MS in Commerce Blog

Back in the Day: Professor Ira Harris

We caught up with Ira Harris, the program director for the MS-Commerce. Professor Harris is teaching two courses in the fall semester and leading one of the GIE trips in the spring.

Two pictures of the same man at different ages. One young, one old.

Professor Harris at 22; Professor Harris today

Professor Harris at 22; Professor Harris today

What is your role in the M.S. in Commerce program?

I am the program director for the MS-Commerce program, along with teaching two courses in the fall semester and leading one of the GIE trips in the spring.

How does this program add value for potential students?

The program aims to provide a holistic education (e.g., global mindset, analytical thinking, sharp communication skills, ability to work in groups, attention to detail, time management), but the primary objective to help students to develop strong problem-solving skills. This is the most important skill for students graduating into a rapidly changing world.

What were you doing when you were 22 years old?

Professionally, I was studying for the CPA exam and enjoying my new job at Deloitte in Chicago. Personally, I was adjusting to life in the big city and learning to be a grown-up. Socially, I was in love and preparing to marry my college sweetheart within just a few months.

What did you want to do when you were 22?

This was a tough question for me at 22. I loved accounting, but wasn’t certain that I wanted to spend 40 years in the field. Working in an advisory industry like audit allowed me to learn several industries at a time, so I didn’t need to change jobs to learn about myself. Though I didn’t know the exact path, I knew that I wanted to have a career of impact. I was focused on finding my “vocation” and not simply an occupation. It took a few years for the vision to clarify, but I think that I found it.

How has your field changed since you were 22?

Back then it wasn’t “my field,” but the strategic management field has changed tremendously since that time. The field, in fact, has changed names. My strategy course in college was entitled Business Policy. Much of the foundation for the field was established during the 80s and 90s. The key change has been the research rigor and availability of in-depth data to study performance differences across companies and industries. This has improved our understanding of sources of advantages.

And (most importantly) when you were 22, who was your celebrity crush?

Tricky question for a professor to answer…Like every 22-year-old male back in the day, I was very impressed with Phyllis Hyman, jazz and R&B vocalist. Her hit song, “The Answer is You,” was huge! I don’t recall whether it was her beauty or powerful voice, but she was definitely crush-worthy.

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