Service: A Career and a Calling

Recreation management professor Brad Harris doesn’t want to be one of those people who go through the motions every day. He’s never been the kind of person to just daydream about making a difference—he actually does something about it. This mentality has inspired Harris to work in nonprofits throughout his life.

Nonprofit work may seem small-scale to some, but Harris is using what he knows to dispel misconceptions surrounding nonprofit organizations. For Harris, service in the nonprofit sector has been much more than a way to pay the bills.

“It’s not just a job—it’s a career and a calling to help other people,” Harris says.

Brad Harris BYU

Harris’s interest in the field began in college when one of his professors at BYU offered extra credit for volunteering at a Boy Scout merit badge powwow held on campus. At the time, Harris was studying cartography. While at the event he met some recreation management faculty who talked with him about scouting as a profession. After that encounter, he decided that recreation management was the major for him.

Scouting played a big part in Harris’s life while he was growing up. He was born with reverse club foot on both feet and had to wear leg braces for much of his childhood. Harris went through the scouting program as a youth, which he says helped him realize his great potential—regardless of his disability.

“Being in a Cub Scout den with seven of my best friends helped lift me out of this self-pity thing and helped me realize that I could do anything,” Harris says.

After graduating from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in youth agency administration (a precursor to the recreation management program), Harris worked professionally for the Boy Scouts of America for twenty-two years and held many significant leadership positions. He wrote some of the training and courses for the Venturing program and traveled across the nation to train local leaders on its implementation. Harris also earned a master’s degree in public administration from BYU in 2007.

In 2003, Harris started working at BYU in the recreation management department where he now teaches various courses in leadership and career exploration. He also teaches classes for the nonprofit minor, which he helped found.

“People think that nonprofits are just quaint and cute—they don’t see the magnitude,” Harris says. “They don’t realize that we are surrounded by significant, large nonprofit organizations that have great salaries, great benefits, and happy people.”

All in all, Harris loves his job. He is the advisor of the BYU Nonprofit Student Association and likes to keep track of the students he has taught after they graduate. He feels satisfied knowing that what he teaches them helps make a real difference in the world.

“BYU students in and of themselves are pretty sharp, but I get an upper crust,” Harris says. “I hope that my students can become advocates for nonprofits throughout their lives so they can take care of those silly misconceptions people have, that they can talk about the powerful effect that nonprofits have, and that they appreciate them as the fastest growing sector in the country.”