While Quentin Harris ’19 isn’t sure what path he’ll pursue after graduation, he says it’s possible he’ll eventually follow in the footsteps of his father, who owns his own sporting goods wholesale company in Connecticut distributing to local high schools and colleges.
Harris, a public policy major minoring in economics and earning the I&E Certificate, also played quarterback for Duke’s football team—so the combination of entrepreneurship and the sporting goods industry is an appealing one.
“If I do choose to potentially own my own company or take over for my dad's company one day, I think the program has given me a great foundation to really learn the ins and outs of running a business,” Harris says.
But he says that regardless of what career he pursues, his Duke experience has given him the general entrepreneurial and innovation skills to be useful in any job setting.
“I think it's a very important skill and a useful skill to be able to think creatively and innovatively to address a problem,” Harris says.
He got the opportunity to practice his problem-solving skills through his experience working over two summers with local real estate development firm Austin Lawrence Partners, whose downtown Durham projects included a 27-floor residential office and retail space, as well as a working parking garage and a modern hotel.
During his first summer with the company, Harris conducted market research, speaking with Durhamites to see what kinds of projects could be most useful to downtown. For his second summer, Harris again conducted market research, this time surrounding One City Center, looking into areas that could enhance social welfare.
Harris studied how Austin Lawrence Partners worked with the city and county in their partnerships, entering into agreements that would subsidize some development costs in exchange for providing jobs and enhancing downtown Durham.
“It was cool to see how government and entrepreneurship could fuse together to help stimulate economic growth,” Harris said.
In his I&E Capstone course, Harris received additional opportunities to work with a team on a real-world problem. His group worked with the School of Nursing to address how virtual reality could be incorporated into nursing. Extended interviews with staff members informed the students’ work and recommendations.
“If you’re in a household with multiple children, it’s not always viable for the whole family to stop what they’re doing and be with a child who’s in the hospital,” Harris says. “So we thought [VR] could be used to recreate a home environment, to where they can be immersed in their home instead of a hospital room, or they can be on a play date with their friends.”
Harris’s team thought this would be a great way of introducing virtual reality into nursing, and they also looked ahead to where VR could support training for nurses.
When it comes to building his career post-graduation, Harris is confident that he’ll be drawing upon his courses and work experiences.
“I'm interested in marketing, real estate, finance, and entrepreneurship… Regardless of which I end up going into, [Duke] has given me a great foundation,” he says. “Just to be entrepreneurial and be innovative and be creative is a skill that I think will be very useful and distinctive to potential employers, and I think they're always constantly looking for people that have a different approach to things, or people that attack a problem a different way than what's already been done.”