A round of applause and cheers erupt from a class of second graders as their physical education teacher lets them know that a familiar visitor is joining them for class: Miss Morgahn, better known at UT as Morgahn Fingall, star volleyball player and public health master’s student.
As she’s done for more than three years, Fingall is volunteering at Knoxville’s Lonsdale Elementary School. For an hour, she runs around the gym playing variations of the game tag and throwing colorful scarves into the air. The children gaze up at her with admiration and wide smiles.
They form a human tunnel by standing in two lines and holding hands with the person across from them. They cheer, “Morgahn! Morgahn! Morgahn!” And their six-foot-one playmate folds herself in half to run through.
“This is the best place ever,” Fingall says of Lonsdale. “Miss [Julie] Lowe is such an awesome PE teacher—she supports the students and encourages them, and I just wanted to be a part of that.”
Health and wellness have always been important to Fingall, and she knows firsthand that providing young people with inspiration can influence their future. When she was a child, her father motivated her to be active and taught her the benefits of doing so—stress release, prolonged health, positivity.
It’s no surprise that she became an athlete, and as a Lady Vol volleyball player, Fingall has earned a plethora of awards and recognitions. Last season, she earned All-American recognition from the Volleyball Coaches Association, led the SEC in kills and points per set, and was named to the 2022 SEC Community Service Team. Already this season, she was named to the 2023 Preseason Volleyball All-SEC Team and has been named AVCA National Player of the Week and SEC Player and Offensive Player of the Week. In October, the Lady Vols broke into the AVCA top 10 ranking for the first time since 2005.
Fingall says her upbringing also inspired her studies. As an undergraduate she studied kinesiology and now, as a master’s student, she is pursuing public health with a concentration in community health education.
“My decision to go into community health education really came from the idea of wanting to teach people about health and wellness,” Fingall says. “I want to be able to reach communities on a personal level.”
After graduation, Fingall’s goal is to play professional volleyball and work with a nonprofit that serves children.
“I want to work with a nonprofit that uses sport as a mechanism for social change,” she says. “I want to align that with teaching children about nutrition.”
Fingall explains that sport is like a common language. When a group of people come together to play, they don’t have to speak the same language or even be from the same country. The sport allows them to communicate through the enjoyment of the same activity and to connect with each other to achieve a common goal.
“Long term, children who are more exposed to healthy eating and healthy habits—whether they are modeled by their parents or teachers—are more likely to carry those on throughout the rest of their lives,” Fingall says. “I’m an example of that. It definitely was important to my parents.”
Fingall’s childhood inspired who she is today and the passion she has for her future career. And now she’s inspiring the next generation.