Doug Harris, candidate for Alumni Trustee, speaks about diversity, connections to Tufts

Braker Hall is pictured on Oct. 1, 2017. Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily Archives

Each year, Tufts University alumni elect one or more of their own to serve on the Board of Trustees, a 40-member body of which 10 are university alumni. This year two candidates are vying for a single spot as an Alumni Trustee. 

Doug Harris (LA’81), one of the two candidates, spoke with the Daily about his experience at Tufts, his career and what he hopes to bring to the table as a Trustee. 

Harris accepted the nomination as an alumni trustee candidate to broaden the impact Tufts is able to have, he said.

“It’s a very dynamic institution, it’s a changing world,” Harris said. “People have different experiences while they’re there. And how can we be sure everybody gets the gold out of what Tufts has to offer. So I’ve accepted the nomination to be able to kind of play a role in that capacity.”

Harris believes he is now in a place to be able to make an impact on an institution that was central to his own life.

“I’m at a stage in my life right now … [where] I’ve had a pretty good career … So right now, I’m repositioning myself in the world to really impact those areas of great value to me,” Harris said. “Tufts University played a major role in making me who I am … it’s a great institution. I think the things I’ve learned over the years really excited me about how I might be able to help Tufts meet the needs that it meets for some, for all.” 

Harris received his bachelor’s degree from the School of Arts and Sciences in 1981 with degrees in economics and sociology. At Tufts, he was involved in many aspects of campus life. He was president of The Black Drama Society, captain of the men’s basketball team and a self-described “fraternity guy,” according to his candidate statement and his interview with the Daily. 

Since graduating, Harris has worked as a consultant for minority recruitment with various companies, served as a Trustee for Adler University and the Board of Kingswood Oxford School and has been inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.

Currently, he serves as the chief executive officer of The Kaleidoscope Group, a “full service diversity and inclusion consulting firm” that assists businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, school systems and various other communities, according to the company’s website and Harris’ personal website. 

Harris believes his 30-plus years of working to promote diversity and inclusion will serve as an asset to the university.

“I have a personal brand that says I leave people better than I found them, but I do it with love. So often, when [acts of hate] happen, [they] can create anger, frustration … my just being there and [my] strategic insights [help the situation] remain under control,” Harris said.

He also expressed that, if elected, he will serve as an advocate for the underrepresented populations on campus — something that he has developed an expertise in over the course of his career. He hopes to foster understanding and build connections among different interest groups.

“I’ve learned a lot about the LGBT community, women’s issues, millennial issues, all kinds of economic issues, race issues,” Harris said. “Life has made me a bigger, better leader so that advocacy is coming from a very experienced place. I’m not coming in as their savior, but coming in as an appropriate resource to help their agenda get on the table.”

Harris hopes to provide the space for voices that typically go unheard.

“I’m an advocate for the unheard voice,” Harris said. “I’m an advocate for anyone who would fall into that less-than-oftenly-heard population to get their voices out.”

Harris plans on using his polished interpersonal skills not only to unite groups within the university, but also to establish a stronger connection between students and alumni. He proposes rolling out a series of initiatives that encourage alumni to get involved with the university on a smaller scale, such as a membership program that requires only a small donation. Such a program, Harris says, will encourage more alumni to get involved, at first on a minor level, but ultimately on a more expansive scale.

In his interview with the Daily, Harris also expressed how his career skills might transfer to other issues that, if elected as a trustee, he will inevitably have to face.

When asked about the university’s investments in the fossil fuel industry, Harris made it clear that he does not have a firm stance.

“One of the best things I’ve learned in life is that [you should] know what you know, and then learn what you don’t know,” Harris said. “My skill set is not around being well informed in all arenas, but I am well informed on how to bring across a rich dialogue where every side is valued and respected so that the final decision that we make took them all into consideration.”

While he is not an expert on the fossil fuel industry, Harris hopes to bring people together for dialogue.

“I can’t say where I stand, but when students are that energized about something, it’s a problem, and we’ve got to honor that problem,” Harris said. “We can’t just keep doing things for the sake of … the university if it’s not creating the tone and living up to the values that we project to the world.”

Harris expressed a similar sense of open-mindedness about tuition costs, citing the need to strike a balance between capital investment — and the university’s desire to be “top-notch” in terms of its facilities and programs — and financial accessibility.

Harris has worked as a minority recruiter for Tufts in Chicago; if elected, he seeks to expand his reach and use his position to impact a wider range of people.

Ultimately, Harris said that his approach comes from his open-mindedness.

“Once I hear what’s taking place and what challenges are, my strength is more so being transformational and meeting that need very specifically to create a program that could work for that need,” Harris said.