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Patricia Harris teaching at SCC.How amazing would it be to have a college professor who has climbed Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, trekked the Tour de Mont Blanc and hiked the entire Appalachian Trail. And no, she doesn’t teach physical education; she’s a professor in Human Services and Psychology.

“I’m from a large family of outdoor people,” said Patricia Harris. “We camped every summer in the beautiful forests of Northern Michigan.” She says she is the happiest doing outside things like hiking, kayaking, trekking, and camping.

Originally from Ypsilanti, Michigan, Patricia attended Eastern Michigan University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Family Life Studies and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she received a Master of Education in Counseling. She began as a Career Counselor at Sandhills 30 years ago and has been teaching for 25 years.

Patricia says she loves her office hours because they give her extended time to meet with students. “It is very gratifying working with the younger generation,” she says. “I’ve been the faculty adviser for the Human Services Club for over 20 years. I am able to guide students as they learn leadership skills and plan and execute philanthropic projects.”

Patricia thinks community colleges are a wise choice for all sorts of students. “People who work at Sandhills are enthusiastic and very dedicated to teaching. We have an amazing number of professors and staff leaders with advanced degrees, many with Ph.D.’s.

“Almost every new student I meet comments on how helpful and kind everyone is – and this is definitely true. Instead of pointing a student in the right direction to find an office or classroom, employees will more than likely take the time to walk them there. Everyone here feels our mission is to help students not only learn, but to become engaged in activities and ultimately feel that they belong.

“Our leadership is very encouraging, and I’ve always felt supported as a faculty member as I try to be the best instructor I can be. We are afforded considerable academic freedom. Our president once said, “We hire people who are already happy,” and maybe that is the magic of this place.”

Patricia also mentions another aspect that makes the college so unique – the gorgeous surroundings. “It’s such a pleasure driving onto the campus each day,” she says. And for this outdoorsy girl, of course, the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens are among her favorite places on campus. “It’s such a peaceful and lovely place. And from someone who has viewed the world from atop mountains and deep inside forests, that says a lot.

Patricia has found herself in a home full of guys. She has two stepsons, Jason and Avery, plus she and husband, Gates, are parents to Will, who accompanied her to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and Max. Max attended SCC and was presented with the prestigious Academic Excellence Award in 2014.

In a few years, Patricia will be able to scale even more mountains and traverse other trails because she has plans to retire. The college has been more than fortunate to have such an incredible person on the faculty.

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