Erica Smith (Staff)
Growing up in Brookhaven, Erica Smith regularly found herself playing “school” with her cousins. Typically, she was the teacher.
A lifelong love for education twice has drawn Smith to Mississippi State. She came first to the university as an English education major. After graduation in 2009, Smith taught English and coached tennis at Noxubee County High School in Macon.
She returned to MSU in 2012 to work as learning specialist in the athletic department’s academic support services. That was the same year she completed a master’s degree in secondary education from William Carey University in Hattiesburg.
In her current MSU role, she primarily helps first-year student-athletes adjust to higher education and Starkville campus life. Beyond assisting with the development of individual academic plans and goal-settings, she coordinates departmental tutoring and teaches time-management skills.
“I thought this would be an interesting position to combine education and sports,” Smith said. “I really enjoy working with student-athletes and seeing students that maybe don’t come from the strongest background come into this (campus environment), be given resources and opportunity, then excel and grow. That’s been really exciting for me.”
For the Lincoln County native, high school teaching provided a wide range of experiences with the mindset of students preparing to enter the next learning level. That collected body of knowledge has helped her make sure MSU student-athletes adjust successfully both to being on their own for the first time and meet the huge time-demands of Southeastern Conference athletics, she said.
While clearly enjoying her job, Smith also is planning for the future by pursuing an MSU College of Education doctorate and an educational administration license. “I would really like to be a high school principal,” she said. “I have a passion for students that are at this age.”
As part of her mission at the Templeton Athletic Academic Center, Smith simultaneously encourages student-athletes to dream big about professional careers but—more importantly—to begin developing a plan for life after their sports careers have ended. Those dual efforts have an added benefit of helping bring some peace of mind to parents of the students, she acknowledged.
“Parents like to come into this building and see that more than one person will be behind their child,” Smith said. “More than one person will be pushing them and encouraging them. We’re definitely an advocate for the student-athlete.
“We want to see them be successful not only on the field, but we want them to be successful in the classroom, too.”
Beyond helping students and working on a Ph.D., Smith said she tries to spend as much time as possible with her family. A big fan of movies and theater, she also has appeared in several Starkville Community Theatre summer musicals and sings regularly with Pinelake Church’s worship team.