Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 18, 2018, is a national holiday that honors the life and work of Dr. King. He often posed the question, “What Are You Doing For Others?” Union strives to answer that question in our quest to focus on social justice and social responsibility as part of our mission to engage, enlighten, and empower our students and in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Studies Specialization program.
Student Maurice Harris tells us how he plans to impact positive social change in the Q&A below.
Q. What do you plan to do with your degree?
A. To date, my career has been in media, marketing and communications. When I earn my Ph.D., I hope to split my time between teaching at the university level and producing media that drives positive social change and inspires ethical leadership.
Q. What led you to this program?
A. People are often surprised to learn that my academic background consists of business and leadership although my work is primarily creative. However, I’ve learned that the creative professional’s most valuable skill is the art of framing — making meaning of the world in ways that resonate with people. I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Ethical and Creative Leadership to build my fluency in the language of leadership so that I might use the art of framing to lead positive social change.
Q. Why did you choose Union for your studies?
A. Union came highly recommended from a friend who knew that I was looking for an accredited, non-traditional Ph.D. program that would allow me to balance, perhaps even blend, school and career.
Q. If you could give a piece of advice to your 20 something, what would it be?
A. When I was in my 20s, I was torn between following my dreams or delivering on my parents’ expectations. Life does not always allow us to go after our dreams. In hindsight, I am glad I took the chance…which also meant taking a several-year hiatus from college. But bucking my parents’ expectations came with a steep and somewhat unnecessary emotional cost. If I could talk to my younger self, I’d tell him to walk boldly toward his dreams, succeed or fail, realizing that life becomes so much richer for simply taking the chance to live it.
Q. Who has influenced you the most in your life, and how have they influenced you?
A. There is no single individual that I look to as my greatest influence. The reality is, there are many people present and past in whom I find inspiration and mentorship. Lately, I find myself poring over the writings of James Baldwin because I want my own creative work — my writings, music, and videos — to express my cultural experiences with as much brutal honesty and authenticity. I connect with the call for racial healing that characterized so much of Baldwin’s writing. And I admire how fearlessly he used his platform as a public pedagogue to talk about issues like same-sex and interracial relationships at a time when both were considered taboo. Baldwin exemplifies the idea of using creativity to lead social change, and his work has certainly influenced my dissertation interest.
About Maurice Harris
According to Maurice Harris, leading organizations is not so different from producing pop music, and he credits his early experiences in the recording industry for his proven skills in leadership communication. Today, Maurice serves as diocesan communications minister for the Episcopal Church in Vermont, responsible for supporting 46 congregations as well as several diocesan institutions, including Rock Point, a 130-acre sanctuary on the shores of Lake Champlain. In addition to his communications role, Maurice serves as co-facilitator of the diocese’s Racial Reconciliation Team. Outside of the church, Maurice is president and creative director of Pushpop Media, a boutique agency that provides marketing and communication services predominately for women- and minority-owned businesses and non-profits in Ohio and Maine. Prior to launching Pushpop Media, Maurice worked for several years as head of the communications and media relations departments at FirstGroup America, parent company of Greyhound, First Student, First Transit, and First Vehicle Services. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Northwood University, a Master of Science degree in Organizational Leadership from the College of Mount St. Joseph, and is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Ethical and Creative Leadership at Union Institute & University. Always a musician at heart, Maurice’s dissertation interest is in using music as a leadership tool for creating positive social change. Maurice and his husband, Might Kirachaiwanich, reside in Brattleboro, Vermont.