“When I went to the Military Student Center, that helped me stay focused and encouraged me to want to do better, because when I was struggling in some of my classes, like biology and math, they had people there who were majoring in that type of thing, and they were more than happy to help, or find help for me.”
Major: Theater with concentration in acting and directing
Hometown: Long Island, New York
Erica Harris joined the Army when she was 17.
“I was in high school when I joined,” she said. “I wanted to be in uniform so bad. I had to beg my mom to sign the papers.”
Harris served in the U.S. Army for eight years, including in active duty, the National Guard and the Army Reserves. She wanted to serve longer, but when her mother died in 2010, she decided to take custody of her siblings when she returned to the States.
Harris received custody of her 14-year-old sister, 11-year-old brother and 17-year-old brother (part-time) after she returned from being stationed at Illesheim, Germany, for three years. She also reunited with her son, who she hadn’t seen for nearly two years and who was 4 when she returned.
During the next four years, life took her from Fortis College in Alabama to Austin Peay. The bigger campus intimidated her.
“I came to the Fort Campbell campus first because I have really bad anxiety and the thought of being around all these people really freaked me out,” Harris said. “I wanted to start off being around people I related to because they were in the military or were veterans.”
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After a couple of semesters, she started classes at the Clarksville campus.
“Austin Peay helped me deal with my anxiety with the resources it has,” she said.
Harris has visited the University’s TRIO Student Support Services, the Wilbur N. Daniel African American Cultural Center, the Adult and Nontraditional Student Center, VetSuccess on Campus and the Military Student Center. She goes to the Military Student Center daily, she said.
“That’s my comfort zone. I feel like I can just chitchat and be myself. I call the director (Jasmin Linares) boss, as if she were my boss because I’m there so much.”
At Austin Peay, Harris is pursuing a dream:
“My goal is to be a Marvel superhero one day. I want to be in a movie, and I want my own stand-alone movie, just like Spider-Man gets his, Iron Man, Captain America and my favorite, Black Panther.”
She’s in her second semester as a theater major and has appeared as an extra in “Nashville” and “Remnant 13.”
“This is always something I wanted to do since I was a kid,” Harris said. “My mom never took it seriously, so I’m taking it seriously, even though I’m 31 and a little bit older in the game.”
Acting class helps students come out of their shell, she added.
“My teacher (Talon Beeson), is really good at what he does and is my favorite professor at APSU. He is very passionate about his job and determined to help his students succeed. When he gives us certain techniques to bring out our character, I’m like, ‘Well, dang, he sure knows what he’s doing because I would have never thought of that!’”