Who's Who in HQ: Human Resources Coordinator Michele Harris

Danielle Randall
July 17, 2017

As the Department of Chemistry's Human Resources Coordinator, Michele Harris is often the first face a new Postdoc in the MIT Chemistry Department sees when they arrive at MIT. In addition to providing them with a warm welcome, she processes visas, helps them get acclimated, recruits talented people to fill staff positions, provides any and everyone who walks through her door with guidance on a number of issues, does a good bit of writing, and constantly strives to figure out better, more efficient ways of doing things. She is constantly on the lookout for new new ways to contribute, and constantly succeeds in doing so! As the subject of this month's Who's Who in HQ, Michele discusses her favorite books, the best trip she's ever taken, her detailed bucket list, the TV show she'd like her life to resemble, and much more!


1. How long have you been at MIT, and what brought you here? 
I’ve been at MIT almost 6 years.  I started off as assistant to the Department Head, and moved into an HR role in Chemistry in late 2013. I was in love with the idea of being in college all my life, and so working in higher education seemed a logical choice.  I love being in a job where I can do so many different things.  For instance, my last employer was an IT Management and Consulting firm, where I worked as an admin during grad school.  On my first day, my boss dropped a VB.NET training book in front of me, and told me I was going to learn to write code.  And so I did!

2. What was the last television show you binge watched?
Right now I’m watching House of Cards for the first time.

3.     Who are three of your favorite fictional characters?
Omar Little, Ron Swanson, Offred (both in the novel and TV series)

4.     What would be your last meal?
My answer would vary by the day!  Today I’d have to go with Afghan food from Helmand restaurant in Cambridge.  On another day I might say fresh bread and brie, muqueca, Ethiopian food, pretty much any type of sushi, or the plantain and black bean sandwich from Clover.

5.     What bit of trivia do you know that is very interesting but also very useless?
Finnish belongs to an entirely different language family (Uralic) than Swedish and Norwegian (North Germanic).  It’s much closer to Hungarian.

6.     What was your favorite book as a child, and what is your favorite book now?
When I was a kid, it was probably a tie between Hatchet and Where the Red Fern Grows.  Now, there are too many, but let’s say The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God by Etgar Keret.  I would probably tell you a different book tomorrow.

7.     What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
This is a tie between my first trip out west to the national parks of Arizona and Utah, and my first trip to Europe.  Seeing Venice for the first time was like seeing the back of a Byzantine coin brought to life.

8.     What is on your bucket list?
Publishing a book of poetry, setting foot on all seven continents, flying in a hot air balloon, singing a jazz set at a nightclub, seeing Petra and Salar de Uyuni, learning a new language (my sister is a polyglot—I’m so envious!), keeping my new house plants alive (least likely of them all)

9.  Which two celebrities would you pick to be your parents?
Fred Rogers and Tina Fey

10.  What superstition do you believe in?
I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.   (Yes, I’m a fan of The Office).

11.  What’s one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
How to ride a bike!  I learned when I was 27.

12.  Who is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party?
David Mitchell, Barack Obama, Malala Yousafzai, Kate McKinnon, Steve Carrell, Elizabeth Warren, Justin Trudeau, Margaret Atwood, Stuart Murdoch, Fred Rogers

13.  If you could spend a month in any time period, which one would it be and why?
I’d love to spend a month reading in the library of Alexandria.  I’m floored by the things that have survived history.  Can you imagine all the things that haven’t?

14.  What is your go to karaoke song?
Fever by Peggy Lee

15.  Do you have a secret talent?
I like to play the ukulele.

16.  What was your first job, ever?
I worked in a pizza shop in Ithaca, NY one summer.  As a result, I couldn't even look at a pizza for an entire year.  Only ask me why if you have an iron stomach.

17.    Who’s your go to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to?
Belle & Sebastian

18.  What TV show would you like your life to be like? 
That Mitchell and Webb Look.  I would love to live inside a British sketch comedy show.

19.  What are your top three favorite movies?
Eternal Sunshine, The Original Star Wars Trilogy, Once

20.  What is your favorite four-legged creature?
My German Shepherd Shiloh.  He’d sit at the bedroom window every day at 3pm waiting for me to get off the school bus back in high school.  He and his thunder buddy Duke used to play tag in our front yard, with the porch as base, though Duke would sometimes cheat. : -)

21.  What quote do you live by?
“We must be kind while there is still time.” (Philip Larkin)


Thank you so much, Michele, for all you do for the Department of Chemistry on a daily basis!

Stay tuned for more Who's Who in HQ in the months to come!