50 Making a Difference Profile: Betty J. Harris, University of Oklahoma
Betty Harris received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Brandeis University and her master’s and doctoral degrees in anthropology from Brown University. She was the director of women’s studies for 15 years and is professor of anthropology and women’s studies at the University of Oklahoma. Her research interests include political economy, textile production, agriculture, women in higher education and women’s issues generally in Africa and the United States.
Harris is the author of The Political Economy of the Southern African Periphery: Cottage Industries, Factories and Female Wage Labor in Swaziland Compared and is currently writing her second. Known worldwide for her research and writing on women and development issues in southern Africa, she also has given frequent presentations and has had numerous articles published in journals and as book chapters.
Her work has been supported and recognized by two prestigious Fulbright awards and National Science Foundation grants.
Harris “exercises leadership in her scholarly work in two fields (anthropology and women’s studies) and in her administrative duties, but it is her dedicated personal involvement with students and with people from many parts of the world that has an unmeasurable impact for the better,” said Gwenn Davis, professor emerita of English and women’s studies at OU.
Harris, whose parents were both educators as well, currently serves as a faculty mentor on President’s Distinguished Mentoring Program at OU. She is a member of the American Anthropological Association, African Studies Association, National Women’s Studies Association, Association for Africanist Anthropology and Mid- America Alliance for African Studies.
She considers her election as the fourth president of the National Women’s Studies Association as her most significant professional achievement. “While my election to the position reflected an acknowledgement of my accomplishments in the profession, it has also led to many other professional opportunities.”
Harris was also president of the Society for Africanist Anthropology and the Mid-America Alliance for African Studies.
Her civic involvement includes serving on the board of trustees for World Neighbors, in which she is active in the group’s Work of Women programs. In addition, she has found time to volunteer with interfaith groups in Norman and Oklahoma City.
“It is always a challenge to achieve a happy medium between work and family life,” Harris said. “I have been able to be supportive of my husband and members of my extended family in spite of my job demands.”
Birthplace: Sandersville, Ga.
Spouse: Edward Sankowski
First job: Researcher for the Division of Behavioral Science Research, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Ala.
Dream job: Director of a midsized international women’s research department
Hobbies: Hiking, embroidery, ecotourism and photography
Favorite type of food: Ethiopian, Indian
Favorite type of music: Eclectic
Favorite vacation spot: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Originally published by Journal Record Staff.
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