn. 

Using the resources at Career Services, he recently found a job with an insurance company. 

Morgan is on track to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in May of 2016. He isn’t sure what career path he’ll take but says he definitely wants to continue writing.

“I’m just going to enjoy myself,” says Morgan. “And learn as much as possible and go with the flow.”

Morgan has submitted some of his other fiction writing to several publications. Nothing has been published so far, but he’s sticking with it.

“Crime literature,” he says, “is something that I’ve been interested in and was raised on and it’s a passion of mine.”

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