RubinBrown partner Steven Harris: National accounting leader with local heart

by | Dec 4, 2016

At RubinBrown and as chairman of the board of the National Association of Black Accountants, he aims to cultivate the next generation of business professionals.

Steven Harris has put the last 16 years since graduating from UMSL to great use, serving as a mentor and facilitator to young accountants. (Photo by August Jennewein)

As a kid, Steven Harris woke up early on Saturday mornings for a day on the job with his father.

“While all my buddies were going to baseball games over the summers, I was out helping with his drapery installation business,” Harris says. “I got the chance to see how he built his network, how he treated people and how it all made a difference in the community. He was a guy who always made a positive impact. So a lot of the good habits I follow today, I learned from him first.”

Those early lessons in disciplined work and bettering community have served Harris well in his collegiate and professional career.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting at the University of Missouri–St. Louis in 2000 while working full time. Never one to pass up opportunity, he also worked summer internships through the INROADS program, which aims to place underserved youth in corporate and community leadership roles. His final INROADS internship was at RubinBrown, a St. Louis accounting firm, where he fell in love with the culture and even met his wife.

Harris is now the partner in charge of the entrepreneurial and assurance services groups at RubinBrown. He also has the recent distinction of being named chairman of the board of the National Association of Black Accountants, a role that he says helps him advance the mission of diversity in the business world.

“Creating and maintaining a standard of diversity and inclusion is a big deal across the country,” Harris says. “It’s not just about recruiting African American talent to your organization. It’s about retaining them and building a nurturing environment. Doing this breeds success for everyone.”

Staying true to the NABA’s motto of “Lifting as we climb,” Harris seeks to engage high school students, undergraduates, young professionals and seasoned retirees in a professional community that promotes continuous growth. He does so through mentorship, hoping to open doors for others and provide role models for the world at large. That includes helping UMSL students trying to move up the ranks.

“I think that as an alum, you can give money and scholarships, and those things are all important, but it’s really about getting off the sidelines and getting in the game,” Harris says. “Our goal is to replace ourselves. You want to be in the position where you can groom the next great UMSL student and see them go on and do better things than you.”

That’s why – beyond job opportunities – spending time with students is the greatest resource Harris believes alumni can give.

“I had the pleasure of recently attending some student conferences, and I saw so many students in their suits, looking great and looking for opportunities, and I was like ‘Man, I wish there were cameras to see the positive energy in this space,’” Harris says. “That is what we need to see. That is what makes others look up and say, ‘This is attainable. I could do this too.’”

This story was originally published in the fall 2016 issue of UMSL Magazine. Have some praise and/or suggestions for UMSL Magazine? Please take the five-minute 2016 UMSL Magazine Survey.

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Ron Austin

Ron Austin