Senior Reflection: Eric R. Miller

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I transferred to New England College as a Criminal Justice Student from NHTI Community College transferring into the English Literature program of study at NEC and then also minoring in Criminal Justice.

It was during this time in my academic career that I and three other students formed the Criminal Justice Club, formally called the New England College Criminal Justice Club or NEC CJC. As one of the founders of the club, I got to take part in criminal justice-related activities that many current club members are not allowed to take part in such as hosting the Belknap County Swat Team on campus or going target shooting with them. There is something magical about creating a club on campus as a student because you are given the opportunity to try out things others may not be able to. Being a part of the club gave me valuable insights into the training techniques that police go through with firearms training being able to take part in these two events. One of my fondest memories of being a part of the Criminal Justice Club was defining what each club officer’s position would be like.

In the beginning, I served as what I termed the public relations officer for the Criminal Justice Club, this position entailed recruiting new members with the vice president, taking minutes, and talking to the New England College student body about the club to grow membership. As a club officer and member, I took part in fundraisers such as selling Halloween o-gram candy grab bags and pizza to add money to the club’s treasury in order to be able to buy the club’s first banner to be put up in the Simon Center.

As a student, I always wanted to obtain two degrees/ majors during my time at New England College but couldn’t originally due to financial hardship. Therefore, I worked doing security at Meadow Brook Musical Arts center, in the grocery industry for Hannaford in various capacities such as selling fish, giving out food samples and bagging groceries, and I spent a lot of time volunteering for epilepsy awareness. Additionally, I helped raise money for the New Hampshire Police Officers Memorial, and lastly, I enrolled in the New Hampshire Work Ready Job Training and Readiness Program to be better prepared for and discover the next step in my professional journey.

So, after this time away from New England college I was fortunate enough to be able to come back to NEC and pursue the creative writing major. This has been a wonderful experience as well. My first semester back I had one of my poems published in the Ayris literary journal which took me by surprise and gave me immense pride as a student.

I attribute a lot of my successes and joys as a creative writing student to the fact that I took Professor Andrew Morgan’s fiction workshop. In this class, I have been able to incorporate multigenre writings, short story writing, and poetry through class discussions. Working on these types of writing allowed me to grow as a writer and explore more of what writing as a discipline involves by examining the structure of novels and how that applies to my own work. As a writing student, one of the best opportunities has come in the form of building a writing portfolio during my senior writing seminar class. As a writer, I believe that the key for anything I learn to be most useful is to be able to have those opportunities to apply what I learn. Without those opportunities, my writing would not be as successful or even that meaningful to me as a person or a writer.

It was with a heavy heart that I would learn that one of my friends, Eric, a creative writing major from the time I was pursuing my English studies, was killed in a car accident when a tractor-trailer truck t-boned his car when he was on his way home from work. My friend Eric as many others who knew him would attest stood closer to 7ft than my 5’10-inch frame and while I am not threatened by taller people per se, it was just the unexpected nature of seeing someone so tall that threw me off initially when I first met him because most of the students were considerably shorter.

A person can become used to a lot though and his height was just one of those facts that got pushed to the background during our friendship. Many might wonder why I bring up the tragedy of the loss of my friend Eric. Quite simply he inspired me to want to be a better writer. Every time we had breakfast and discussed literature or the meaning of life I always felt a desire to become a creative writing major to follow in his footsteps and learn the rest of the great literary discipline NEC is known for.

Funnily enough, my friend Eric always believed in the written word as do I. His story he wrote and shared with me, “Men in Red Shirts,” I cherish for its well-written prose, and I always appreciated what he had to say about how his fellow co-workers in retail at the time were stifling his creativity. In his own words, “I’m a retail vendor now it’s anything but glamorous, but it’s work.”

Eric always said he would give anything to be back at NEC again as his best times were there studying writing, and doing his work-study job in Charter coffee house. 

I had many classes during my previous studies with my friend at NEC as the creative writing program and English program shared many classes and we spent many mornings in Gilmore over breakfast discussing literature, the greasiness of the hash browns, and the infamous chicken patty Wednesdays we looked forward to.

One memorable and rewarding experience for me was spring fling weekend of my original senior year in 2006. They had a clambake which featured an American gladiator game and, a soft obstacle course with a slide anyone could go down that wanted to. Additionally, they had a ticket lottery with the campus dining services for students on a first-come basis for students outside on Simon green to get lobsters with all the fixings. Furthermore, it made me feel extra good because as much as I loved the food, and the Gilmore cooks wearing Hawaiian shirts cooking different food, they also had a photographer who was taking pictures for magnets, and keychains where students could get photos with friends as keepsakes.

I had my photo taken for a keychain with my friend Jessie so she and I would remember each other. To do something equally memorable, and uniquely special for my friend Eric on this day they had free spring fling commemorative sunglasses and I had been wearing a pair, and before the clam bake ended I gave my friend Eric the pair of sunglasses I had gotten because he had wanted a pair and I didn’t want him to miss out.

College for me has always been about making new experiences, and memories for myself, and for many people, it is very hard to go outside of their comfort zones. But as I have discovered it is so very rewarding when you do go outside your comfort zone. College is a place where you meet new friends who you may initially not think could become your friends, and you are given the opportunity to try many things you wouldn’t encounter anywhere else. For me, as a student at NEC, I have grown a lot because of the opportunities I opened myself up to.

As people, it is the friendships, the mentors, and even the critics that shape much of the character we develop. Now NEC is more acronym centric with words like Gilly standing for Gilmore the cafeteria. Every group of students that knocks on the door at NEC will develop their own shorthand and values. But one constant of any group that is blessed to have individuals is to have people who are willing to come back to the age-old question what is the meaning of life?

And how many chicken patties can Gilmore grill up for one chicken patty Wednesday?

Does anyone still remember the old days when people lined up outside in order to get into the server area for burgers or chicken patties?

As college students, we all ask ourselves many questions but we always reflect fondly on our friends no matter where we find ourselves next in life after graduation, and I always reflect on my friend Eric who shaped the writer and person I am now.

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