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A Passion for Excellence

Sunday, December 15, 2013

greg-harrisDevotion, hard work, compassion, and generosity.  These characteristics are embodied by Professor Greg Harris, an Endowed Teaching Chair recipient for 2013. His passion for excellence in every endeavor has made an indelible mark on countless lives, and his students soar on the wings of his exceptional dedication.

As well as being an outstanding educator as full-time professor of psychology at the College since 2002, this Polk State alumnus has served on an astounding array of committees that advance Polk since he made his debut as an adjunct professor in 1999.

Currently the Department Coordinator and Assessment Coordinator for the Social Sciences Department, he has served in leadership roles on the Faculty Senate as Secretary and Vice-President, and the Academic Quality Council, General Education, Distance Education, Digital eText, Alternative Credentialing, and Diversity committees.

In addition, he is the advisor for both the Psi Beta Honors Society and the Black Student Union club, and an active member of the American Psychological Association Division #2, Psi Chi Honors Society, Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, the National Collegiate Honors Council – Semesters and 2-Year College Committees, and the Board of Elders for the Florida African American Student Association.

To top off this incredibly prolific list of accomplishments, Harris currently serves as the President of the Polk State College Alumni Association Board and as a Board member of the Polk State College Foundation.

His Theatre Seats Endowed Teaching Chair award in 2013 is the second one he’s achieved — he also earned the Banking Endowed Teaching Chair award in 2008. With this, Harris demonstrated his drive to accomplish great things to benefit Polk students.

“The first Endowed Teaching Chair was exciting,” Greg recalled. “I was really highly motivated to get the first one. I set it as a personal goal,” said Harris, who used the funds for technology and change within the field of teaching in the classroom, utilizing such devices as computers and IPADs to enhance learning.

For his second Endowed Teaching Chair, Harris is utilizing the funds to enhance technological pedagogy for teaching of Psychology and to assist students in experiential learning endeavors, as well as to further his educational career, continuing to strive for excellence as an educator by finishing his doctorate degree.

Harris’s devotion to the College was inspired by his life-changing experience as a student here.

After his retirement from the military in 1993, which had culminated as a Navy Recruiter in Polk County and an Ambassador to Polk (then known as Polk Community College), Greg had searched for employment to supplement his retirement pay, and faced a conundrum: he was overqualified for most of the jobs by military standards, yet under-educated for the upper level jobs because he didn’t have a degree. He decided then and there to enroll at the College (then known as Polk Community College), demonstrating how a quality education can so powerfully bridge that gap.

Harris’s desire to become a teacher at Polk State College and serve the College in any way he could was inspired by a class he took here which changed his life course. It was a pivotal moment when he discovered his true calling and passion.

“I actually began here studying broadcast journalism,” said Harris, whose twenty-one-year career in the military was in communications and intelligence, giving him background in the field.

But a professor in psychology at Polk impressed him so much that he was immediately bitten by the psychology bug.

“I took a class with Bill Ryan, and I liked the way he taught. I liked the concepts that he taught in psychology, and because of that, I took every class of psychology that was offered. And it worked to my benefit when I went on to earn my bachelor’s — because I had completed so many psychology courses at Polk, my class load was a lot lighter than the average student. So I got to do independent study, I got to work with the research team, and lot of things that many undergrads don’t get to do,” he explained.

After graduating from Polk with an Associate’s degree in liberal arts, Harris went on to the University of Central Florida where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, then earned his Master’s degree in Psychology and Counseling from Troy State University. He is currently working to complete his Doctorate degree in Higher Education Leadership at Grand Canyon University.

His decision to return to Polk State and teach was driven by a strong desire to give back to students the excellent and transformational education he received here.

“When I came back here as an instructor, I strove to do everything I could to give students who are coming behind me the same opportunity that I had, working together with the department to expand it and make it the best it can be,” said Harris.

It is truly thrilling and inspirational to see Harris soar to greater and greater heights at the College. He is an outstanding role model to students through his unparalleled dedication to Polk State College and outstanding accomplishments. He truly epitomizes the wonderful spirit of giving back to the Polk State College community and helping our College and its students to soar to their utmost potential. Polk State College and the students here are honored and privileged to see him making a true, exciting and transformative difference in students’ lives!