“If I can make a small difference in the lives of at least one person or a few people, that, I think, would be considered a win.”
Sociology professor Erica Bower is the assistant director of the Addiction Prevention and Support Coalition, a grant-funded project on Tech’s campus.
The group hosts monthly meetings to create and implement initiatives focused on harm reduction and prevention of substance abuse.
“Basically, what we’ve been doing is trying to bring people on campus together who maybe normally wouldn’t come together. So, that includes everyone from administration down to students—and including community members,” Bower said.
As assistant director, Bower is largely in charge of “behind-the-scenes” work for the Coalition.
She said, “Currently, I am responsible for sending out our newsletter. We have a monthly newsletter that we send out. I send out event announcements for meetings or other initiatives that we’re implementing on campus.”
She also described her role in facilitating events and meeting with people to determine their needs. “For instance, in September, we organized an event for International Overdose Awareness Day,” Bower said.
She recalled this event being the first one the coalition held, and as such, it had a deep emotional effect on her.
“It was a really powerful event, at least in my perspective, because we had a number of people that gave testimonials about how overdose has affected their lives. There are a lot of people—probably people that we interact with on a regular basis—that have been touched by overdose, whether in their immediate family or in their group of friends.”
Bower believes people stigmatize those who face hardships including drug abuse, homelessness and poverty. She hopes these events and testimonies will give people a perspective on the humanity within people’s struggle.
“This is something that can affect anyone. It’s not a certain type of person or a certain type of people that we can just generally say is only being affected by these issues,” Bower said.
This human aspect of her job is one of Bower’s favorites. She appreciates making connections with community members and hearing about the work people from such varied backgrounds are doing.
“It’s really nice to see that people have an interest in doing work like this, and the beauty of it is that they all have different perspectives, different backgrounds and different types of knowledge that they can bring to the work.”
On top of her research, writing and teaching responsibilities, Bower views service to both her campus and community as an equally important part of a Tech professor’s job.