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Dr. Yvonne Harris

harrisyr@jmu.edu
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Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship

“My philosophy is that we’re born scientists and mathematicians and we experiment and observe the world around us all the time, … Having the ‘A’ students is nice, but we wanted people who had tenacity and determination, a refusal to fail” (Dr. Yvonne Harris commenting on her mentoring program in a Chicago Tribune article ‘Student with learning disability finds her niche in biology; Feb 6, 2012 by Dawn Turner Trice).

Dr. Yvonne Harris has spent the last 20 years in academia with the belief that everyone has the potential for excellence.  In the right environment surrounded by institutional partners who embrace that as part of their mission that potential can be reached.  That has been her mission during the 2.5 years at Chicago State University as Associate Vice President of Sponsored Programs, 2.0 years at Harper College as Dean of Mathematics and Science, 11 years at Truman College as a full-time tenured faculty and Chair of Biology and Biotechnology and 4.5 years as a Research Associate at University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Chicago.

Currently, Dr. Harris serves as the first Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA.  In this role, Dr. Harris provides leadership over the Offices of Sponsored Programs, Technology Innovation, Research Integrity, and Research Development and Promotion, in addition to five research and outreach centers addressing security and energy issues.   

Previously, Dr. Harris served as the Associate Vice President of Sponsored Programs at Chicago State University, and as the senior administrator for the Office of Grants and Research Administration.  As Associate Vice President she was responsible for the administration and management of $125 million in federal and state grants.  A key achievement of her leadership was the reorganization of the Office of Grants and Research Administration and establishing new controls, policies and procedures, which resulted in a fifty percent reduction in audit findings after the first year.  Before becoming Associate Vice President, she was recruited by the chemistry faculty at William Rainey Harper College and served as the Dean of Mathematics and Science from 2008 to 2010.  Prior to that position she served as the Chair of the Department of Biology and Biotechnology at Truman College; a position for which the President of Truman at the time, Dr. Phoebe Helm, nominated her after she received tenure in 2000. 

Before being recruited by the President of Chicago State University, Dr. Harris served as Dean of Mathematics and Science Division.  As Dean, Dr. Harris was responsible for seven departments and the administration of a six million dollar budget.  She was also responsible for overseeing, monitoring and ensuring the quality and content of instruction in the departments and facilitating the training and evaluation of the instructors and curriculum.  Dr. Harris believes in collaboration and is passionate about supporting faculty in exploring new pedagogies to enhance learning experiences that involve technology, problem solving and critical thinking.  While at Harper, Dr. Harris in partnership with other Deans and faculty was involved in several initiatives focused on improving technology of in-class instruction and outside-the-class learning through the use of Tablet PC’s.  Dr. Harris also developed several programs focused on improving student retention and persistence through problem-based learning and course alignment.   She is noted for two programs.  The first program was the CHOICE Scholars Institute (CSI) which focused on high school students at-risk for testing into developmental courses.  The CSI resulted in a 90% success rate of high school seniors testing out of developmental courses as freshmen in college.  This project won the Resource for Excellence Award, the Illinois Council of Community College Administrators 2009 Innovation Award.  The second program focused on course alignment between high school districts and Harper College mathematics and science departments to increase student preparedness and readiness for college.  This initiative was so successful that Harper College continues to expand the program.

In 1997, Dr. Harris was hired as a full time tenure track faculty member in the Biology Department and received tenure in 2000.  Between 2000 and 2008, Dr. Harris served as Chair of the Biology and Biotechnology Department at Truman College and as part of her responsibilities she provided leadership in the revision of existing programs, as well as the implementation of new credit programs such as bioinformatics.  During this time Dr. Harris authored and participated in a number of grants from the National Science Foundation, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development, National Institute of Science, Department of Labor and the LI-COR Biosciences Industry Grants.  Dr. Harris was also involved in a number of Chicago and State initiatives and won a number of awards and acknowledgements such as the 2008 Project Kaleidoscope F21 Leadership Institute Baca Campus Recipient; Chair of the Minority Outreach Initiative, BIO2006 International Conference on Biotechnology in Chicago; Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER) team member travel award, 2005;  Bioinformatics Workshop NSF travel award, 2003;  National Science Foundation, Project Kaleidoscope Faculty for the 21st Century Network, 1998.  Her distinguished accomplishment at Truman College was the design, development and implementation of the working Biotechnology Laboratory for Undergraduate Research and the Tissue Culture Facility which was the first of its kind in the State of Illinois at a two-year institution.

Before becoming Chair, Dr. Harris taught several courses in Cell and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and was part of a team of educators from two- and four-year institutions who developed and taught a series of innovative biology, chemistry and physics courses based on project-driven and problem-based learning curricula.  Because of her belief in the power of student learning through doing, she continued to teach these courses during her tenure as Chair of the department expanding this pedagogy in to summer programs working with high school students.  For her work in these areas Dr. Harris won the Chicago City Colleges Distinguished Professor Award for 2005-2006 and the Outstanding Woman of the Year Award at City Colleges of Chicago, 2004.

Dr. Harris began her academic career as an art major at University of Illinois at Chicago where she had an epiphany that science was art made manifest in the world through the human experience.  She changed her major and eventually graduated from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois having earned a Doctorate degree in Molecular and Cellular Radiation Biology.  Her research focused on cellular damage and repair induced by UV radiation.  While at Northern Illinois, Dr. Harris also majored in Philosophy with emphasis in Metaphysics.  Following graduation, Dr. Harris worked as a post-doctorate fellow focused on cellular responses to radiation and radical chemistry at University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago.  It was while at UIC working as a part-time instructor at Harold Washington College that she fell in love with teaching and students and chose a different path.