Andrea Harris - Bennett College for Women (4328 hits)
Andrea Harris, class of 1970, is a perfect example of a Belle who has moved forward with “no borders and no limits”. Andrea Harris is President of the NC Institute of Minority Economic Development in Durham NC but that alone does not tell you who she is.
She is a highly energetic visionary who has helped to create a cutting edge organization that seeks to help minority businesses succeed in the fiercely competitive and hard edged world of business. Andrea is one of the founders of the organization she leads. Alumna Harris has been the president of the organization since 1990.
In her own words: “I am a cheerleader for businesses in limited resource communities, minority owned firms and increasingly service disable veterans owned enterprises.” In a word she works to help business people who start out with some liability to enhance their chances of success. This is extremely important work and good for everyone in society. As we are witnessing now, without a strong viable economy, everybody suffers. Andrea believes she must also engage in public policy development work, because until you engage with key public policy and private sector leaders nothing will change for the better. Small and minority businesses are a key to building the economic base in their communities. The Institute also provides some education and training in partnership with several schools and colleges including Bennett.
What Andrea enjoys most about her work is experiencing the success of her clients and knowing she has helped them to grow stronger. She says her most significant contribution has been facilitating change in the culture of our state. This has increased the appreciation and economic value of firms owned by minorities and women, and helped to create the infrastructure in the larger society to support that growth. According to Andrea, her greatest difficulty is not being able to help firms in a way she would like in these tough economic times.
There are still few women in this work. Andrea says she is often the only woman or woman of color at the economic development table. Given her passion for the work, we know that she must make the others in the room sit up and take notice.
Andrea is a fiercely loyal Bennett alumna. She is convinced that her time at Bennett taught her to be reflective and gave her a sense of self worth, and that Bennett taught her the importance of service, and helped put her in the leadership role she holds today. In many ways Andrea has created her own position by moving to embrace a non-traditional career for women and by making a strong viable contribution to the world. She wants her legacy to be the increased economic strength in minority and limited resource communities.
This strong Bennett Belle is a stellar example of believing that there are no limits to the work she has chosen. She gives this advice to young Belles: “Believe in yourself and grab hold of this culture of self-affirmation that exists at Bennett. Go to ACES programs and embrace the traditions of the college. Don’t reject them because it is all of these initiatives that will help make you a healthy and whole sister. It is that healthy and wholeness of self that assures you will find fulfillment deep inside your souls in whatever else you elect to do. Celebrate these opportunities while you are at Bennett. You will be a better person for it.”