Meet Dr. Malou Harrison, Miami Dade College Executive Vice President and Provost and former Girl Guide
Editor's Note: This Q&A originally ran in The New Tropic.
What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie?
Samoas – chocolate caramel coconut! – those are my favorite cookies.
If there was a Miami badge for Girl Scouts, what three tasks would need to be completed to earn the badge?
First, give service to the elderly. I think that it’s critical for any young person to really give of themselves and lift up the elderly in our community.
Second, engage in environmental sustainability. Whether it’s cleaning up a park on a sustained basis, organizing a project around the importance of saving the planet, reducing your carbon footprint, or learning about sea level rise — all are crucial, especially for young people, if we are going to truly make a transformational change in our community.
Third, practice kindness. Launch a kindness initiative and get other young people to wrap their arms around it and spread kindness among their friends’ group. Spreading kindness in our community is vital.
Tell us about your work — your job and/or any volunteer work.
I serve as the Provost at Miami Dade College and as Chief Academic Officer, leading academic affairs, educational program, and student success initiatives. My mission as Provost and as an educational leader is to create opportunities for people in our community to upskill, reskill, and gain credentials that will propel them forward in their personal and professional lives so they can advance themselves and be contributing citizens in our society. That’s what drives me every single day in my role and has since the first time I stepped foot at MDC years ago.
At MDC, students come first. That’s my mantra and it’s my tagline on my email signature to remind me each and every day why I do what I do. I want to be reminded why I’m here and what my mission is as the provost, as a former dean, as a former campus president at MDC. In terms of my volunteer experience, currently acting as a “Big” with Big Brothers Big Sisters has been a most rewarding relationship with my mentee, my “Little.”
What’s your favorite Miami memory?
About eight years ago, while I was dean at MDC North Campus, I was involved in building a Habitat for Humanity home in Liberty City. I went with a group of Miami Dade College students, who tried so hard to take care of me, and I let them know that I was there to work and build alongside them. We got to meet the family once the house was done. It was a wonderful experience for me to know that a family now had a home, fully furnished to live, and that I had a small hand in it. That memory, the impact on the family, the teamwork around the young students, it has stuck with me, and I keep a photo of me and the team of MDC students in my office.
Pick a favorite local outdoor experience. What is it? What’re we doing? Who’s going with you?
I’m a South Dade girl. Black Point Marina, walking all the way out to Biscayne Bay or riding my bicycle out there. There’s a beautiful path that goes through mangroves right to the water, out to the bay. I would always ride out there with my husband and children when they were young and now go with my son who lives with me.
What’s your favorite local Instagram or TikTok account and why?
I am not really on Instagram or TikTok, I am mostly on LinkedIn. I like to follow higher education channels like Inside Higher Ed and Diverse Issues in Higher Education. I also follow other educators who are innovating in new and optimized ways of serving students; I consider myself to be a lifelong learner to glean new initiatives, new trends, what’s worked/what hasn’t. LinkedIn has been an excellent place for me to learn and share.
If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Carl’s Seafood, the steamed fish. It’s a whole snapper, cooked Jamaican style, and it is so delicious. I could have it every single day.
What’s a project you’re working on (big or small) and how can our readers help you with it?
One project I am leading that has potential to be most transformative is a project to take education into the community. This started with our collaboration in Liberty City at Liberty Square in the fall of 2021. We started a property management program, with tuition grants, that leads students to taking a state certification. The program was on-site at Liberty Square with 25 residents, all of whom said that if we had not offered the course on-site, they wouldn’t have been able to come. Of the 25 students, about half were employed when they graduated in December. That is something I want to replicate in other affordable housing facilities so that the opportunity for residents is much more profound. I think it’s critical that, if we are to truly advance equity for humanity and for the success of our community, we have to meet people where they are.
Other important initiatives are our Rising Black Scholars Program and our Presidential Scholarship Program, both of which enable students straight out of high school to earn credits. In addition, we also have apprenticeship programs — we call these “learn and earn.” Most recently, we started one with Henry Automotive where we’ve enrolled 25 students in automotive tech programs. They’ll be learning the ropes and earning a salary at the same time. We have similar programs in supply chain and in aviation.
It’s about participation and collaboration. Where can we build connections and partnerships with other institutions in this town to create seamless pathways for students to grow into after completing their degrees? Readers can spread the word that MDC has an open door and welcomes the community to take advantage of all our courses and programs.