United States Army (Ret) Staff Sergeant Shilo H. Harris spent a recent Saturday evening in Aggieland, explaining to a group of two dozen disabled veterans how a Texas A&M University program helped him get his life back on track following a 2007 improvised-explosive device attack in Iraq.
Harris, who spent 48 days in a coma and underwent roughly 50 surgeries, was the keynote speaker at the July 27 opening ceremony for the sixth annual Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, hosted by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship in partnership with the Center for Executive Development and Mays Business School.
“It changed my life in so many ways,” said Harris, who was presented with the 2013 Robin ’76 and Robert Starnes ’72 EBV Outstanding Alumni Award. “It changed my family, my professional career and my outlook on life. When I finished the EBV program, I left like an Aggie graduate.”
The EBV initiative offers cutting-edge training in entrepreneurship and small business management to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines disabled as a result of their service. The intent of the EBV is to open the door to entrepreneurial opportunity and small business ownership by developing competencies associated with creating and sustaining an entrepreneurial venture and helping coordinate efforts with programs and services for veterans and others with disabilities. The program consists of a three-week online self-study, a nine-day residency period on the Texas A&M campus, and a year of mentorship and support as participants launch their new ventures.
Opening remarks for the event, held in the lobby of Texas A&M’s Clayton W. Williams Jr. Alumni Center, were provided by Jerry Strawser, Dean of Mays Business School. After welcoming the assembled crowd of honored guests, participants and sponsors, he announced to the EBV participants that they will learn how to become entrepreneurs. Strawser explained how participants have become leaders through the EBV program. “You will be learning the best, here at Texas A&M,” he said.
Dr. Richard Lester, CNVE director, introduced the participants, who each had the opportunity to speak about their branch of military service, hometown and the type of business he or she would like to begin — visions that ranged from real estate to music consulting.
In presenting his namesake award, Robert Starnes ’72 called Harris a “truly remarkable man and a contributor to the entrepreneur spirit.” Harris, now a motivational speaker, has worked with Congress to assist disabled veterans, raised $1.5 million dollars to have homes rebuilt for veterans and appeared on a recent episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Starnes said Harris “is a national ambassador to veterans throughout the United States.”
In accepting his award, Harris said he was truly honored and felt like he was back home. Harris explained how the fear on 9/11 prompted him into action to serve his country, noting that he felt called to join the armed forced because he was raised by a family of veterans. His faith also played a major role in his recovery, he said. Harris and his wife, Katheryn, reside in San Antonio, Texas where he is actively involved in supporting veterans and giving them resources to succeed in life.
Harris said the EVB Program opened up new possibilities for him. “Everybody needs to be open to new ideas,” he said. “If you are open and listen to new ideas, you can add those ideas to your original plan. We all share ideas and with all the participants here tonight, it soon becomes personal. It is a good way to keep in touch.”
For more information on the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities or other Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship activities, visit http://ebv.tamu.edu.
About Mays Business School
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.