Who We Are

The Harris Centre is a unit within Memorial University that serves as a connector between the faculty, students and staff of Memorial and the broader community. The Centre helps connect people, communities and ideas of Newfoundland and Labrador with the resources of the University for positive impact.

A bridge

Building connections and fostering collaborations is what the Harris Centre is all about — think of us as a bridge between the university and the community.

We connect Memorial University faculty, students and staff with people, communities and organizations throughout the province to encourage informed dialogue, mobilize knowledge, and build collaborations to create a vibrant democracy and prosperous and sustainable society in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Centre currently runs several programs that provide applied research funding and knowledge mobilization support, facilitate regional discussions on priority issues, provide public platforms for balanced discussion of key issues facing our province, and provide detailed local and regional data analytics services to governments, industry and faculty.


Our History

One part public policy research centre, one part regional capacity and development centre, all committment to community. 

The Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development (The Harris Centre) was approved by Memorial University Board of Regents on September 8th, 2004. The Centre was formed through the merger of the Public Policy Research Centre (PPRC) and the Centre of Regional Development Studies (CORDS).

It is named in honour of Memorial University scholar and former president, Dr. Leslie Harris, who exemplifies the contribution of Memorial University to regional policy and development in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We link Memorial researchers with groups all over Newfoundland and Labrador, supporting active community engagement throughout the research process.

Working with all units at Memorial, we build connections, encourage informed debate and support collaboration, enhancing the University and the Province through mutually beneficial partnerships.

To encourage informed public policy and regional development in Newfoundland and Labrador by supporting communication and collaboration between Memorial University and the people of this province.

To coordinate and facilitate the University’s activities relating to regional policy and development, and advise on building the University’s capacity and identify priority themes and projects relating to teaching and learning, research, public engagement and outreach.

Created in 2004 with the merger of the Centre of Regional Development Studies and the Public Policy Research Centre, the Harris Centre serves as a central driver for the University’s efforts on regional policy and development and conduit to connect Memorial with the people of the province and mobilize resources of the University (research, teaching and learning and outreach capacity) on issues of importance to the economic prosperity and social sustainability of the province.

The Centre is named in honour of the late Dr. Leslie Harris, Memorial University scholar and former president, who exemplifies the contribution of Memorial University to regional policy and development in Newfoundland and Labrador, and embodied the Centre's values of integrity, independence and committment to community.

Leslie G. Harris was born in the tiny (and since resettled) community of St. Joseph's, Placentia Bay, which in its time produced master mariners, and banking skippers and crews, in numbers out of all proportion to a population that seems never to have exceeded 300 souls. The community also produced one university president.

He attended the all-grade school there, graduating with a Grade 11 diploma, and then made his way to Memorial University College emerging in 1945 to begin his career as a rural school teacher. He taught at Harbour Buffett, not very far from his birthplace, and subsequently at Port Hope Simpson on the southern coast of Labrador, at Bell Island, Badger's Quay in Bonavista North, and then in St. John's where he became principal of Brinton Memorial School.

Dr. Harris received a BA in education from Memorial University, and his graduate studies there earned him an MA in history. A Canada Council fellowship brought him to the University of London, England, where he obtained a doctorate in Asian history, following which he was appointed director of a tri-college co-operative program in Asian studies at Sweet Briar College, Randolph-Macon Women's College, Lynchburg College in Virginia, USA, and of the summer institute in Asian Studies at the University of Virginia. He returned to Newfoundland to become assistant professor and later head of the history department of Memorial University, and in turn dean of arts and science, vice-president (academic) and pro-vice-chancellor, and then president and vice-chancellor of his alma mater throughout the decade of the eighties.

It was a period when, in the words of one biographer, Memorial "faced great difficulties as a result of increasing enrollment and financial restraints." In addition to his responsibilities at Memorial University, Harris influenced secondary education at the provincial and national level in several other roles: as a member of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council; as a member of the Academic Advisory Panel of the Canada Council; as director of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada; as a member of the executive council of the Association of Atlantic Universities, and as a member of the Corporate Higher Education Form.

Dr. Harris has served his province and his country in many capacities, as diverse as member and chairman of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, head of the Review Panel on the Northern Cod Stocks, chairman of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Complaints Commission, chairman of the Environmental Review for the Terra Nova (Offshore Oil) Project, and chairman of the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Fair.

An Officer of the Order of Canada and recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Harris lived in retirement in St. John's with his wife of more than 50 years, the former Mary Hewitt, until his death on August 26, 2008.

Dr. Leslie Harris