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From Barbadian news anchor to one of Stevenson’s finest

Communication department professor Dr. Heather E. Harris has been sharing her extensive knowledge and experience at SU for over 20 years
Stevenson University
Dr. Heather E. Harris

It has been said that “to see change, you must be the change.” There is nobody at Stevenson University that lives and breathes this more than communications professor Dr. Heather E. Harris.  

Harris has been a professor at Stevenson for over 20 years, throughout the eventual switch from the former name, Villa Julie College. She is a friendly face that many recognize smiling around campus. 

Harris is an academic that is truly devoted to her calling, shaping minds in and out of the classroom and exemplifying the truest definition of a leader and an educator. Many within the university community may not fully grasp the extent of her contributions to the institution’s community and the profound impact she has had on numerous generations of students during her tenure. 

“I really like how Dr. Harris is very transparent on her life experiences as it relates to our lessons,” said Deaira Holland, a student of Harris’. “I actually leave class with something of substance rather than just a boring lecture or PowerPoint.”  

In addition to her influence and efforts in Stevenson’s community, Harris devotes her time contributing to the ongoing discourses surrounding women’s studies, diversity, and the field of communication. Somehow, she ensures that she maintains a balance between her responsibilities as a professor and personal passions.  

Harris now possesses years of teaching experience, including working as a teaching assistant whilst working towards her Ph.D. at Howard University, but that wasn’t always the plan. “Being a professor never was on my radar until my first teaching job and I fell in love with the class. But I will never and have never seen myself as a teacher, I am a facilitator,” Harris said.

“But I will never and have never seen myself as a teacher, I am a facilitator.”

— Dr. Heather Harris

In addition to teaching, Harris also has experience in news broadcasting in Barbados and extensive research and publications on social justice topics like diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the Obama presidency.

A teaching that Harris shares with all students is to not be afraid of failure. But rather to simply see it as a part of the endless process of learning. Harris is frequently open with students in sharing her past struggles in business school and the intense course work that discouraged her from finishing.  

 “After taking Dr. Harris four times now since being at Stevenson, it’s evident that she really loves educating and that shows through her honesty about hardships and in general,” Holland said. 

Harris candidly tells students that the real world can be intimidating, but it isn’t something they should fear or prevent them from leaning into the pursuit of their passions. 

“She has supported me in so many ways. I am an artist and she told me if it’s something I want to pursue, to keep going. From an academic standpoint, she’s definitely someone I can go to.” said Holland. 

Harris is responsible for organizing many extracurricular activities and events on behalf of the communications department including regular communication circle meetings and the 2023 Shapiro/Rouse lecture. The lecture series hosted speaker Julie Allen, senior vice president of digital and creative at The Howard Hughes Corporation, who spoke as a prominent business leader for this semester’s speaking engagement.  

Harris’ desire to best support her students and help them connect their learned knowledge with the real world is more than evident. 

“Dr. Harris always wants to hear from others and their opinions, never lecturing with the normal style, but instead being interactive and generating conversation,” said business communication senior Hannah Johnson. “I think she contributes a lot to the Stevenson community from hosting communication circles to guest speakers, she gets students involved.” 

In her free time, Harris takes particular interest in women’s issues and studies, often connecting her research, knowledge, and experience to the material that each class is reviewing. In the past she has referenced books that she has edited and written, as well as a podcast that she hosts. 

“I put out episodes monthly and host a female guest for relevant discussion. The podcast is for women, and it is on how to live your best life over 40 years old,” said Harris. “I ask each guest the same first question. What is your essence? I try to go about my approach with students the same way and find what it is that drives them individually.”

“With her it is always about building knowledge, personal growth, and developing useful lifelong skills.”

— Phoebe Zaranski

Students feel this connection when they experience interacting with Harris, whether a student of hers or not. She demonstrates that she is more than a lecturer or professor. She is someone who has genuine care for students and their development as individuals outside of the academic setting. 

“I just recently completed my first class with Dr. Harris and she has been supportive of anything I am going through. Rather than lecturing and talking at us, she gives advice and provides encouragement,” said fashion design student Phoebe Zaranski. “With her it is always about building knowledge, personal growth, and developing useful lifelong skills.” 

Harris consistently demonstrates passion and love for what she does. It shows in the ways she teaches, treats her students, and carries herself through life, practicing what she preaches and serving as a living example to others. 

Harris said, “I never want to stop improving myself for the experience of my students. I don’t want just each semester to get better, I want every single class to be a better experience each day for my students. It’s what I live for.” 

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    MarkDec 21, 2023 at 10:59 pm

    I’ve known Heather since she was a news media worker and she remains the same, only better.