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Mr. Burns studied Philosophy and hails from New Rochelle, NY, where he attended New Rochelle High School.

Why did you initially choose to attend Morehouse?

I chose to go to Morehouse College because it promised something wholly different than any other school that I applied to. Most schools’ claim to notoriety was on the basis of things like facilities, athletics, or solely academics. Morehouse, however, was different. It promised to foster holistic development and to prepare students to become leaders of their generations. Throughout my four years here, Morehouse has been steadfast, honest, and true in keeping this promise.

What has kept you at Morehouse?

For me, Morehouse has been the site of immense transformation. While here, I have cultivated my desire to become a more effective leader, and I have grown athletically, mentally, and spiritually. Morehouse has provided me the space to begin to tap into the breadth of my personhood — this has been an invaluable education.

Also, there is a distinct ethos of support at Morehouse. During my time here, I had a community of peers, professors, administrators, and staff members who were all invested in my holistic development. I cannot say how valuable this was, as prior to coming to Morehouse I felt invisible in academic spaces.”

Why did you choose to study Philosophy?

Relatively early on, I became interested in trying to better understand the nature of my existence. I appreciated how philosophical inquiry approached this pursuit by encouraging the production and criticism of arguments in a, particularly, structured way.

Studying philosophy at Morehouse was especially helpful; along with canonical theorists such as Plato, Kant, and Hegel, I had the added benefit of reading theorists such as Angela Davis, James Baldwin, and Cornel West in philosophy classes — all of whom provided me an enhanced access to the language that would help me better understand the unique features of my identity.

Outside of Philosophy, what have you spent time learning about?

As I studied philosophy, my major requirements were a bit more flexible compared to that of other majors. Resultantly, I was able to have a markedly interdisciplinary education. I studied Comparative Woman’s Studies. English, Political Science, Sociology, Religion, and Psychology. I particularly enjoyed taking classes in the English Department. Reading fiction allowed me to develop a more nuanced understanding of topics that philosophical arguments did not readily permit.

I also enjoyed classes in the Religion department. One of my favorite professors, Dr. Lawrence Edward Carter Sr., espoused a pragmatic code of ethics that was geared towards the transformation of socio-political realities. I think this revolutionary-oriented approach towards education was exactly what I came to Morehouse for. He demonstrated to me how my skills, passions, and interests, can be useful in confronting several of the world’s most pressing issues.


  • Philosophical Research at the Pre-Ph.D. Summer Research Experience Summer Enrichment Program (PPSEP) for Humanities and Social Sciences at Howard University.

Graduate School Acceptances

  • Harvard Divinity School

  • Yale Divinity School

  • The University of Chicago Divinity School


  • Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Experiences Abroad

  • Paris Study Abroad with Mass Media Arts Department at Clark Atlanta University

  • Israel Study Abroad with the Passages Program


  • 2016 Gibran Patterson Scholar

  • Mellon Mays Domestic Research Travel Grant Recipient

  • Mellon Mays International Research Travel Grant Recipient

Language Fluency

  • Working Proficiency in French

Academic Greek Organizations

  • Phi Beta Kappa

  • Phi Sigma Tau international Honor Society in Philosophy

Athletic Achievements

  • 2018 1st Team All-Conference Decathlon (Track and Field)

  • 2016 1st Team All-Conference Decathlon (Track and Field)

  • 2018 SIAC All-Academic Team (Track and Field)

  • 2017 SIAC All-Academic Team (Cross Country)

  • 2017 SIAC All-Academic Team (Track and Field)

  • 2018 All Division 2 Southeast Region (400m Hurdles)

  • 2018 All Division 2 Southeast Region (Decathlon)

  • 2018 All Division 2 South-East Region 4x400

Professional Programs

  • 2019 Academy of Preachers Inductee


  • Burns, J (March 2019). “Black French Invisibility.” Oral presentation at the 2019 Clark Atlanta University Research Symposium. Atlanta, GA.\  Burns, J (November 2018)

  • “Reconsidering Rawls: Examining Charles Mills’ and Tommie Shelby’s Critiques of Rawlsian Notions of Justice.” Oral presentation at the MMUF Southeast Regional Undergraduate Conference. Durham, DC.   Burns, J (June 2018). “Reconsidering Rawls: Examining Charles Mills’ and Tommie Shelby’s Critiques of Rawlsian Notions of Justice.” Oral presentation at The Howard University Pre-Ph.D. Summer Enrichment Program. In the Humanities and Social Sciences. Washington, DC.   Burns, J (November 2017)

  • “A Pillar of Justice: Examining the Life and Work of Rev. James Lawson.” Oral presentation at the Inaugural International Comparative Labor Studies Conference at Morehouse College. Atlanta, GA.


  • John J. Burns “21st Century Change Agents: Creating a World that Mirrors its Maker” Academy of Preachers Journal (2019)

  • John J. Burns, “Blackness to Me” The Morehouse College Catalyst Journal (2019). John J. Burns, “A Case for Space,” The Morehouse College Catalyst Journal (2018).