Tiffany Harris’ impressive career at U-M includes serving as a mentor, tutor and the president of two student organizations.
But it was a life-changing study abroad experience that helped solidify her career goals. The LSA student, who double majored in political science and African American studies, wants to become a lawyer focusing on using restorative justice to help reduce gender-based violence in South Africa.
“No woman deserves to live in a society where they don’t feel OK to walk down the street unless they’re with a man. I just want all women to feel safe and protected,” Harris said.
Harris entered U-M to study engineering. But she soon realized she wasn’t as passionate about it as she was about her classes in African American studies.
She became involved in organizations that worked to connect and support fellow students of color. As a freshman, she joined Support for Incoming Black Students, a mentorship program that pairs Black upperclassmen with freshmen.
“For students who feel out of place or don’t have direction or know where to go, it’s a place to go to find resources, meet friends and feel more comfortable at a PWI (predominantly white institution),” she said. “By the end of my freshman year, I got involved in the leadership team and met a lot of friends.”
A dancer since age 3, Harris is president of Creatives of Color, an organization that fosters connections among artists in various creative fields by providing a platform for collaboration and expression. She also is marketing chair and a choreographer for Pure Dance.
Her resume doesn’t stop there. Harris is the co-president of the Black Undergraduate Law Association, a math and Spanish tutor in the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives’ SuccessConnects program and a marketing intern at the Graham Sustainability Institute.
In early 2020, Harris entered a study abroad program at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. A few months before she arrived, a 19-year-old student named Uyinene Mrwetyana was raped and murdered by a postal worker at a post office just a few minutes from where Harris stayed.
Harris learned not only about the prevalence of gender-based violence in South Africa, but also the underlying gender, racial and economic inequities in the country.
“It highlights the fact that no woman is safe in South Africa,” Harris said. “Gender-based violence is high, and it can happen anywhere.”
Although her study abroad semester was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it had a lasting impact on Harris. After graduating, she plans to take a year off before entering law school. She hopes to spend another semester studying in South Africa.
Harris said one lesson she’s taking away from her experience at U-M is to always believe in herself.
“I can achieve as much as I want to achieve,” she said.