318 – 2024 Orange County Inspirational Women: Forum and Leadership Awards


Dr. Sandie Morgan is joined by the Ending Human Trafficking Podcast intern, Nadia Sosa, as the two discuss Dr. Sandie Morgan’s new award.

Dr. Sandie Morgan

Dr. Sandie Morgan is recognized globally for her expertise on combating human trafficking and working to end violence against women. She is the director of the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University in Southern California.

She is passionate about the role of education in fighting human trafficking. She launched a 12-unit Anti-Human Trafficking Certificate that is totally online.

She believes everyone can do something. But first, they need to study the issue.  Then they can be a voice and make a difference.

Key Points

  • As an educator, it’s important to ask questions and incorporate student voices in important conversation to better equip them to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference.
  • A global context, the intersection of different dimensions across society, is essential when addressing issues in education.
  • When a community is safer for women and girls, the rest of that community is safer and bettered.
  • It is Dr. Morgan’s goal as an educator, that students learn principles of human dignity, to grow communities where exploitation and human trafficking cannot exist.
  • The theme of women supporting women is important for the next generation of girls, as the nominees, finalists, and awardees of this year’s Orange County Inspirational Women awards aim to build a future that will support and inspire the next generation of women.



Nadia Sosa 0:14
Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking Podcast. This is Episode #318. I’m Nadia Sosa. I’m the podcast intern and I major in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing, and a minor in Journalism.

Sandra Morgan 0:28
My name is Dr. Sandie Morgan and I’m the director of Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice. And it’s so exciting to have my intern being the interviewer today so thank you, Nadia.

Nadia Sosa 0:46
Thank you, Dr. Morgan. Today, we’re going to be talking about Dr. Morgan’s new award, the 2024 Orange County Inspirational Women Forum and Leadership Awards for Education and Government. So to start off, Dr. Morgan, I just wanted to ask you, what has been your reaction to winning this award and how do you think that it’s recently affected the way that you interact in the sphere of education?

Sandra Morgan 1:12
First of all, I was delighted that there was a category for Women of Inspiration in Education and Government. I sometimes feel like I’m so behind the scenes and my job, my passion, I feel compelled, is to equip the next generation in combating human trafficking and reducing violence against women. So I was delighted to hear that this was a focus. The day of the lunch I showed up, because I always show up to be a voice and to represent what we do at the Global Center, and to represent the issues that women and girls face. So when they actually called my name, I was stunned. I stopped and then I went into, “Oh, I need to go up there and say something to represent the women and the girls that I work on behalf of.”

Nadia Sosa 2:25
That’s wonderful to hear that they’re always on the forefront of your mind and that’s who you’re always keeping in mind and taking into consideration even when you’ve won such a big award. That’s wonderful to hear, especially as a student knowing that someone who has educated me really cares about what you’re doing. And then just piggybacking off of that, how do you think that being an educator helped you with your work in other spheres, like your work in the anti-human trafficking movement and in faith based organizations?

Sandra Morgan 2:54
I believe that being an educator gives me two advantages. First of all, it’s my job to ask questions. It’s my job to research and to look for, not just data, but what does that data represent? How can I make an impact to change trends that marginalize women, change trends of violence against girls and women? And so that job of research equips me to ask questions, and when you ask questions, people are very willing to give you their opinions. They may not always be right, but they will give you their opinions and you can begin to put together a better understanding in the context of the community and the culture. Then my second reason is because when students are part of the conversation and they learn to practice curiosity, and not jump to conclusions, not read the latest meme on Instagram and go from there, but really to study the issues, it’s what we talk about in this podcast. Study the issues so that you can be a voice and make a difference.

Nadia Sosa 4:26
Do you think that all of the different realms of your career intersect at all? And if so, how has that helped you to be a better educator and a better role model, spokesperson in the movement, as well as in the classroom and in the church?

Sandra Morgan 4:43
I think part of my gift to my students is my experience and you don’t get the kind of experience I have without having, let’s say passed a lot of birthdays. So I’ve been a nurse, I ran an operating room, I was a pediatric night charge nurse, so I have those experiences. I’ve literally been an editor for a Greek language magazine, I’ve had the opportunity to work in the public sector as a task force administrator, all of this before becoming the director of the Global Center for Women and Justice. When addressing issues around education, in the context of a center like this where our more formal mission is, “Research, Education, Advocacy, and Collaboration to Build Hope,” to do that requires a context that is more global. And by global I don’t mean the whole world, I mean global in the intersection in different dimensions across our society. With the experiences working in healthcare, then I have the opportunity to draw from that expertise, experience, and my network of other health care providers. Having worked in the faith community, that spirituality is an aspect in aftercare for victims over and over, I see that, and I’m able to bring that as well. And then, of course, I love teaching, it’s been my passion my whole life, and asking student questions, and helping guide them along their journey of discovery. I don’t really like multiple choice tests. I don’t like just verbatim answers. I want to give you a case study, I want to give you a scenario, and I want you to figure it out. Because honestly, you and your generation, Nadia, you’re the ones who are going to take us across the line to end human trafficking.

Nadia Sosa 7:22
That’s great, and it’s great to have seen that in the classroom from you. It’s great to have been in the classroom and instead of being given a multiple choice test, I was given these very important questions that prompted me to think about how I play a role in this world and how I play a role in the movement, and it’s just great to have seen that. And I know you were talking about how you started off as a nurse and that’s kind of how you were introduced to the whole world of human trafficking and ending it, but at what point did you realize that you were being called to be an educator? At what point did you know that that was your passion, that’s what you really wanted to do, among all the other things that you do and all the other things that you have succeeded in, when did you know that you wanted to be an educator and it was your life’s calling?

Sandra Morgan 8:07
Oh my goodness, no one’s ever asked me that before. If you talked to my family, they would probably say something about how I would set school up at home. That was one of my ideas of playing.

Nadia Sosa 8:27
Instead of playing house, you played school.

Sandra Morgan 8:30
I played school. I was never very good at sports. I have issues with one of my eyes, that means I don’t have depth perception. So nobody ever picked me first for softball team because I can’t catch the ball. I studied piano because my mom wanted me to be a pianist, and my hands never got big enough to do an octave. Then my piano career ended at level five at the College of Music in London, I studied under a British piano teacher. So I often felt like I wasn’t very good at anything. But when I became an operating room nurse, I had an experience that changed my life. I was scrubbed in on a case where it was esophageal cancer. The patient was 43 years old, he had three children, and I was with one of my favorite doctor/surgeon teams. And we’re having a great time, we get the report back from lab that the margins are clear, and then we start to sew him back up. The anesthesiologist says “stop” because we put these great big retractors in. They actually look like the end of a hoe, and you have two of them. So we had to take them out and pause while he got the patient back into normal sinus rhythm. And then we put them back in and pulled it so he could sew, and “stop, stop.” Well, three times of this, the surgeon stopped, and he literally reached over on the surgical tray and he picked up my gloved hand, and he goes, “I think this will be just right.” He sent me around to the other side and you know, I have small hands and you know, I’m vertically challenged. They brought my stool around and then the surgeon took my hand, slipped it down into the wound, and put this man’s heart in my hand. Hearing it go “kerplump, kerplump, kerplump,” as he pushed it off to the side and began to sew the esophagus back together. And when we were done, he pulled my hand back and the man’s heart never had a problem fluttering. We finished the case, I can never remember being so in awe of how the human body is created. But what I understood that day, holding a person’s heart in my hand, is that I was not a good fit for softball, or piano, or a lot of other things, but I was exactly what was needed right then. And I think that we often focus so much on achievement when all we need to be is ready to fill our purpose right where we are, and right now, my purpose is to pass on to you and other students, the things I’ve learned about being proactive in preventing violence, being part of a community that creates safety for our children, and also in advancing the status of women globally so that they are empowered to take care of themselves and not become dependent on other countries coming to their rescue. We can do that. And every single person, every student I have, I see as being just the right hand to hold the piece of the puzzle that God gives them.

Nadia Sosa 12:47
That is such a beautiful way to look at things, to grow and see that you are the right fit for the perfect thing that God made you for. And you were talking about how you felt like you weren’t good enough for so long, and like you weren’t the first pick for so many things that you thought you had to do, things that were being imposed on you. I feel like that is such a universal experience as girls, as young girls, we feel like we are just not good enough. We’re never going to fit in the way that we’re supposed to, we’re never going to look the right way, we’re never going to say the right thing. You were talking about your mom and I wanted to know, how do you think that the presence of women in your life, and not just your mother, but everyone in the community that surrounds you, specifically women, how do you think that helped you find your purpose, helped you figure out that you were perfectly made for the work that you do, that you were perfectly made in the image of God? How do you think that the presence of women in your life helped you figure that out?

Sandra Morgan 13:48
Oh my goodness. People ask, “Have you ever had a mentor?,” in small groups and things like that, and sometimes people will be, “Well, maybe one.” It’s like, my life is full of mentors. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Loomis, she changed my life because, I know you’re not going to believe this Nadia, but I have terrible penmanship, and it has never been good. And in second grade, at open house, my mother said, “Oh, my goodness, look at your penmanship,” and Mrs. Loomis said, “Oh, don’t worry. She has so much to write that her brain processes faster than her hand.” She just made me feel like I was just right. That kind of mentorship that recognizes and values who you are, where you are right now, has been part of my journey and I look to other women for that kind of affirmation. When I came to Vanguard University The founders of this Center, Dr. Elizabeth Leonard and Dr. Sherry Benvenuti, they were both my mentors in different spaces, and they saw something in me. They didn’t just say, “Oh, you’re just doing so great,” that’s kind of like a cheerleader and they leave after the game is over. They said, “You do this,” and they cited what it was, “really well.” They asked me questions, and they empowered me to be the one to go find the answer and bring it back to them. It wasn’t a question that they knew the answer to and they were just checking to see if I could find the answer, they valued what I brought back, and I want my students to do research with me. We’re teaching the Women and Justice research class this semester. I love that class because when you do Women and Justice research, the whole community is better. Because when it’s better and safer for women and girls, it’s better for men and boys as well.

Nadia Sosa 16:11
So you talked about all the women that have helped shape you, your second grade teacher. What do you think is the importance of seeing women in the education field, in the world of academia? How do you think that that impacts our generation and young girls, to know that we can one day be someone like you, someone who is influential and wins these awards, someone who, at the bottom line, over everything, even after winning the awards and succeeding in so many spheres, still keeps true to yourself and true to what you believe is good and the fight that you’re fighting? How do you think that that impacts girls, to see women like you being our educators?

Sandra Morgan 16:59
We have so much research that shows that if you see another woman doing something as a girl growing up, you can envision being that same person. When girls grow up, never seen girls, women, doing those things like being an astronaut, or a physicist, or a construction worker, then it’s less likely they’re going to think they can do it. I think modeling that has become a force multiplier of creating opportunity for young women as they enter their careers, their family development, all of those things, but they need to see someone else has been there, and there has to be a pioneer. And it’s always interesting for me because each generation that comes to sit in my freshman class has ideas about how we got to where we are here, in Southern California. I like to ask if women have always had the vote and people go, “Oh, yeah, sure!,” and we didn’t get the vote until 1920. We couldn’t take out a credit card until 1974.

Nadia Sosa 18:26
Today is the 50 year anniversary of being able to have a credit card without a man’s signature, your husband’s signature on it.

Sandra Morgan 18:35
Yeah, your husband or your father, which is, oh my goodness, so limiting, right? So all of these things are not to be taken for granted, and going back to the Global Center for Women and Justice from a geographical perspective, we have an opportunity to use our influence to inspire women in other places. I think one of the things that I pointed out at the event is how much I really like the title of this award, “Women of Inspiration,” because it has the sense of breathing life into those around you. It reminded me of going camping with my dad. My dad influenced my life a lot and camping with him, he would often say how you have to learn to go gently and to start a fire, you couldn’t be in a hurry. You couldn’t blow on it hard, you had to blow very gently. And that sense of starting a fire by gently blowing until it catches flame, that’s what I look for every semester in the students sitting in the chairs in my classroom. I don’t want to bowl them over with facts, I don’t want to force them to a conclusion I’ve drawn, I want to inspire them and ignite their own passion and commitment to making a difference.

Nadia Sosa 20:29
I love that analogy so much. I can remember being a freshman sitting in the classroom where you were teaching, and just knowing that I was being poured into. I was scooped up by you and everyone here, the community here at the Global Center, and you guys tied in all the skills that I have, all of the passions that I have, for this perfect role that I play, that I feel like I’m perfect for, and I feel like I love my internship. You guys just scooped me up and fostered all these skills that I already had so that I could help the Global Center, even if behind the scenes, but at the end of the day, know that I was making a difference somehow, that somewhere, somebody was listening to these episodes. Even though I just typed up the transcript, and I just hyperlinked the resources, somebody could click on that and have help, somebody could read what I typed up, who maybe couldn’t hear it, and understand how important the movement is. So it’s just great to hear that, and along those same lines, how do you as an educator hope to inspire students? How do you hope that you have inspired students?

Sandra Morgan 21:40
I think I want to be a catalyst to make them uncomfortable. I want young men to be uncomfortable enough that they will look a little further to the impact of some of the things they may take for granted. I want young women to feel uncomfortable with the status quo. Yes, things are much better than they were 50 years ago, when you had to have your husband or your father signed for you to get a credit card, but they’re not all there yet. And when women are not represented at the table, then we’re missing half of the whole. It takes men and women doing this together and I think there’s lots of research that shows when women are at the table, that treaties are more durable, that city councils make more decisions that support family. And when the families are supported, the community is stronger. There’s also a thing in finance that’s called ‘The Girl Effect.’ And when you educate girls, you get a slightly higher return on investment. That’s not to put the boys down, but boys often have more freedom to leave the community and go off on adventures, seeking their next big thing where girls are often expected to stay close to home. That’s beginning to change a little bit, so it’ll be interesting, by the time you’re a professor, Nadia, you may be researching ‘The Boy Effect,’ we’ll see. Things are not static and I want my students to learn principles of human dignity, and how we as a community can protect each other and grow communities where violence isn’t tolerated, where exploitation and human trafficking cannot exist.

Nadia Sosa 24:01
I love that you touched on that. Because even though here we’ve grown so much, and we’ve seen so much change within our community and society here, you’re looking past that, we’re all looking past that, at not just ourselves. We’re not just focusing on ourselves, but around the globe. How all women are affected, how all people are affected by these systems that are in place. And even then, there is still so much to do even here, in our own houses, in our own communities, there’s so much to do, so much growth left. But we don’t just look at ourselves. We’re looking, at the bigger picture and I think that’s really important.

Sandra Morgan 24:40
So one of the things that people say to me, like every year we do the Fairtrade Fashion Show, and we always promote using the Sweat and Toil app to check to see if children or adults are being enslaved, are being labor trafficked so we can have things like cheap chocolate. But people will say to me, “Well, how many chocolate bars do you eat? How much of a difference will that make?” And I understand that, but there are two other aspects. It’s not just the amount of chocolate, does it change the justice scales, it’s more about a way that we see each other around the world, as human beings. I want your generation, I want the kids in middle school and the kids in primary grades, to develop an empathy that understands that their choices at the grocery store in very affluent Southern California, impact children on the West Coast of Africa. If we don’t have that kind of empathy, then our world will not change, because we’ll all be just taking care of our own little backyard.

Nadia Sosa 26:08
Yeah, and I think that so many people, they use their head instead of their heart, and that’s always important as well, but it starts in the heart. It always starts in our heart. We have to feel that empathy and we have to feel in our hearts, humans, other people just like me somewhere, are being affected by this choice that I’m making, and then in turn, use their head, to make a different choice, to change their choices, to change the way that they think. But it always starts in our hearts, and it’s that little seed that’s planted in there of empathy that can grow and it will spread to our minds, and our choices will then be better. And we’ll make different choices, better choices that help all of us. This award, it’s about women supporting women, and I just wanted to ask you, what does that mean to you? What does women supporting women mean to you in terms of your career, the trafficking movement, and your everyday life, what does that mean to you?

Sandra Morgan 27:03
It’s one of the reasons I really loved receiving this award, because it was led by women, the panels were women, some of them my good friends and peers. Having them cheering me on, a friend nominated me and screamed louder than anybody else when my name was called, and I just have so much gratitude for having women in a community that actually support each other, we are doing this together. Afterwards, some of the other nominees, finalists, awardees, came to shake my hand to congratulate me, to find out how we can network and be together, and how can we support the next generation of girls going into technology, or business, all these different areas. Everyone there was about building a future that will support women inspiring the next generation of women.

Nadia Sosa 28:16
Well, congratulations, Dr. Morgan. As someone who came into Vanguard as a girl, and I feel like now maybe I’m a woman, maybe I’m still a girl. I think we’re always girls. But as someone who experienced your teaching firsthand, I just want to say congratulations, you deserve it and you’ve inspired so many people, and you’ve impacted so many people, and you’ve always stayed humble and kind. You always keep the mission on the forefront of your mind and I think that that’s so important as an educator. So I just want to personally thank you and congratulate you. Thank you for having me on the show and letting me interview you and bringing me forward from out of my little curtain behind the scenes. It’s been so great and so fun to ask you these questions, and get a little inside scoop.

Sandra Morgan 29:02
Oh my goodness, what a delight for me and an unusual experience to be interviewed by you. I do want to say thank you and make a shout out to the LA Times Orange County team that brought this award to Vanguard and the Global Center for Women and Justice, and me as the leader. I just think it is a way to amplify our footprint, our message, our voice, as we grow our efforts to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference where we are and beyond.

Nadia Sosa 29:42
Thank you so much for tuning in today. If you have enjoyed this interview, go over to endinghumantrafficking.org where you can find a library of past episodes, resources, and get more connected in our community.

Sandra Morgan 29:54
And if you’re not already a subscriber, subscribe to get the bi-weekly newsletter that lets you know a new episode has dropped and there are resources on the website. So Nadia, I guess I’ll see you back in the editing room and for everybody else, tune in again in two weeks.

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