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Economics professor Mark Harrison retires after a decade behind the Red Brick Wall

This story is part of a series featuring faculty members who are retiring in 2021.

Mark Harrison

Economics professor Mark Harrison is a man on the move.

An avid scuba diver, he has explored the depths of the South China Sea, the Bali Sea, and the Red Sea, among others. He’s sailed from the Chesapeake Bay to Gibraltar as part of a 42-foot catamaran’s crew, and canoed the Wabakimi Wilderness in Canada.

In 1998, he designed and built a house in Peterborough, New Hampshire, based on the precepts of architectural theorist Christopher Alexander. More than a decade later, he visited a business and management school in Indonesia as a Fulbright Scholar.

In the midst of his travels, Harrison embarked on not one career but two. Before coming to Randolph in 2010, he spent 12 years working as a petroleum engineer in the oil industry, including 10 years in the Philippines.

When Harrison decided he needed a change, business school came calling, and the then-35-year-old went on to earn his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas at Austin.

Retiring this year, Harrison discusses his time at Randolph and how his background played into the work he did here:

You studied a variety of topics before earning your degree in chemical engineering, then spent more than a decade working before you switched gears. Why did you choose to pursue higher education?

“I had a pleasant career in the oil business, and I loved the Philippines, but after 12 years I wanted to try something new. And I am very glad I did!”

How does your previous career impact the way you approach teaching?

“Students want to know how to do something. So I gravitated immediately to active learning. My style was to give a problem to student teams, then just circulate and get them unstuck. No lecturing at all.”

What are your favorite courses to teach?

“My favorite courses were Management, where I introduced the students to teamwork and case analysis, and Senior Capstone, where they produced their own strategies for a real business. I loved watching students grapple with real-world management problems.”

What advice would you give to students?

“Try as many different courses and jobs as you can. I didn’t expect to enjoy engineering, but it turned out I did. Plan, yes, but write your plans in pencil so that you can be opportunistic.”

What’s next for you?

“I am hoping to go to Vietnam on a Fulbright next fall. Wish me luck!”

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