Aurora Harris: English Major to Nonprofit Leader

All too often, English majors are—unfairly and incorrectly—written off as unemployable. As academic Benjamin Schmidt puts it, “The difference between humanities majors and science majors, in median income and unemployment, seems to be no more than the difference between residents of Virginia and North Carolina.” And yet, our society continues to question both the value and the relevance of a degree in the humanities. In such a unique social climate, I think we have a lot to learn from College of Charleston alumna Aurora Harris. Currently serving as the senior director of regional strategy for nonprofit organization Young Invincibles, Aurora uses the skills she obtained in her English education to change the world. I recently had the pleasure of getting to know Aurora via Zoom, where we got to talk about how she uses her educational background to change the world.

In her time at the College, Aurora was already a changemaker. From her work in the classroom challenging Eurocentric literary values to her advocacy against racism and discrimination in the broader Charleston community, Aurora developed a knack for social organization that would become indispensable to her career. However, at that time in her life, she (like myself and many of my peers at present) was navigating the social pressures surrounding the professional viability of the English major. She didn’t have a clear sense of what she wanted to do after completing her undergraduate studies, but she did know that following her passion for literature would help her find her way. Today, she offers the same advice to others: “Let… that love of what you want to do guide you in your career, instead of fear.”

After graduating from the College, Aurora spent some time doing historic preservation work in Charleston before eventually connecting with a network of her peers in Houston, Texas, where she quickly worked her way up to high-level nonprofit leadership. Although the work was stressful, she found that her ability to clearly and succinctly synthesize complex information—a skill that she attributes to her English education—helped her excel in her career, and before long, she found herself in her current role at Young Invincibles, where she works to empower young people to engage with their state politics. Her job is a constant learning experience, as she bears the huge responsibility of understanding the nuanced political landscapes of five different states. But she welcomes this intellectual challenge, embodying the tendency for liberal arts students to, as George Anders says, “move forward as a researcher in the face of ambiguity.”

For Aurora, Young Invincibles is much more than a place to work—it’s a venue for using her lived experiences to uplift marginalized voices. As a part of her role, she spends her time writing, traveling to sites across her five states, and interfacing with colleagues and community members. Although she notes that she does still struggle to achieve a work-life balance and must be intentional about taking care of herself as someone who works in such an emotionally and intellectually demanding field, she is truly passionate about her chosen career.

Moreover, Aurora has no regrets about her path of study. Beyond her aforementioned talent for communicating big ideas, she also feels that her education has afforded her a unique perspective in the professional world that has just as much value as some of the more traditionally career-oriented majors: “We need more black and brown people in tech, yes. We need more black and brown doctors, absolutely. But we need more black and brown English majors… The way that this country is going, we need it all.” For all her great work and insight, Aurora is a true role model for humanities students, and I look forward to seeing what she will accomplish next!

One Response to Aurora Harris: English Major to Nonprofit Leader

  1. Prof VZ April 6, 2023 at 12:49 pm #

    Excellent profile of this remarkable alumna! You balance her background and current work nicely while also making a strong case for English on a number of levels. I would love to know a bit more about the organization that she works for up front–that would help frame the rest of this as well. Can you go back and add that in?

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