Entrepreneur, leader, mentor: Favorite professor

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Entrepreneur, leader, mentor: Favorite professor

By Alysen Boston | Evergreen reporter

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WSU’s entrepreneurship professor Joe Harris is the winner of the favorite professor category in the Student Choice Awards.

Harris has been a faculty member at WSU since 1993 when he became a counselor for WSU’s chapter of the Small Business Development Center.

At the Pullman campus, Harris teaches ENTRP 489, an introduction to entrepreneurship course, and ENTRP 492, a course in which students work with local businesses to apply the skills they learned in class. Harris also teaches multiple MBA programs via the Global Campus.

“I don’t enjoy giving lectures. I try to teach by having hands-on things in class,” Harris said. “I try to make it lively and interesting, so every time they come to class there’s something new they learn in an interesting way.”

Harris’ hands-on teaching style is admired by many of his students, including senior entrepreneurship major Taylor Harrison.

“It’s definitely different than a lot of other classes that I’ve had,” Harrison said. “He kind of pushes you toward creativity, in a sense. You can’t use PowerPoint to present in his class.”

Even Harris’ teaching assistant, Amir Maleki, found the professor helpful and supportive.

“He was very easy with me, without any tension or problems, he explained to me very well the grading and stuff I had to do,” Maleki said. “It was my first semester as a teaching assistant at WSU and I didn’t know so much about the regulations or the procedures. He helped me so much.”

Maleki, an international graduate student in Harris’s department, needed to take an English proficiency exam before being allowed to teach at WSU. This exam requires a professor in Maleki’s department to provide feedback on his English language skills in order to be granted permission to teach.

“Most of the professors in this department are very busy, and they don’t have the time to help international students like me,” Maleki said. “But, Joe accepted to help me and gave me about two hours of time to assess my English language. I was very appreciative of that, because I knew that nobody else would help me.”

Harris, along with his brother-in-law, co-founded Decagon Devices, Inc. in 1983. The business is headquartered in Pullman and manufactures products used in agricultural research.

As a result, Harris is uniquely qualified to teach entrepreneurship courses.

“His stories, like the real-life experiences that he shares with us in class, I think it’s more valuable than reading a book about something because it’s his actual trials and errors,” Harrison said.

Harrison also praises Harris’ ability to prepare students for life after college.

“He really tries to give us the knowledge we’re going to need after college if we do start our own company — where we could go wrong and where he went wrong,” Harrison said. “I think that’s what is most valued in his classes.”

When informed of his nomination for the award, Harris was humble.

“I’m surprised and honored that someone would nominate me,” Harris wrote in an email. “I hope I don’t disappoint.”