Through more than five intense years as a doctoral student, Kendra Harris could not help but notice that her old friends in corporate life were driving newer cars, and living in bigger houses than she was. And every time a former colleague jetted off for another lavish vacation, she needed to check in with her inner value system for reaffirmation.
There, she found all the reward she needed: “My self worth,” she explains, “is not tied to my financial status.”
But now that she is Dr. Kendra Harris, a new awareness has crept in: not only is she more fulfilled in her new career, but she earns more now than she would have by remaining at the Fortune 500 company she chose to leave.
The irony is sweet. Having left corporate America to find more meaning in life, her short-term financial sacrifice for doctoral studies has revealed itself a wise long-term investment.
Kendra Harris might have missed the turn in her life’s road that led to her current deeply satisfying position. Twice before, she deliberately rejected the notion of earning a Ph.D.
In fact, she first dismissed the idea at an age when most children have never even heard of a doctoral degree.
“Back when I was a child in elementary school, I had a relative who wrote a dissertation. I looked at this one hundred- page document and said, ‘I’ll never get a Ph.D. I couldn’t write a hundred page paper.’”
A few years later as an undergraduate, she grew accustomed to writing lengthy papers, and she acquired the itch to teach business in college. But once again, she vowed not to pursue a doctorate. “I thought, ‘I’ll get my MBA,’ and I did. I thought again, ‘I’ll never go back to school.’”
Kendra Harris entered corporate life, “but that calling to teach kept tugging and tugging at me.”
She taught without a doctoral degree at two colleges before the eventful moment when her dean connected her with the dean and doctoral program head of George Washington University business school. Sizing up her strengths, they came to the inevitable conclusion—they invited her to apply to their doctoral program.
The light came on: Kendra Harris finally realized the time had arrived for her to become Dr. Harris.
First, she had to get over the short-term hurdle of committing herself to several years of greatly reduced income. She found the decision surprisingly easy. “I always had the philosophy that as long as I was involved in my passion, the money would come. I knew that at a point, I would reap the fruits of my labor.”
The fancy cars and toys her corporate friends were amassing—“the perks of being a successful professional”—did not sway her.
“All of that,” she says, “would have to go into a holding pattern. What’s meant to be mine is going to be mine, and what’s meant to be yours is going to be yours. When it’s my turn, it will be my turn.”
Now that her turn has come, Dr. Harris reflects back and observes that “a very high quality network of family and friends who always gave me faith and wisdom” was more valuable than a set of keys to a new car.
As a teacher, Dr. Harris has influenced students to major in marketing, and to pursue MBAs. One undergrad told her, “I wouldn’t have made it through without you.”
“That,” says Dr. Harris, “definitely makes you feel that you are in the right place.”
The dream continues…
Dr.Kendra L. Harris assumed the role of Dean of the School of Business at the University of Virgin Islands and professor of marketing on July 1, 2019. Kendra Harris has served as Lead Professor of Business Administration and Lead Professor of Marketing. She was voted Students’ Choice Teacher of the Year in the School of Business in 2008, and won a university-wide teaching excellence award that carried a monetary stipend and the privilege of competing for a North Carolina Governor’s Teaching Award. She won a Chancellor’s Concept Paper Contest. She is not currently in academia.