ACC talks Black History Month: Dr. Mary E. Harris

Throughout Black History Month, Austin Community College (ACC) sits down with influential and accomplished faculty and staff to discuss what Black History Month means to them.

Meet Dr. Mary E. Harris, ACC vice president of Institutional Planning, Development & Evaluation. She finds inspiration in her parents, who endured segregation and went on to raise seven children who all have bachelor's degrees.

Why do you work at ACC?

Because I believe in the power of education and how it changes lives.

Why do you believe it's important for the college to commemorate Black History Month?

The history of African Americans tells so much about who we are today. It tells the story of strength and perseverance, the story of love and acceptance, the story of family and friendship, the story of hope. Black History Month gives us a time to celebrate who we are and to share with other communities our likeness and differences. It lets us show we all have a rich history that should be told and celebrated.

ACC is an institution that values diversity and inclusion, and by commemorating Black History Month we show that we value African Americans and include them in the history of ACC, Austin, and this country.

What are some personal or professional accomplishments you are most proud of?

A personal accomplishment I am proud of is being a mother. My wife and I put a lot of thought into our decision to adopt and wondered if we were ready to make such a commitment. Now I see that having an impact everyday on our daughter's life and watching her grow and learn are so enriching.

My professional accomplishment that I am most proud of is my education. My father promised all seven of his children a bachelor's degree. I then went on to get an MBA and a PhD.

What's the best lesson you've learned?

That sometimes you have to be still. Worrying, fretting, and always thinking about making the next thing happen is not always the best way to be successful. Success and satisfaction can come in the stillness.

Why do you feel it is important to seek out and value diverse perspectives?

Because we learn so much from other cultures and perspectives. It also makes for more engaging conversations!

How do you build bridges between communities?

By listening, by collaborating, and by letting others give their experiences and perspectives. Also, by being still (yes, that again) and giving way for others.

What inspires you?

What inspires me are my parents. My mother and father were both born in the south during segregation and talked about walking to school while white kids would scream racial slurs at them from their bus. They shared other stories about what it was like to be black and live in the south. But, they persisted, moved north (thanks to the military) and raised seven children. They exposed us to other cultures and taught us the value of education. Thanks to them, we all have college degrees! This inspires me because they overcame the negative messages they received growing up as black people in the south and gave us positive messages about the power of education.


Read our previous Black History Month spotlight on Noble Udoh, ACC 2019-2020 Student Government Association President >>