University of Oklahoma IQC Director Selected for Place Based Justice Network’s BIPOC Leadership Collective

Vanessa Morrison, Associate Director of the Institute for Quality Communities, was recently selected for the 2023 cohort of the Place Based Justice Network’s BIPOC Leadership Collective. The Leadership Collective uplifts Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders who work with place-based community engagement efforts on their campuses and in their communities.  

The Place Based Justice Network (PBJN) is a learning community committed to transforming higher education and communities by deconstructing systems of oppression through place-based community engagement. PBJN defines place-based community engagement as a long-term university-wide commitment to partner with local residents, organizations, and other leaders to focus equally on on-campus and community impact within a defined area.  

PBJN believes that by focusing on place-based community engagement institutions will be able to more deeply examine how transformation and change occur on campus and in communities. This deeper examination will lead to analysis of how to address systems that disenfranchise people based on race, gender, class, national origin, and other personal and communal identifiers.  

Vanessa Morrison is currently the Associate Director of the Institute for Quality Communities, a community engagement program at the University of Oklahoma that partners with communities across the state of Oklahoma to address local challenges in the built environment. Vanessa also is the Chief Executive Officer of Open Design Collective, an Oklahoma City based non-profit organization that brings together underrepresented communities and the design and city planning resources necessary to promote social and spatial change.  

Shane Hampton, the Executive Director of the Institute for Quality Communities, said, “Vanessa moves at the speed of trust, and she knows how to create processes to build that foundation of trust. If there’s a long-time community goal that has struggled to get off the ground, Vanessa is a champion who can focus attention, energy, and talent that makes something finally happen- even if that seems like an uphill climb.” He continued, “Vanessa is also hyper-aware and reflective about the legacy of previous hard work by community members that paves the way for her efforts.” 

Vanessa Morrison and Deborah Richards of Open Design Collective

Vanessa describes herself as a social impact urban planner, a professional dedicated to supporting people’s ability to thrive while exploring how the built environment plays a role within those experiences. After receiving her Master’s Degree in Regional + City Planning from the University of Oklahoma, Vanessa’s professional and academic opportunities have allowed her to design and lead approaches to address equity challenges, coordinate community engagement opportunities for marginalized groups, domestically and internationally consult urban planning related projects, collaborate on planning initiatives, and activate both spatial and social environments. 

Vanessa is also experienced in developing and implementing engagement strategies that reach into multi-faceted communities, including Black communities, trauma exposed adults and families, business spaces, advocacy groups, state and local governments, and more. She recently coordinated a project with Open Design Collective called So8th: A Community Vision Report that worked with the primarily Black community in Northeastern Oklahoma City to develop a guide for the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority’s redevelopment efforts in the area.  

2023 PBJN BIPOC Leadership Collective

Vanessa was one of six fellows selected for the 2023 PBJN BIPOC Leadership Collective. The other members of the collective are academics and professionals from across the country that work with students and community members to enrich and improve campus and community experiences. They are leaders in community engagement, equity-based research, and social change initiatives. You can read more about the other selectees here

Vanessa will join the other fellows in multiple retreats and virtual meetings as well as receive individualized coaching and support from PBJN. The Place Based Justice Network aims for the BIPOC Leadership Collective to create opportunities for multiple diverse voices to co-construct a new paradigm for service-learning and community engagement that weaves epistemic justice together with existing critical theories and practices in the field.