We’re lucky to have talented and passionate faculty and staff here at HECUA, in our domestic programs and abroad. Every so often we like to feature members of our amazing team on the HECUA blog. Today is one of those days! We’d like to provide blog readers with a digital introduction to one of HECUA’s two brand new program representatives: Robert Harris III. Robert is HECUA’s point of contact for all Minnesota consortium members, with the exception of the University of Minnesota and Augsburg University. Read the short interview below for more about Robert’s extensive travel, his children’s book, and his love of horseback riding!
HECUA: Welcome to HECUA, Robert! We know you’re a recent graduate – can you tell us a little bit about your college career?
Robert Harris III: I went to Carleton College where I was an Environmental Studies major with a focus in conservation and development. I was the typical liberal arts student in that I took classes in lots of different departments from French to Biology to Theater. Academically, I was very interested in Ecology so I worked in three different research labs, at Carleton, the Chicago Botanic Gardens, and Kansas State University. Outside of academics, I was involved with the Carleton Equestrian team for three years. I started learning to ride horses while at Carleton! I was also involved, to a lesser extent, with the Responsible Investment Committee, Office of International and Intercultural Life, and the Center for Community and Civic Engagement.
Robert in his Equestrian Team days.
HECUA: What makes you excited to work with HECUA as a program representative?
RH3: HECUA almost perfectly combines a lot of my academic and personal interests. I have always been a globally minded citizen, which led me to study abroad on three different experiences, work in Carleton’s Off-Campus Studies Office, and to tailor a lot of my academic experiences to global perspectives. I have always been very interested in experiential and interdisciplinary education, which is what HECUA is all about! It is also exciting to be joining an organization that shares the same moral and ethical values that I hold surrounding social justice and equity issues. I’m so excited to be joining the HECUA team and representing programs that implement a pedagogy that I truly believe in!
HECUA: We know that you traveled extensively as an undergraduate – please tell us a little bit about where you went, and how you chose each location.
RH3: While at Carleton, I went abroad three times. My first study abroad trip, and first time out of the country, was to Ethiopia and Tanzania on a program focused on Energy, Health, and the Environment. While in Ethiopia, I was part of a pilot team for a sustainable cookstove project that is being run by a Carleton professor. I also went abroad with the Carleton Geology department to Tasmania, Australia where I studied natural history and conservation issues across the island. As part of the program, I authored a children’s book about Tasmania’s Giant Freshwater Crayfish! My third abroad trip was a self-constructed experience. I spent a summer in northwestern Greece, not too far from the border of Albania, working with an ecotourism company that leads horse trail rides into the mountains. It was an incredible experience that allowed me to combine my equestrian skills with my academic interests in conservation and development. Although it wasn’t intended, all of my abroad experiences were environment focused.
HECUA: How did off-campus study change your outlook or views about your world? Your community?
RH3: The trip that changed my worldview the most was to Ethiopia and Tanzania. My academic career has focused primarily on issues of conservation and development and I was very excited to actually get out of the theoretical bubble and do some actual international development work where I could apply all the information that I had learned. Quickly, I realized that the academic knowledge that I had acquired wasn’t all that important in the real world. If I was going to create any change, it was paramount that local and community knowledge guide our project. This was a humbling experience for me because I really thought I had important knowledge to share but really I had a ton more to learn, and still do. It also opened my eyes to how difficult it is to do international development work both in terms of the environmental conditions and the difficulties of gaining the trust of the community as an outsider.
Robert in Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia.
HECUA: If you had to choose one HECUA program to enroll in now, which would you choose, and why?
RH3: That’s a hard question because they all are so cool. I would probably go on the Northern Ireland program or the Inequality in America program. Both programs are focused on topics that are so pertinent to today and our unfortunate political realities.
HECUA: Last but not least: any fun hobbies, interests, or projects we should know about? What do you do when you’re not at work?
RH3: When I’m not at work, I usually am just relaxing or taking a walk. A project that I’m working on right now is building a terrarium for a future reptile addition to the family. I’m not sure what type of reptile yet but likely an iguana or Chinese water dragon.
We’re lucky to have Robert on the team! If you’re a student or friend of HECUA on any of our Minnesota member campuses, keep an eye out for him this year.