Cole Harris

Cole Harris BA '20



Degree and Class Year

BA ’20

Current City

Littleton, Colorado


International Affairs


Political Economy

Overseas study

East Africa

Job Title, Organization

Research Associate, Office of Kat Taylor

Continuing Studies

Fulbright U.S. Student Research Grant in Kampala, Uganda

What three words would you use to describe L&C?

Opportunity, Community, Rigor

Congratulations on your Fulbright grant! Tell us about your research.

I was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Research Grant in Uganda in 2020. I designed and implemented a research project studying the variation of community programs that Pentecostal-Charismatic churches in Kampala offer and the motivating factors shaping the leadership decision-making process behind offering those programs. I was examining what Pentecostal churches were offering to the community and understanding why they chose those offerings. Pentecostal-Charismatic churches are generally characterized by belief in divine intervention, speaking in tongues, and enthusiastic/revival-style worship.

While it was really badass living in Kampala and working with the U.S. Embassy and top universities in Uganda (Makerere University and Kampala International University), I don’t want to over-glamorize the experience. I found the work incredibly challenging for a few reasons. I was interviewing a contingent of tremendously religious leaders (mostly men), while I, as a queer and not particularly religious liberal person, hold a drastically different worldview. While there, I got to know a bit of the underground queer community—an absolute privilege. However, it was also extremely shocking to witness the state-sanctioned violence against queer people.

How did Lewis & Clark set you up for success during the Fulbright application process and your time in Uganda?

Regarding the success of my application:
  1. I had regional knowledge because of my international affairs major and my overseas program to Tanzania. The study abroad program was my first time outside of the U.S., and it was an influencing factor in applying to a Fulbright in Uganda. I think that regional exposure surely added to the success of my application.
  2. The interdisciplinary nature of the international affairs major, which is situated at the intersection of economics, history, current events, political movements, and sociology/anthropology, meant that I learned how to convey complex ideas into reasonably digestible pieces. Since the Fulbright research grant application gives you very little space to explain your idea, background of the idea, and implementation of the idea, being concise was key.
  3. L&C encourages student-faculty collaboration and relationship building, and my professors went to bat for me in the form of letters of recommendation—without which I would not have gotten the Fulbright. Another compelling factor in my application is that many of my sponsors were outside of my department: big shoutout to Professors Laura Vinson (international affairs), Elizabeth Bennett (international affairs), Aine McCarthy (economics), Deborah Heath (sociology and anthropology), Jane Hunter (history), and Kundai Chirindo (rhetoric and media studies) for your support.
As for my ability to conduct the research in Uganda:

I honed my research and project management talents while at L&C because of the mentorship and support of the academic community and faculty. I was the only IA major to work with two professors as a research assistant at L&C. At most schools, being a research assistant means printing and filing papers and proofreading. The professors at L&C trust students to deliver high-caliber work on their projects, which taught me skills such as interview design, data and spatial analysis, and literature review—all of which were integral to my Fulbright.

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

The campus. How can you not dote upon the wondrous and dense greenery? The feeling you get when you see the splendor of campus never changes … even sprinting to an 8 a.m. class 10 minutes late!

What have you been doing since graduation?

Gosh. Lots! Most of it has been mission-aligned work, which I appreciate.

  • I graduated in 2020 during the height of COVID, and I secured a fellowship with Beneficial State Foundation (BSF), which owns Beneficial State Bank (BSB). The bank is a socially and environmentally responsible B Corp creating a sustainable banking model. As a bank owner, the foundation is situated to create and leverage industry relations to advocate for other banks to adopt similar mission alignment. I was working with the foundation to cultivate industry relations and help develop a set of voluntary certification standards that call on the finance and banking industries to divest from private prisons, firearms, and fossil fuels and reinvest in community building, green energy, and nonprofit financing.
  • I then transitioned out of the fellowship into a consulting role for Beneficial State for a little over a year, working with the operations and IT teams. I was also working on a project to create marketing collateral for socially and environmentally responsible banks and credit unions across the U.S. and Canada.
  • In April of 2021, I joined the Office of Kat Taylor as a campaign and research fellow. Kat Taylor is a progressive legislative advocate and donor/funder who works in service of restoring social, racial, and gender justice and environmental wellbeing. I was working on the research team to create and pass legislation to make school meals free for every K–12 child in California. We got the legislation sponsored, built the coalition, and got it passed, securing ongoing funding to make California the first state in the nation to provide free school meals for all!
  • In November of 2021, I went to Uganda on the Fulbright (which I talked about above).
  • As of October 2022, I am starting back at the Office of Kat Taylor as a research associate to continue advancing a suite of progressive legislative priorities. Stay tuned!

How did Lewis & Clark prepare you for your Fulbright and job?

Too much to say. Basically, three big themes.

  1. L&C taught me how to form educated opinions and articulate them to people who might not agree with me while also being receptive to others’ opinions that I may not agree with.
  2. L&C taught me that I was going to be wrong a lot of the time, but that through being wrong, there is an opportunity to grow.
  3. L&C taught me how to advocate for myself and ask for help.

What would you say is the most important thing you learned at Lewis & Clark?

  1. Accepting being wrong and growing from it.
  2. Learning to love the process of learning.

How do you stay connected to Lewis & Clark as an alum?

Stuff like this! Writing alumni profiles, participating in our new president’s inauguration, posting job opportunities on my LinkedIn (feel free to connect and add a note about yourself—you can only do this on a computer), staying close with friends, and connecting other alumni and students to opportunities!

How do you describe the liberal arts?

Liberal arts means the freedom to explore beyond your major. You learn how to learn, which is more valuable than just learning how to do. The liberal arts has meant international study, lifelong connections, true mentorship, good-paying jobs, and values alignment for me.

Why did you major in international affairs?

Many reasons, but the most succinct is that I joined L&C during the shit show 2016 election cycle and I was taking Cyrus Partovi’s Intro to International Affairs class. It was one of the first times an educator brought current issues into the classroom and forced us to examine the long-term implications. Stunning! Also, if you know/knew Cyrus Partovi, he is the ultimate diplomat and always gets what he wants—and for some reason, he wanted me in the IA program. I’m forever grateful for his insistence.

Why did you minor in political economy?

Associate Professor Elizabeth Bennett. It doesn’t matter what you are studying, you have to take a course with Dr. Bennett. Your worldview will be challenged in the most beautiful way, and you will not leave L&C the same as when you matriculated.

What was your favorite class? How did it expand your knowledge?

Social Justice in the Global Economy with Dr. Elizabeth Bennett. It was a visceral awakening to the institutionalization of modern international labor exploitation. Hard class. Life changing.

Who was your mentor on campus? Why do you consider this person your mentor?

I had many mentors at L&C, especially in the IA department: Professors Elizabeth Bennett, Laura Vinson, and Cyrus Partovi. However, my big shout-out for post-grad mentorship is to Chrys Hutchings at the Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership. Chrys Hutchings launched my career by advocating for me, teaching me how to network, connecting me with opportunities, and believing in me. I met Chrys at Winterim (an awesome intensive networking and entrepreneurship training program created by the Bates Center), and the rest is history.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

Seek out and seize every opportunity that Lewis & Clark has to offer. Only you can determine how rigorous your four years will be. This is a time to grow, so push yourself and you’ll be rewarded.

I also encourage people to look into the following opportunities: