The innovation leaders of tomorrow can be found in the writing classes of today. Of this, Henry Doss is sure.
For students to realize their potential, however, they must first grasp the power of language and reflection, Doss believes. Doss (B.A. ’77) has devoted much of his time to this vision in his two years as the volunteer Executive in Residence with the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
Doss delivers this message in his “Innovation Conversations” column on Forbes.com, where he writes about innovation, leadership and the humanities. He also gives public talks on the issue, mentors UNC Charlotte students and faculty, and builds support for the college and humanities in general.
“I believe that purpose – not vocation – is what matters most,” Doss said. “The business of life is contribution, and the liberal arts provide the foundation of society. I want to be challenging and provocative and to support thinking about careers, life calling and purpose.”
Doss has worked closely with writing faculty and their students, such as with lecturer Tiffany Morin’s classes.
“What he says resonates with students,” Morin said. “He inspires them to think about their goals, in a way that is outside the box. He invites them to consider themselves and their own identity in their writing.”
Doss Inspires Students to Consider How to Engage
Doss’ approach challenges the students to think more deeply and to write more critically.
“It’s refreshing, and it’s scary, and it’s liberating all at the same time,” Morin said. “They realize “I’m here to think. What do I want, and what can I do? What is my passion, and how do I pursue that? How do I use what I’m learning, and how do I engage with what I’m learning?” ”
Doss works with some of the university’s learning communities, which seek to increase students’ academic success and engagement through common courses and activities. He leads seminars with English majors, considering topics such as employment realities – emphasizing that English majors stand out due to their communications, research and critical thinking skills.
Doss also presents at the summer Organizational Science Summer Institute, in which underrepresented undergraduate students explore graduate studies and research topics.
“His talk helps the students consider how their future careers can be challenging while also offering personal and intellectual rewards,” said Lisa Walker, chair of the Sociology Department and a leader with OSSI. “His broad experiences in the business world and his ability to link their studies with the world’s issues add relevance to our discussions. He also helps them reflect upon their place in society.”
Another aspect of his work centers on building resources for study abroad and other experiential learning opportunities. Foremost in this work is helping to garner support for the Mount Zion excavation in Jerusalem, under the academic oversight of UNC Charlotte.
For Doss, this new volunteer role continues his non-linear life path. A former banker turned venture capitalist and musician, he is chief strategy officer with T2 Venture Creation. He also is a current graduate student in Liberal Studies and earned his bachelor’s degree in English from UNC Charlotte in 1977.