Without a strong support system and having to work two jobs in high school, Maya Harter couldn’t see herself going to college, let alone pursuing graduate school.
“I did very poorly in high school,” Harter said. “I think I graduated from high school with a GPA of 2.0 and an attendance rate of 60 percent.”
But she just earned a BSBA in marketing with a major in social media and supply chain management from the University of St. Louis-Missouri — a seemingly odd combination of studies but one she found ‘she loved.
She is now about to start graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in supply chain analytics and work as a graduate assistant in the Department of Supply Chain and Analytics in the fall. She also completed research on food insecurity which she, along with several other students, presented in several locations, including the state capitol for Undergraduate Research Day.
Her journey to graduating from UMSL was one of many twists, turns, and decisions in finding her niche. It started after high school when Harter enrolled at St. Louis Community College – Meramec. She had done it to make her grandmother proud but didn’t connect with the experience and eventually gave up.
During her studies, she held various jobs, including that of nanny, bartender and waitress. After leaving community college, she began working at a spa doing sales, which led her to enroll in cosmetology school.
After finishing cosmetology school, she returned to the spa and became a practitioner. At 19, she was earning more than her colleagues, but began to hate the job and the environment and went back to waitressing. Harter began to feel like she was spinning her wheels and needed to come up with a viable plan for her life.
She found a job at another spa, which led her to consider opening her own beauty business. So she went back to community college and took some business classes.
“My plan was to keep working and do this whole degree online and then open my own business,” Harter said. “And then I did the last semester at Meramec in person, and I really realized how much more I got out of it. And then in January, I started UMSL. As soon as I arrived at UMSL , I quickly realized that I was limiting myself.
Harter initially chose UMSL because of its affordability. She also had a cousin who went to school and she thought they could go to school together. After enrolling in the College of Business Administration, she realized how capable she was and that she wanted to expand her vision.
“I’m really glad I landed here because none of this would have happened if I didn’t like the business program,” Harter said. “It totally took me to a new level.”
While taking business classes, Harter also worked as an intern in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Accelerator program and was paired with Tyrean Lewis, founder of Heru Urban Farming. She focused her project on food insecurity in St. Louis while Lewis guided her through the program.
“For the rest of the semester, I was working with him,” she said. “We met every week. I knew about food insecurity and urban agriculture since I grew up in St. Louis, but I dove into it very deeply. We are both from St. Louis. I developed a really good relationship with him and got really interested in food insecurity in St. Louis.
She deepened her research on food insecurity with a project focused on supply chain issues, which connected her with Trilce Encarnacion, assistant professor of supply chain and analytics.
“We are looking at the supply chain and the operations,” Harter said. “We decided to look at the distribution system as a whole and obtain interviews with as many food insecurity stakeholders in St. Louis as possible. So it’s basically like feeling in the dark and figuring out what the problem is. There is not much literature.
During their time working together, Encarnacion convinced Harter to pursue a doctorate.
“She said to me immediately, ‘By the end of the semester, I’m going to convince you to extend this research,'” recalls Harter. “Then she said, ‘I’m going to convince you to get your master’s.’ And then she said, ‘I’m going to convince you to get your doctorate.’ And I kept telling him it wasn’t happening, ‘I’m done with school. I’m exhausted.'”
But at some point, Harter became open and even enthusiastic about the idea of getting a doctorate. It was something she had never considered or believed she could do. But Encarnacion helped her build her confidence to pursue her postgraduate goals.
“Trilce is an amazing mentor,” Harter said. “She defends me so strongly. She is responsible for building my confidence.
Harter has given his presentation on food insecurity, “Comparative Performance of Food and Nutrition Security Operations” at several conferences and hopes to not only be published, but to create substantial change that creates equity in under-resourced communities. adequate food.
“My research applies to many different fields,” Harter said. “It can be public policy, urban planning or civil rights. I hope to build on this research and use St. Louis as a case study as this is a global issue. It’s not just people who don’t have food, it’s people who don’t have consistent access to nutrition. It can look like obesity, health problems, vitamin deficiencies. It can be many things.
After years of being in survivor mode and feeling out of place in her life, Harter finally feels like she’s found her niche, her people, and her place. She believes that her research, knowledge of the supply chain, and interest in food insecurity are the starting point for her to serve the social issues that matter to her.
“That’s how I help people,” Harter said. “It kind of fell into place, and I was like, ‘This is what I have to do. “”
Short URL: https://blogs.umsl.edu/news/?p=93888