It was alumna Debbie Allen (BFA ’71, H ’93) who inspired Kandace L. Harris (BA ’97, MA ’01, PhD ’05) to attend Howard. “I wanted to be a dancer when I was a child, and she was my idol,” Harris says.
When she experienced first-hand the spirit of activism that embodied the campus during such politically charged events as the Million Man March in 1995, she knew she had made the right decision. “Being at Howard helped me to understand the importance of teaching young Black people how we can change the world.”
Today that spirit of activism still drives her. In 2022, Harris was elected president of the Howard University Alumni Association (HUAA) and she is focused on inspiring alumni to engage in the mission of creating a stronger alma mater.
She brings to the role a background in academia and as a media scholar. As interim assistant vice president of undergraduate studies at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), Harris facilitates curriculum development processes and collaborates with the campus advising community to see how they can best prepare students for academic success. She has also been an administrator at Clark Atlanta University, Johnson C. Smith University, and Shaw University.
In 2022, she was selected to be part of the second cohort of the HBCU Executive Leadership Institute, a program designed to prepare mid- and senior-level academicians to be HBCU presidents.
Harris first joined the HUAA as a way to connect with other Bison, but quickly took on leadership roles. In 2014 she became a region chair. “I got to be more impactful because I got to work with the alumni in the area that I was in,” she says. “I got to see Howard in a different way.”
In 2018 and 2020, she was named the Region Chair of the Year, and she raised $300,000 in scholarships while serving in that role. In 2018, she received the Crystal Bison Award for her work from the Howard University Department of Alumni Relations. Most recently, she served as vice president of administration for the HUAA. With her extensive knowledge of the HUAA and all that it stands for, she felt called to lead.
“It just made sense that it was my time, and I think I have the skillsets as a media scholar, as a higher education professional and as a seasoned servant leader for the university, to bring all those together and take us into a new level of engagement for the alumni.”
She ran for office with a six-point plan called Bison E.N.G.A.G.E. that sought to:
- Engage alumni of all generations.
- Increase access to the global Bison network.
- Increase alumni giving.
- Improve access to information that alumni need to best support Howard.
- Galvanize alumni into action through global, national and local events.
- Help alumni excel through opportunities and the sharing of our stories.
Harris wants to expand the way alumni view giving. Besides finances, she says, “you can give of your time.” In some cases, “time is even more valuable in terms of how you can really impact the student.”
One of her goals is also to implement a Global Day of Service, a day in which “Howard University alumni come together and focus their energies on making the world better, impacting someone's life in a meaningful way.” That would be a testament to the footprint Howard leaves on every student that has ever walked across the Yard.
“I tell people all the time, ‘Howard changed my life,’” she says.
Article ID: 1286