Erica Harris: Assistant professor of Natural and Applied Sciences and lab manager
March 27, 2012
Erica Harris joined Evangel’s faculty in the fall of 1998. Along with teaching biology and pre-med courses, Harris manages the labs in the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences and serves as faculty sponsor for medical mission trips with EU and HealthCare Ministries.
Harris graduated from Evangel in 1995 with a B.S. in Biology and went on to earn her master’s in biology from Missouri State University. While pursuing her master’s, Harris gained experience as a teaching assistant. She also held a position working in the lab at Kraft Foods, testing the water and fat contents of various cheeses. Three months after graduating from Missouri State University, Harris began teaching full-time at Evangel.
A self-proclaimed “soccer mom,” Harris enjoys spending time with her husband and her three sons. Along with cheering on her sons at their games, Harris enjoys running, playing tennis, reading and watching St. Louis Cardinals baseball. Harris’ husband Jeremy, who she met during her time as an Evangel student, also teaches at Evangel as an assistant professor of computer science.
What originally sparked your interest in biology?
My initial spark was 10th grade biology class – I loved dissecting the earthworm and the frog. I took Anatomy & Physiology during 12th grade and thoroughly enjoyed the study of the human body. I came to Evangel with the initial plan of going on to medical school. It was not until the beginning of my senior year that I decided to go in a different direction and not pursue medicine.
What activities were you involved in as a student at Evangel? Do you have any fun memories you would like to share?
I was very involved in Spence Hall. I served as floor secretary, hall secretary and then as a resident assistant for two years. I made some great friendships that are still important to me today.
I also worked as a lab assistant in the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences during my sophomore and junior years and loved the experience tremendously. My scariest moment came when I thought I had lost the grades on the computer for an entire class. Thankfully, the grades were recovered and I kept my job!
I was in the University band all four years and in the Concert band for my last five semesters. My most memorable tour was the Concert band’s trip to Europe in May of 1993. My future husband, Jeremy, was also in the University band/Concert band, so we were on the European tour together. Evidently I caught his eye on that trip – he started writing letters to me that summer as soon as we returned to the USA. We started dating that fall, and the rest is history.
Did you ever think you would return to Evangel as a professor? What was that experience like?
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would come back to Evangel to teach. God opened the door for me at just the right time, and I was happy to step through it. It has been amazing to work with so many of the professors who had taught my classes when I was a student. The hardest thing was learning to call these professors by their first names once I joined the faculty.
What is it like working in the same department as your husband, Jeremy?
It is wonderful to work in the same department. We can coordinate our schedules to some extent and enjoy our time off together. We try to eat lunch together one day a week, and it’s nice just to pop into each other’s offices at times to see how things are going that day.
What is your favorite part about being a professor at Evangel?
My favorite aspect is the interaction with the students. It is amazing that every year when a new “crop” of students comes into our department, each student has such unique abilities and strengths. I enjoy getting to play a part in their lives as they study and prepare for their future careers. I also love working closely with the lab assistants in the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences.
What is your most memorable professional accomplishment so far?
My biggest privilege comes when I get to accompany students on medical mission trips coordinated between the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences and HealthCare Ministries. I have been honored to go on three trips in the last five years (South Africa – 2007; Northern Asia – 2009; Haiti – 2011); my fourth trip will be to Haiti again in 2012. These trips are life-changing and have such a positive impact on our pre-med, pre-dental and pre-nursing students. As we work side-by-side with medical professionals (doctors, nurses, optometrists, dentists, pharmacists) to provide free medical care to people for a week, the students thrive and benefit from seeing how others integrate their vocation and their faith in medical ministry. It is awesome to see how God uses these times to confirm His will in the students’ lives.
What advice do you have for prospective students, particularly those interested in Evangel’s Science programs?
Sticking with a major in the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences takes dedication and commitment. The classes are challenging, but the professors are dedicated to helping each student achieve at the highest level possible. Students recognize the value of persevering through the difficult times when they know that the courses are helping to prepare them for their future career endeavors.