2020 MBAs To Watch: Amie Harris, University of Texas (McCombs)

Amie Harris        

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

LA-raised, Austin-based, focused on intersection of business and policy, passionate about travel and outdoors.”

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Fun fact about yourself: After college, I spent a year volunteering at a women’s shelter through the AmeriCorps program.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Boston College, B.A. in International Studies;
University of Texas, LBJ School of Public Affairs, M.A. in Public Affairs

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? U.S. Agency for International Development, Office of Education, Strategic Communications & Engagement Advisor

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? Deloitte, Government & Public Services, Austin, TX

Where will you be working after graduation? Deloitte, Government & Public Services, Senior Consultant, Austin, TX

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Board Fellows, President; Fellow at College Forward
  • Net Impact, Co-Vice President of Strategic Partnerships
  • McCombs Social Innovation Initiative, Graduate Assistant
  • McCombs Graduate Sustainability and Social Innovation Council, Co-Founder
  • Teaching Assistant for graduate-level Public Financial Management and undergraduate-level Social Entrepreneurship courses
  • McCombs Ambassador Committee member
  • McCombs MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT) member
  • Finalist at Patagonia Case Competition

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am someone who strongly believes in the power of interdisciplinary approaches to problem-solving. During my first year, I helped launch the Social Impact Case Program through a partnership with the McCombs Social Innovation Initiative and the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service. The goal was to create an experiential leadership and development program for graduate students across the UT campus by connecting them with social enterprises and nonprofits serving the Austin area. In our first year, we developed a 10-week extracurricular consulting program that matched eight graduate students with two mission-driven organizations. In our second year, we grew the program to nearly 20 students working at four different organizations. Our program demonstrated a growing demand from students who wanted to gain experience in social impact consulting, and subsequently, our learnings have been integrated into 3-credit hour classes and other extracurricular consulting programs. I am proud to be part of a growing ecosystem of student leaders who are building sound leadership skills in the service of making the world a better place.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my time at USAID, I led a campaign to promote access to children’s books in developing countries. Millions of children do not have access to quality books in languages they understand; therefore, USAID developed a digital tool to easily write and translate books in local languages, which can then be uploaded onto an online platform for global distribution. During the early stages of this initiative, I worked to specifically engage American audiences – students, education experts, community leaders, members of diaspora communities – in the book creation process. I led workshops at a dozen U.S. colleges and universities, and I created a step-by-guide guide for hosting workshops at other campuses and community centers throughout the country. I also met with Members of Congress to demonstrate the business case for increased investments in international education and to drum up support for book events in their districts. Today, Google and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation have entered into a multimillion-dollar partnership with USAID to provide high-quality, open-licensed materials to children all over the world, and I am extremely proud to be part of the founding team that launched this global effort.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Meeta Kothare has been a defining force during my time at Texas McCombs. She is a phenomenal professor who I have worked with as a student in her Impact Investing Practicum for MBA students and as a teaching assistant in her Social Entrepreneurship Practicum for undergraduate students. She also provided invaluable insights on the Board Fellows Advisory Council during my tenure as President of the student-run organization. And if that’s not enough – as the Managing Director for the McCombs Social Innovation Initiative – Meeta works tirelessly to prepare students for a future rife with complex social and environmental challenges, and she encourages others to do the same. Dr. Laura Starks and John Doggett are two other professors who I greatly admire for their stake in this fight.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? International Night. Every fall, the International MBA Student Association hosts “International Night,” where students share food and showcase traditional song and dance from their countries of origin. Students and faculty bring their families, and the entire community celebrates cultures and customs from all over the world. It is easily one of my favorite events of the year.

Why did you choose this business school? McCombs offers the opportunity to simultaneously pursue business and public policy through an integrated, dual-degree MBA/MPAff program. When exploring options for graduate school, I was specifically drawn to its reputation as a leading academic institution with a strong emphasis on collaboration and connection to the Austin community. My interests generally lie at the intersection of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. For me, few places provided the unique combination of state capitol, tech hub, and vibrant philanthropic community.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Do your homework on the program. Reach out to current students and recent alumni who have similar interests or career goals. (Trust me, everyone is willing to help a fellow Longhorn – even if you’re still a prospective Longhorn.) Visit campus if possible, and (even better. attend a marquee recruiting weekend like Women’s Weekend or Diversity Weekend. You really get a sense of the community that makes McCombs so special.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Before school, the biggest myth in my mind was that McCombs wouldn’t be friendly to a “non-traditional candidate” because of the school’s strong reputation in oil & gas and finance. In reality, I found that McCombs isn’t looking for one type of student with proven experience in business; rather, the school wants to build a culture of thoughtful leaders who bring diverse perspectives to the table and go on to make an impact across many different sectors. Whether you have a background in business, government, or nonprofits – all experience is welcome.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Leave more time in my schedule for coffee with classmates and professors. I have learned so much in the classroom, and I still find myself amazed to learn about what drives my peers outside the classroom. Graduate school just never leaves enough time to do it all.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Without question, my classmates have been the highlight of my MBA experience. I am constantly in awe of their determination to affect the world in lasting and meaningful ways. For me, Lin Rui Li is one person who exemplifies this quality to a tee. She works harder than anyone I have ever met, and she constantly does so in the service of others. The Social Impact Case Program was her brainchild, and she quickly convinced me to join her crusade to source more interdisciplinary learning opportunities for students interested in social impact. I admire Lin Rui’s incredible persistence and conviction to be a catalyst for good in this world.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My husband Jeffrey Springer (McCombs MBA ’18) really encouraged me to consider an MBA. I watched as he experienced McCombs, and I quickly realized that an MBA could help me achieve my own professional goals. He pushed me to take the leap, and he inspired me to take advantage of everything that McCombs has to offer. I am incredibly grateful for his endless support through this journey.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

– Start my own social enterprise

– Serve on the board of a nonprofit

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope to be remembered as someone who actively worked to leave the community better than I found it.

Hobbies? Anything that gets me outside – running, hiking, biking, kayaking. I’m also learning to brew beer.

What made Amie such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“As a dual degree student, Amie Harris, came into business school with a plan to elevate the conversation around sustainability and social impact. She understands that the world’s biggest problems will require interdisciplinary solutions. Each of her initiatives in school has been in service of this philosophy and approach.

Professor Meeta Kothare shared many of Amie’s accolades: “No MBA student has been more important to the growth of the McCombs MBA’s sustainability and social impact agenda than Amie. Amie has been my graduate assistant at the Social Innovation Initiative since its launch three years ago when she was studying Public Affairs at the LBJ School. When I mentored her to join the MBA program for a dual degree, I had high expectations for her, but even I could not have imagined the crucial role she would play in the program. She has successfully built coalitions among student organizations and even between schools on campus to promote a positive impact.

Amie co-founded our Social Impact Consulting program in partnership with the LBJ School of Public Affairs. As President of Board Fellows, she formed its first Advisory Council of faculty and community members. Her signature achievement though is the co-founding of the Graduate Sustainable and Social Innovation Council (GSSIC) with, fellow MBA student, Jess Mills. At a time when social and environmental impact is becoming an essential factor in business decision making, GSSIC brings together student leaders from multiple MBA organizations to promote and advocate for impact throughout the school, not just in specific interest groups. She is a strategic thinker to whom big ideas come naturally. With her ready smile and calm demeanor, she gets difficult problems solved while bringing people along to get things done. What I love most about Amie is her humility despite her phenomenal achievements! She is the kind of friend and colleague anyone would love to have.”

Amie’s impact on the McCombs and UT community will be long-lasting. She has pioneered, built and reinforced collaborations across the school, the university, the Austin community and beyond. The impact of these collaborations was exhibited by Amie’s work with her classmate Nitya Reddy, on our 2nd annual McCombs Board Fellows Showcase, a celebration of impact with our student fellows and their partner nonprofits in the Austin Community.

“What starts here changes the world,” and we look forward to Amie’s continued impact on the world writ large.”

Tina Mabley
Assistant Dean and Program Director, Full-time MBA Program

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business


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