“I can’t afford someone who has a very steep learning curve. I know Dr. Harris will hit the road running.” Harris began his new job Sept. 10.
“He’s very, very student-centered,” Gottfried said, adding that Harris also has a calm personality that will help him run the Leonardtown campus, which had 2,630 students in the spring, the most recent enrollment figure available.
As dean, Harris will oversee the campus’s day-to-day services and operations and work to support faculty, staff members and students.
“I will have an open-door policy for students. I think that is just invaluable,” Harris said, adding that he hopes to be visible and accessible on and off campus.
Harris said he is looking forward to working in the community in which he lives and cutting his commute from 90 minutes to just seven.
Harris said he will continue to spread the message of a “one college concept” in which services are provided seamlessly among the college’s three campuses for Southern Maryland residents. The college also has campuses in Charles and Calvert counties.
Harris also will work on program development at the Leonardtown campus for services that are of particular interest to St. Mary’s County residents, such as the corporate center, the wellness and fitness center and a summer concert series.
The job drew more than 50 applicants in a national search, Gottfried said. A committee composed mostly of Leonardtown campus employees narrowed the field to six.
Five of those applicants agreed to interviews, Gottfried said, and two were brought back for follow-up interviews and to meet the campus community earlier in the summer.
One of the job requirements was that the new dean live in St. Mary’s within six months of being selected. That was not a problem for Harris, who has lived in Hollywood since 2006.
“Having someone who is familiar with St. Mary’s, lives here and made a commitment certainly played very well in the selection process,” Gottfried said.
Another key factor was Harris’ s more than 26 years of experience in higher education, including 12 years at community colleges and 14 years with bachelor-degree universities, Gottfried said.
Harris has experience in admissions and financial aid at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
He has a doctorate of philosophy, community college leadership, from Walden University, a master’s of public administration from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice from Pennsylvania State University.
He is married to Lori Jennings-Harris, who is director of the St. Mary’s Department of Aging and Human Services. The couple have two daughters, one a graduate of Leonardtown High School and the other a junior at the school.
In March, F.J. Talley, the Leonardtown campus dean since 2005, was named president of Frederick Community College. He started that job July 1.
Regina Bowman-Goldring, senior executive director of student services at the College of Southern Maryland, served as interim dean after Talley left.