Pearlissa Harris ’16

a young african american woma smiling in professional attire
Pearlissa Harris (Class of 2016)

Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
Major: Urban Studies
Minor: Environmental Studies, Religious Studies

Extracurricular activities: Student Trustee, former President of BSA, Women’s Golf Team, Senior Fellow of the Office of Admission, VOICES Member, SOS Mentor, the Pack, Peer Assistant, Rhodes Diplomat, Chi Omega, Co-founder of Rhodes United, Rhodes Activities Board, Building Manager of the BCLC, Lecture Board  

Even before stepping foot onto campus, Pearlissa Harris ’16 held lofty expectations for what her undergraduate education would be like. She took note of Rhodes’ various clubs and organizations, and knew she’d be able to find her niche. “I chose Rhodes because I’ve always been the kind of person who likes getting involved,” she says, and adds she also was drawn to Rhodes because of the Honor Code. “I found it significant that the school holds students to high standards.”

Once at Rhodes, Pearlissa got involved with as many groups and organizations as she could, and credits the close-knit community found at a smaller liberal arts campus with helping her to make connections across the board. One of her early priorities was joining the golf team; she had been playing golf from a young age and knew she wanted to continue playing in college. She went on to become a member of the women’s golf team that won the 2014 NCAA National Championship. She also volunteers with The First Tee, an organization that works to impact the lives of young people by teaching important life skills through the game of golf.

Pearlissa also joined the Black Student Association (BSA) as a firstyear. An active member, she became the organization’s events coordinator her sophomore year, and then president her junior year. The BSA helped her find her voice, and taught her valuable lessons such as the value of staying positive and the benefits of a good listening environment. As president, she arranged for BSA to visit LeBonheur Children’s Hospital for Black History Month, where they shared their experiences with the children while also having fun with crafts and coloring. “Through all that was going on, I was able to grow as a person,” Pearlissa explains. “Becoming BSA president was the most interesting part of my life.”

Pearlissa’s focus this year is her new position as one of the three students on the college’s board of trustees. “Having three student trustees really helps to inform the board about issues on campus, what we can improve on, and what our students are asking for,” she says.  She now confidently helps represent the student body on topics such as spring rush, a student union, and ways to better acclimate first-year students.

According to Pearlissa, Rhodes has not only helped her recognize the importance of an education, but also given her the skills to be able to challenge her own viewpoints as well as those of others. An urban studies major with minors in environmental studies and religious studies, she plans to pursue a masters in food policy and nutrition, studying better methods of allocating and utilizing natural resources.  “My passion is helping children. I’ve always had a drive for serving children in urban communities through connecting them to different afterschool learning and athletic programs,” she explains. If her past endeavors are any indication of her future, that’s a goal she is sure to achieve.

By Swaneet Mand ’18