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Harris recognized for guiding careers

Marcia Harris has received more than her share of professional honors. Most of those honors come from organizations in her field of student placement, which isn’t surprising, really. After all, since Harris became director of University Career Services 15 years ago, student use of the office’s services has jumped 180 percent. The office also has been ranked in the top five (out of more than 1,500 nationally) by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Those past honors did not dilute the thrill Harris felt when Chancellor Michael Hooker called to tell her she had won the C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award.

“I was absolutely flabbergasted,” she said. “The chancellor called, which made me wonder why he would be calling. It was something I never dreamed I would be considered for.”

The high regard she has for her fellow University employees made the Massey Award that much more of an honor.

“This had a very special feel to it because there is such a high caliber of employee at this University and so few are selected for this award,” Harris said. “I was very honored to be honored.”

The late C. Knox Massey, a former Durham advertising executive who served 20 years as a University trustee, created the award in 1980. The program is supported by three generations of the Massey and Weatherspoon families.

On the job

Harris’ motto at University Career Services is “high tech, high touch.” That means making sure students have the help of both cutting-edge technology and responsive people providing expert guidance.

On the high-tech side, Harris strives to have the latest services available to students. Those include:

  • A home page that gives students 24-hour access to job information. The University Career Services office was among the first in the country to have a home page that students could access.
  • Virtual job fairs in which video conferencing allows students to interview with employers from remote locations.
  • An automated system in which students can sign up for job interviews by telephone.

All those high-tech connections would do little good, though, if students didn’t use them. In nominating Harris for the Massey Award, the staff in her office pointed out how hard she works to draw students into the office.

“Not content to wait for students to find their way to the department, she constantly develops new outreach methods, such as internship newsletters, an internship fair, and IMPACT (a program which promotes internships listed by parents) for underclassmen,” the nomination letter said.

All those extra students using the office’s services has led to a much bigger staff over the years. Harris now oversees 16 full-time and 10 student employees, about twice the staff she started with 15 years ago.

And Harris credits her staff with making her ideas come to life.

“They may roll their eyes when I come back from a conference with 17 ideas, but they are very flexible and make things happen,” she said.

Making things happen for students is what makes her job enjoyable.

“This job never gets old because every student is different,” Harris said. “There are some similarities, but every situation has something unique about it, so the challenge is to work one-on-one with students.”

“I brag about our students to our employers and I love being able to do that,” she said.

Employers appreciate her work

Those employers brag right back about the great service they get from Harris and the entire University Career Services office. Employers such as David Head, director of recruiting in the Carolinas for Andersen Consulting, who credited Harris and her staff as the reason his company doubled its recruiting efforts at Carolina in the last two years.

“Marcia is dedicated to understanding how businesses interact with universities and how to improve this relationship,” Head wrote. “Marcia’s commitment to professionalism serves Carolina’s students and parents by ensuring rock-solid corporate relations and therefore potential jobs for graduates.”

Harris isn’t all job placement. She works on numerous University committees and volunteers annually at the Campus Blood Drive, where she processes&emdash;and reassures&emdash;donors. She likes running and weight-training in her spare time. She and her husband, Lenny, live in Raleigh and have two grown children, Stacey and Todd.

While winning the Massey Award has prompted congratulations from colleagues both current and former, the award won’t change her outlook at work. There are technological advances to add to her offices and always a new round of students to help.

“I love this place because, first of all, the physical beauty of the place, and also because the students are some of the best in the country,” she said. “This University, for someone who wants to work in education, is just a great place to be.”


Originally published by University Gazette: Aug. 12, 1998

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