Professor of Geology
Education: bachelor's degree in geology from Eastern Kentucky University; bachelor's degree in geophysics from the University of Houston; master's and doctorate degrees in geology/geophysics from the University of Kentucky
Given an opportunity to move to a research position more than a decade ago, Dr. Jamie Harris, professor of geology at Millsaps College, realized his true passion is teaching.
"It was a light bulb moment for me," Harris said, "I didn't want to leave teaching behind."
His creative teaching methods and dedication to giving students research experiences through field-based learning are among reasons the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching selected Harris as Mississippi's 2009 Professor of the Year. He received the award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
As one of the most prestigious awards honoring undergraduate teaching, the Professors of the Year program salutes the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the country - those who excel as teachers and influence the lives and careers of their students. Harris is one of 38 state winners from across the country chosen for the honor.
Harris has worked with students in identifying geographical features across ississippi, including the bluff line of the Mississippi River in Tate County. They have created an eathquake hazards model for the Jackson area and developed a map of gravel deposits in Yazoo County.
For Millsaps senior Andrew Fleming of Ocean Springs, his first geology course with Harris was enough to cement his decision to major in geology and pursue a career in it.
"He truly cares that students learn the material and maintains enthusiasm and encourages us to work even harder when material is difficult," Fleming said. "He provides ample opportunity for help on assignments and presents the material in a way that is interesting and useful."
After graduation, Fleming plans to attend graduate school to study geology, and hopes to have a future career in energy resource management and environmental geology.
"Dr. Harris is not only a successful teacher in the classroom but also has been a visionary in the area of field-based learning, developing a number of high-quality field based research and study programs in geology for students both in the U.S. and beyond," said Dr. David C. Davis, interim vice president and dean of the College.
Harris, who lives in Ridgeland, joined the geology faculty at Millsaps in 1995 and has served as the department chair since 1998. In that role, he has helped redesign the geology major to integrate field-based and experiential learning.
Each summer term Harris and other geology professors lead groups of Millsaps students to observe and study the geology of sites such as Yellowstone National Park, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Montana, and Mexico. Along the way, students are introduced to field skills such as mapping and interpretation of geologic processes.
"Many of our students have never had an earth science course before coming to college, and going into the field to work makes what we're learning in the classroom click in students' minds," Harris said. "Coming up with creative ways to teach is what Millsaps is all about, and geology is well-suited for field-based learning."
The Millsaps geology program emphasizes undergraduate research, and every student who majors in geology is required to participate in original research. The goal is to get students ready for graduate study and careers in geology. Approximately 90 percent of geology majors at Millsaps attend graduate school in geology or get jobs as geologists after graduation.
Harris' own expertise is widely recognized. In recent years Harris has travelled to Italy to present a paper on near surface seismic methods, and served as a keynote speaker for an international geophysical conference in China. Harris has a bachelor's degree in geology from Eastern Kentucky University, a bachelor's degree in geophysics from the University of Houston, and master's and doctorate degrees in geology/geophysics from the University of Kentucky. In 2006, he was named Millsaps' Distinguished Professor, the college's highest award in recognition of teaching and scholarship.
Harris is the sixth Millsaps professor to receive the state's Professor of the Year Award. Previous winners are Dr. Sarah Lea McGuire, biology; Dr. Bob McElvaine, history; Dr. Greg Miller, English; Dr. George Bey III, anthropology; and Dr. Kimberly Gladden Burke, accounting.