Bonnie Harris: Seeing the Best in Others

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February is Black History Month, a special time set aside to celebrate the contributions of African Americans. The College of Sciences joins the celebration by inviting the perspectives of African-American colleagues through a two-part Q&A.

Bonnie Harris is the program director of the Georgia Intern-Fellowships for Teachers (GIFT) program at CEISMC (Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing). The program is a collaborative undertaking of Georgia corporations and universities providing industry internships and research fellowships for K-12 teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Under Harris’s leadership, in 2012 GIFT received the inaugural STEM Education Award from the Technology Association of Georgia for excellence in promoting STEM in Georgia. A few years later, Casey M. Bethel was named 2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year. Bethel is the first-ever GIFT teacher to receive this award.

At CEISMC, Harris also manages the Research, Experiment, Analyze, Learn (R.E.A.L.) program, which places high-school students in STEM-related research internships or business internships. She also oversees the Siemens Region Six Annual Competition in Math, Science and Technology, which attracts high-school student researchers from Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Puerto Rico.

She serves on several civic boards and speaks widely on the subjects of teacher internships and the preparation of underrepresented students for STEM careers.

What is the accomplishment you are proudest of so far?
One of my favorite quotations is from the great German literary figure Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”

My job as GIFT program director provides me opportunities to live this philosophy every day!

I get to work with teachers desiring to be the best they can be. I get to see high-school students – many of whom are minorities – and our next generation of great scientists as if they were already what they are capable of becoming.

Facilitating opportunities for teachers, students, and future scientists to showcase their skills and accomplishments is what I am proudest of. Doing so is all about potential and what can be!

What does Black History Month mean to you?
I grew up during an era when the contributions and accomplishments of black Americans were seldom acknowledged. For me, Black History Month represents an opportunity to both inspire and educate: to inspire those who question their abilities and to educate those who remain uninformed about black Americans’ contributions in all endeavors throughout our country’s history.


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