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Trustee: Carmen D. Harris, C’2002

Trustee Carmen Harris, C'2002

Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Magnus on Water
B.S., Spelman College
M.P.H., University of South Carolina
City of Residence: Portland, ME

For over 15 years, Carmen Harris has cultivated innovative strategies between individuals, organizations and campaigns to improve the lives of priority populations -- especially Black women and girls. Her career has been a deft combination of research, innovation, fundraising, partnerships and following one’s heart.

Harris began her career as an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with an interest in improving health disparities among overweight youth. She worked in the Division of Nutrition, Obesity and Physical Activity (Epidemiology team), the Division of Diabetes Translation (Program Evaluation team), and in the Division of Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (Surveillance team).

In October 2014, Harris shifted to the nonprofit sector as the manager of Innovation and Partnerships for America’s Essential Hospitals -- the only association for America’s public hospitals and health systems. In keeping with this calling, one year later Harris founded -- and maintains to date -- The Food & Move Group, which provides clients such as the American Cancer Society with strategic support to increase physical activity and healthy food access in local communities and priority populations.

Joining team GirlTrek in August 2016 was a cumulative and defining moment in Harris’ career. She was inspired by this national health movement, which empowers women to make change of their lives through walking. Harris became chief of social impact and strategic partnerships, and later, acting director of development. Under Harris’ leadership, GirlTrek exceeded their $3M fundraising goal by 100% by raising over $6.6M through foundations and individual major donors.

After taking an eight-month sabbatical, Harris underwent a considerable career pivot in August 2018. With her sights set on entrepreneurial ventures in the hospitality industry, Harris became co-founder and managing partner of Magnus on Water -- a cocktail bar and restaurant just outside of Portland, Maine. The new restaurateur and small business owner raised over $1 million dollars in start-up capital and currently develops and oversees the implementation of the restaurant's vision.

Twenty years after Harris first stepped on Spelman’s campus as a freshman, she began to have a deep desire to serve the school. The NAASC member and Spelman Sister2Sister mentor planned and led (along with two classmates) the Class of 2002’s peer-to-peer campaign: “Guard Our Gates” movement, an initiative to increase young alumnae giving through planned gifts. In a single fiscal year, the team raised $2 million dollars in planned gifts and increased Class of 2002's alumnae giving by over 300%.

Harris holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Spelman and a Masters of Public Health from the University of South Carolina. She enjoys yoga, hiking and listening to podcasts.

Thoughts on why she chose to serve on the Spelman College Board of Trustees:
I want to honor the role of the alumna trustee by honoring what it means to be an alumna of Spelman College. For me that means you honor who you are, you serve where you are, and you give what you can and how you can to Spelman College. Simply stated, I am interested in becoming an alumna trustee to help the College leverage one of our greatest assets -- our alumnae.