Who’s Who at VCU Business: Shannon Harris
By: Megan Nash
Meet Shannon L. Harris, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management and Analytics. Proudly hailing from George Mason University and the University of Pittsburgh, Shannon’s academic journey took a fascinating turn when a colleague’s advice propelled her into a PhD program. She now holds down the research fort tackling healthcare scheduling intricacies, unraveling biases and ensuring her classrooms are a space for growth.
Let’s start with some laid-back questions …
Where can we find you on campus?
I’m located at VCU Business in Snead Hall, Room B4133.
Where did you go to school, what did you major in?
I earned my BS Degree from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and my PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Impressive! Pittsburgh is a beautiful city! Coming out of school and taking what might be some first steps in your professional career, can you share …
What inspired you to pursue a career in your field, and how has your journey evolved over the years?
In 2010, I was working a full-time job and going to school at night to get a master’s degree. I was struggling to find time for school, work and my personal life. I was speaking to a colleague who had just received his PhD, and commenting how much I loved school but may need to quit. He said, “If you love school, you should pursue it full time; you don’t need a master’s degree to pursue a PhD.” Those words changed my life. I ended up quitting my master’s program, but only after I got accepted to a PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh in the business school. There I met my advisor, Jerry May, who was working in healthcare. I began to work on projects with him and fell in love with answering research questions about planning and scheduling in outpatient healthcare clinics.
While studying for a research seminar, I came across a paper written by Michele Samorani. We invited him to give a virtual talk, and Michele and I began working together. For the past 10 years we’ve built a research stream together and are currently working on projects with the goal of identifying and mitigating racial bias in a clinic schedule. I find my research fun and rewarding and hope to have continued success in the future.
Are there any key accomplishments or milestones in your academic career that you’re particularly proud of?
I recently earned the title of Associate Professor with tenure! I’m very proud of that accomplishment and the timing of it. I started my career at a different university, moved to VCU one semester before the pandemic and wasn’t sure if I’d need to add time to the number of years it would take me to get tenure. Due to the support of my colleagues, co-authors and advisors, I was able to apply for tenure on time – right before I gave birth to my baby girl!
Congratulations on the recent addition to your family! I’m curious to learn a different side of you – how about a sprinkle of fun?
If you could swap jobs with someone in an entirely different field for a week, who would it be and why?
I would swap with a surgeon, although I’m not sure what type. I wish I had the foresight when I started undergrad to take classes that would prepare me to potentially pursue an MD PhD.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your academic or teaching career, how has it influenced you?
A class won’t be perfect the first time you teach it; a paper won’t be perfect on the initial submission. You have to try your best, make a first attempt and learn and grown from the result.
Create a one-sentence pitch for a TED Talk that you would love to give some day.
General musings on how we can all try harder and do better.
What would you say your secret sauce is as an educator?
Having empathy for my students. We all are living our lives to the best of our abilities, but things happen. I try to keep an open and honest line of communication with my students so they know we are all in their journey of learning together.
Overheard at VCU Business
“Shannon is an exceptional professor and a dear friend as well. We were part of the same cohort as we joined VCU, and I had the privilege of seeing her grow both as a scholar and as a person. Her devotion to learning, as well as to societal improvement, is admirable – look no further than her research agenda, which focuses on the topics of healthcare, artificial intelligence, and racial inequality, an intersection that is as important as it is often overlooked. We are very fortunate to have her as our colleague at the School of Business!”
– Cesar Zamudio, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Marketing, VCU Business