November 30, 2011
When Christopher Harper applied for the Walt Disney World College program as a traditional student in the 1990s, little did he know what opportunities would follow. But Harper enjoyed working in the theme park so much, he auditioned for other experiences within the entertainment industry.
He auditioned with VEE Corporation, which produces Broadway style shows for children, and he was cast in “Sesame Street Live.” Roles with the company allowed him to travel to nearly every state, as well as several foreign countries. But while these experiences were a detour from traditional college life, Harper’s years performing in and managing the theatrical performances helped him determine his academic focus upon his return to Mississippi State as a full-time student.
Now a sophomore civil engineering major, the Caledonia native is particularly interested in design of entertainment structures, including theaters, arenas, coliseums, and stadiums.
“I’ve been in a million buildings where things just didn’t make sense from an operational standpoint,” Harper says. He believes having experience as an actor and show manager in a variety of venues will be helpful to him as he contributes to the entertainment realm from a new perspective.
“My mind loves to learn new things, but I’ve had to switch gears from dealing with dancers, technicians, lighting, and scenery to studying structures, physics, and mechanics. It’s a very different type of learning environment,” says Harper, who is taking some architecture courses in addition to his engineering curriculum.
Since Harper’s break from college was more than a 10-year span, he was able to take advantage of MSU’s academic fresh-start policy, which allowed him to repeat a few classes before fully diving into a brand new curriculum. Under the policy, all college credits earned prior to being granted academic fresh-start will be eliminated from the computation of the student’s grade-point average and may not be used toward graduation. Harper said since he wasn’t sure about a major or career path when he was initially a student, the chance to start new worked to his advantage.
“When I was here before, I couldn’t really grasp exactly what I wanted to do. It took me a little while, but I figured it out,” Harper says. He adds that while he misses the travel he enjoyed for several years, living out of two suitcases for up to a year at a time, he now enjoys coming home to his own bed as a traditional college student for the second time around.