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Erica Harris honored with the Mills Young Faculty Award for Excellence

Published on May 5, 2019 by Paul K. Logsdon

Erica Harris at the 2019 Commencement Ceremony. // PHOTO BY: Paul K. Logsdon

SPRINGFIELD, MOProfessor Harris has a tremendous heart for her students. As she teaches biology, Erica instills students with a passion for God’s creation and a desire to pursue excellence,” said Dr. Mike McCorcle, provost and executive vice president of Evangel University.

Erica Harris, assistant professor of biology, is the recipient of The Orville & Jewel Mills Young Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, Scholarship and Service for 2019. The award was presented on May 3, during EU’s 61st Annual Commencement Ceremony.

“She is an excellent professor,” added Dr. Michael Tenneson, chair of the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences.

“Her love of God and her students are paramount motivators for her commitment to teaching excellence. Not only is she very compassionate and empathetic, she is a very hard worker with high standards of excellence,” he added. “This combination makes her a very fair teacher whose students have every opportunity to excel.”

The award

Orville and Jewel Mills established the Mills Young Faculty Award in 2006 to recognize outstanding professors who are less than 45 years of age. It includes an unrestricted cash grant.

Orville Mills is a retired comptroller of Exxon-Mobile and serves on the university board of trustees. The couple’s three daughters are graduates of Evangel.

“I am so humbled and honored to receive this award,” Harris said. “I am thankful for faculty, staff and administration members who have invested their time to help me develop into a stronger teacher over the years. Their encouragement and support have been amazing!”

Harris is passionate about serving and developing relationships with her students, on campus and on trips abroad.

So far, Harris has led students on six medical mission trips that are partnerships between Evangel and HealthCare Ministries, now called Compassion Link, to South Africa, Northern Asia, Haiti, Peru and Romania.

“It is a privilege to be part of these students’ journeys as they discover and live out God’s call on their lives,” she said.

Four thousand people watch as Evangel University president, Dr. Carol Taylor, presents the Mills Award to Erica Harris, during the 2019 Commencement Ceremony at James River Church. // PHOTO BY: Paul K. Logsdon

Career path

A Michigan native, Erica (Schmidgall) Harris followed family tradition and enrolled at Evangel in 1991. Both of her parents are alumni, as are her three younger sisters.

She graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA in 1995, earning a B.S. in biology. She was honored that year as the “Outstanding Graduate in the Science & Technology Department.”

Harris then earned her M.S. in biology, with a graduate teaching assistantship at Missouri State University and another 4.0 GPA, in 1998.

With her master’s degree in hand, Harris re-joined Evangel’s community in 1998. She currently holds the titles of assistant professor and lab manager. Her lab manager responsibilities include supervising 15+ lab assistants each semester.

“I feel blessed to have a job that doesn’t feel like work, as I can share my love for God and biology with my students,” she said.

In addition to her class load, Harris is the faculty liaison to Cox College for pre-nursing/nursing students. Evangel’s integrated program allows students to graduate with two bachelor degrees — a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Cox College and a Bachelor of Science in Health Care from Evangel.

There are several departmental and campus committees that she has served on over the years, and “She is an excellent strategist who often comes up with innovative solutions to long term problems,” said Dr. Tenneson.

Erica is married to Dr. Jeremy Harris, associate professor of computer information systems at Evangel, and together they have three sons.

Evangel University, which includes the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS), is a comprehensive Christian university committed to excellence in educating and equipping students to serve the church and society globally. Evangel serves more than 2,100 students from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries, offering 65 undergraduate majors and 19 master’s and doctoral degrees.


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WRITTEN BY:  Mallory Johnson (senior) & Paul K. Logsdon