Daniel Harris views faith as the new frontier in diversity. In fact, he says allowing people to bring their belief systems to the office–often taboo at work-could provide unifying results rather than divisive ones. The challenge is finding ways to make the topic inclusive to everyone, he says.
As the recently appointed interim managing director for the Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace, Harris wants the University of Arkansas to be a significant contributor to this dialogue.
Harris’ professional career includes 12 years in the business sector and 29 years as a diplomat in the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, the front-line trade promotion arm of the U.S. government, with trade specialists in offices around the world. He will draw on those skills to assist the Arkansas Economic Development Commission as well as the Sam M. Walton College of Business.
Throughout his life, Harris found that you cannot make major decisions on the basis of data alone. “By all means, do the best analysis you can, but also seek that inner sense that this is the right path–what you are called to do now,” he says.
That calling brought him to the Walton College. Born in Fayetteville, Harris grew up in Newport and spent his adult years living on four continents.
Though he had opportunities in Washington, D.C., Harris saw Arkansas as a place where his global business experience could make a real impact.
“I wanted to give Arkansas first refusal,” he says, smiling. “I’m delighted the University of Arkansas said ‘yes!’”
Harris was already familiar with the Tyson Center, having met founding director Dr. Judith Neal a few years ago. He says he is eager to build on her outstanding work. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to combine my business skills with a mission I really care about,” he says.
In the spring, he will teach international management and, through the center, engage students in exploring why and how faith and spirituality matter in the workplace in a manner that’s open to all perspectives. He believes that engaging with faith, values and ethics will help graduates become more authentic leaders, capable of operating successfully in an increasingly diverse workplace. Understanding how faith and spirituality play different roles in different cultures will make them better communicators, Harris says.
“Students who know how to stay true to themselves, yet are able to work well with people fundamentally different from themselves, will be very attractive to companies,” he says. “They will also know how to evaluate the alignment of their personal values with those of prospective employers. It’s all about helping our students thrive in a global marketplace.”
As he settles in at Walton, Harris relishes the open and innovative environment here. “I’m thrilled to be part of the team that will put Walton in the top 20 publicly funded business schools by 2020,” he says.