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Ponchatoula native Kati Morse, a pitcher on the university's successful softball team, is one of two student-athletes in the nation to be awarded the prestigious Jim McKay Scholarship offered by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Throughout her career, Southeastern senior softball student-athlete Kati Morse has pushed herself to succeed both on the diamond and in the classroom. That dedication has paid off: the Ponchatoula native is one of only two student-athletes in the nation to be awarded the prestigious Jim McKay Scholarship from the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
A communication major with a 3.70 cumulative grade point average, Morse is the only female student-athlete in the nation to receive the $10,000 scholarship and was chosen from a large group of qualified student-athletes from across the country. The president of the Southeastern Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, she will receive her bachelor's degree in May and will pursue a master's degree in organizational communication, while also working in the Southeastern Athletic Media Relations office.
In 2008, the NCAA established the Jim McKay Scholarship Program as a means of recognizing the immense contributions and legacy of pioneer sports journalist Jim McKay. Under this program, one male and one female student-athlete are annually awarded the scholarship in recognition of their outstanding academic achievement and their potential to make a major contribution in the sports communication industry.
Morse was able to catch the scholarship committee's eye with her application essay. Apprehensive about selling herself in a one-page essay when she wanted to write "at least 10 pages," Morse delivered a simple message.
"The theme of my essay was my love for Southeastern," Morse said. "During my time here, I've been proud to see the school grow both academically and athletically. It was important for me to be able to gain recognition for Southeastern and continue to be involved with my school that I love."
Morse starred at nearby Ponchatoula High School before enrolling at Southeastern, where she has been a key member of the Lady Lion pitching staff. This season, she has been one of the senior leaders of a squad that has reached 30 wins for the fourth time in school history and will play in its first Southland Conference Tournament since 2008.
"Kati will be remembered for many things other than her ability to compete," said Head Softball Coach Pete Langlois. "Her ability to lead during tough times is what makes her special. She could have easily turned in her glove for pursuit of academic success two seasons ago. Instead she made the commitment to our program, her teammates and our university. She will go down as one of the most competitive and well-rounded student-athletes to have competed in a Southeastern uniform. She has definitely left her mark on the program and there is no doubt she will continue to be a successful ambassador for Southeastern."
While Morse's love of sports has been a life-long affair, her interest in the media side of athletics has peaked more recently. Her experience working as a student assistant at the university's cable access television station, the Southeastern Channel, opened her eyes to what the future could hold.
"While working for the Channel for a year and a half, I fell in love with being on the sidelines," Morse said. "I had to think quickly and solve problems. The experience gave me the opportunity to familiarize myself with all of our sports programs.
"Mr. Rick Settoon (General Manager) had faith in me and gave me a spot on the anchor desk with no experience," Morse continued. "I'm so thankful that he trusted me based on my knowledge of sports and my eagerness to be on camera. He and Dr. Joe Mirando (Communication Professor) were both instrumental to my success in the classroom. Dr. Mirando taught my two most challenging courses, and he pushed me hard to succeed."
Morse's collegiate experience was enriched by her membership in the SAAC, and she assumed the duties of president as a senior. In addition to being able to share experiences with like-minded student-athletes from schools throughout the Southland Conference, she has spearheaded SAAC's involvement in several charitable endeavors.
Southeastern Assistant Athletic Director for Academic Services/Senior Woman Administrator Mary Kathryn Borland, who serves at the SAAC staff advisor, has been impressed with Morse during her tenure as SAAC president.
"It's a tremendous honor for Kati to be able to be the lone female student-athlete chosen among all the applicants throughout the nation," Borland said. "It speaks to the caliber of student-athlete she is. I've been very impressed with her as our SAAC president, as she has thrived in a leadership role and embraced the responsibility."
With her athletic career winding down and her undergraduate studies nearly complete, Morse is eager to face her next challenge and confident working for the Southeastern Athletic Media Relations office will be another opportunity for success.
"I love to write," Morse said. "Being involved with the Athletic Media Relations office gives me the unique opportunity to not only cover collegiate athletes, but also to write about my friends. I believe my experience as a student-athlete provides me with an advantage in sports media. I've lived what I'm writing about."