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Large group of students celebrating graduation, Winter 2018

Ayanna Morrison

Ayanna Morrison smiling
Financial Support Specialist

Student Involvement


Morrison Cheers on with Behind-the-Scenes Award Recognition

By Wyatt Crosher, Assistant Director of Communications for Student Affairs


If being a cheerleader involves stepping up, working together as a team and supporting one another, Ayanna Morrison is UNC Charlotte’s head cheerleader when it comes to student and staff support.

Morrison is the financial support specialist for Student Involvement, and has worked at the University for nearly a quarter century. She’s also been cheering on Charlotte, both within her work and as an advisor for the University’s Cheer Nation student group since 2010. But her start on a student affairs path was not pre-planned.

Before 24 years at Charlotte, Morrison graduated with a bachelor’s in communication arts from Barber Scotia College. Her intention at the time was to become a news anchor, as Morrison believed she “had the demeanor and the voice” for the role. But after an internship experience in that field, she expanded her horizons.

Morrison first entered the higher education world at Johnson C. Smith University, working primarily as a cheerleading coach. It was the experience in that role that ultimately led her to Charlotte.

“That’s how I ended up in the financial area, because that's what I was doing for Johnson C. Smith,” Morrison said. “I was doing all the contracting for athletics, so when I saw a position open here, I applied, and I've been here since."

Leading "Behind the Scenes"

Morrison works closely with anything money-related within student activities. She said 95 percent of her day-to-day duties involve working with students, whether it be through processing grants for student orgs, helping the Campus Activities Board or anything in between.

Last spring, Morrison was honored for her efforts with the Behind the Scenes Award, given to a full-time staff member who works for the good of the department and University and, while not being publicly celebrated, demonstrates meaningful impact through dedication and service.

In the nomination, Morrison was highlighted for always going the extra mile in her work, constantly offering her time and energy to help students succeed.

“Ayanna has worked tirelessly behind the scenes for many years at UNC Charlotte, supporting student leaders, student organizations and the Student Engagement and Student Involvement departments,” the nomination said. “Just looking at sheer numbers alone, Ayanna has helped thousands of student organizations use millions of dollars to plan and implement countless programs at Charlotte.”

Earning the award was exciting for Morrison, and it showed her that colleagues are more aware of the impact she’s had on students at the University than she knew previously.

“When I read the whole entry that was submitted, I was grateful and thought 'Oh, people do see what I'm doing,'” Morrison said. “Winning the award wasn't expected, and that made it really special. I'm the person that the student will come in, close the door and fall out in a ball on the floor crying. It felt great to be recognized that for so many years, I've really poured into a lot of students here. I'm still watching them grow.”

A Life of Cheering

Ever since, and even before Morrison ever arrived at Charlotte, there has been one constant passion in her life: cheerleading.

Morrison coached cheer at Independence High School when she was only 21. Two years later, she was doing the same at Johnson C. Smith. At the University, she’s advised Cheer Nation, a stomp-and-shake style cheerleading group, for the past 14 years.

“It's one of the reasons I'm here as well,” Morrison said of Cheer Nation. “I'm like a mother to all of them, and it's really fun that I get to see them grow and get to be close to them and find out what their goals and aspirations are while helping guide them through this University process.”

Cheerleading has always been important in Morrison’s life, from when she cheered growing up to coaching the sport and, now, getting to root on her two daughters who both did competitive dance and cheer. It’s the blend of athleticism, creativity and the ability to express yourself that makes cheerleading stand out for her.

“You get to be athletic, but you still get to be girly sometimes,” Morrison said. “It's just been something that I loved from the beginning. The creative part of it, the routine, getting something right and watching it all come together. I'm super super passionate about it, so I'm happy that I get to do this as part of my job. It's always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember."

When looking back at her time at Charlotte, Morrison said so much has changed. For starters, within her position, working with finances has become much more streamlined with a lot less paper involved. But she also has enjoyed seeing the campus continue to grow, as well as the students walking within it.

But what hasn’t changed for Morrison is her passion, both for the work she does and for the people she’s working with.

"I feel like it's family. I don't dread it when I have to get in the car and come to work,” Morrison said. “That, and the student body and being able to work with the students. We have some really awesome students here with all different types of talents. That's what keeps me here.”