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Women's dinner to honor professor Harrison

On March 20, 2018

Varsity News photo by LO DODSON

BY JOAN-MARIE JEFFERSON / VN STAFF WRITER

The Grammys, Oscars and Emmys are not the only big award shows happening this year.

Detroit Mercy’s Student Programming Board is hosting its annual Phenomenal Women’s Dinner Wednesday, March 23, and Mary-Catherine Harrison, English department chair and associate professor, is being honored.

Harrison specializes in Victorian literature, narrative theory and the psychology of reading.

She is also executive director of Rx for Reading Detroit, a non-profit literacy program.

Professor Nicholas Rombes has worked with Harrison for a decade.

The award is well-deserved, he said.

“Professor Harrison has had a profound impact on her students and the department,” he said. “Inside and outside the classroom she is so much more than just a professor: she is a mentor, a role model and an advocate for students. I have seen students blossom and thrive in classes with her.”

Harrison began her career journey at Detroit Mercy in 2008.

There’s an old saying that advises, “Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”

The quote speaks of Harrison in many ways.

Harrison said she can’t imagine her career being any other way.

“I have spent my entire professional life at University of Detroit Mercy, and it has been an incredibly rewarding and inspiring decade of my life,” she said. “The best part of being a professor is getting to work every day with dedicated, smart and generous colleagues and students who are out there kicking ass every day. I can’t imagine a better career.”

Harrison said she will accept the award with gratitude.

“I think being a phenomenal woman means standing up for yourself, standing in solidarity with other women, doing what you think is right even when it is hard or uncomfortable and using your voice whenever and however you can,” she said. “Or, as Maya Angelou put it: ‘I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.’ I hope I can live up to this one day.”

Harrison has left a significant impression on some of her students.

Senior English major Kimberly Bowman admires Harrison.

“One of the most phenomenal aspects about Harrison is her excitement for what she teaches, especially about the Victorian era,” said Bowman. “Her being excited about what she teaches is a catalyst for our excitement. She makes the topics real, relatable and does all of this without breaking a sweat.”

Bowman is also impressed by how Harrison manages her busy life.

“She is a scholar, a mother, a wife, the chair of the English department, professor of many courses and is over a non-profit program,” she said.

Harrison said she looks at “balance” differently than some others.

“As any working parent will tell you, the so-called ‘work-life balance’ is impossible to achieve,” she said. “So instead of balance, I like to think that my work is part of my life and my life is part of my work.”

Rx for Reading Detroit has allowed her to bring both together.

“I wanted to do something for the broader Detroit community, but I wanted to make that work part of my work as an English professor and part of campus life at Detroit Mercy,” she said. “Almost 200 students have worked with Rx for Reading Detroit in some capacity.”

She sais she is proud of what they have accomplished.

“It has gone beyond anything I could have imagined,” she said.

The Phenomenal Women’s Dinner will take place on Wednesday, March 28, 5:30-7 p.m. 

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