A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Michael Harrison (Rice MBA Class ofâ€™ 2010) came to Houston with Teach For America in 2001. He taught English and reading at Hogg Middle School for five years while earning his Masters of Education. Michael left the classroom and became an administrator at Burbank Middle School where he learned about the opportunity to earn a Rice MBA through the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program (REEP).
â€śAfter three years of administrative experience, I had reached a point where I was looking for more of an academic challenge that would stretch my leadership capacity,â€ť Harrison says. â€śI thought REEP would be an amazing opportunity to stretch my thinking and gain a different approach to education.â€ť
Harrison stood out at the investiture ceremonies last May. A member of REEPâ€™s first graduation cohort, he was proud to host his students at the ceremony. Tudor Fieldhouse erupted with cheers and applause when they called his name. â€śI wanted to show my students that they too can achieve graduate degrees and should be able to do so as long as they remain focused on reaching their goals.â€ť
Last summer, after a rigorous assessment and interview process, Harrison was promoted to principal of Marshall Middle School. â€śMarshall was considered by the district to be academically unacceptable last year with a lot of other issues to resolve, but with a hardworking and supportive staff, awesome students and parents plus phenomenal support from the district, we are moving forward towards achieving higher student success.â€ť
Shortly after he started, Harrison was met with an administrative vacancy in an assistant principal role at Marshall, and he looked to another REEP alum. â€śI was able to make new lasting friendships with like-minded people through REEP. I met Bernadette Blanco during Summer Institute, and she was assigned to my school group cohort where we met monthly. She went through the same assessment process I did and when my position opened â€” and after many interviews with district personnel â€” I was able to hire Ms. Blanco as my sixth grade assistant principal, and her first day on the job was also the first day of school for students. Talk about hit the ground running!â€ť
To know Michael Harrisonâ€™s story, is to know only a part of the REEP contribution to and impact on the Houston education community. Aside from high profile lectures open to the public â€” including former Chancellor of DC Public Schools Michelle Rhee, Howard Fuller, Whitney Tilson and Dr. Diane Ravitch â€” REEPâ€™s business certification recipients receive a solution-focused curriculum that effectively balances pedagogy with business insight on leadership, finance, and entrepreneurship. Last July the second Summer Institute welcomed back many of the previous yearâ€™s faculty: Rick Hess from American Enterprise; Tom Loveless from the Brookings Institute; Don McAdams from the Center for Education Reform; Mike Feinberg and Chris Barbic, the founders of KIPP and Yes Prep; and Marguerite Roza from the Gates Foundation.
The Jones School is the only business school in Texas to offer an educational leadership curriculum and principal certification. The REEP network is made up of passionate, creative education entrepreneurs â€” both students in the programs and practitioners and thought leaders who guide the dialogue. Together, they challenge each other to be catalysts for change in public schools.