Residence Hall Turned Greenhouse

Gannon University creates a special atmosphere for students to achieve their possibilities and grow personally as individuals. Students across campus absorb the knowledge their professors pour out during classes.

At the end of a busy day sprouting buds of experience, students plant themselves in housing facilities to recharge for the next day. 

This year, students were not the only living, growing ones thriving within the residence halls. Thanks to an innovative idea germinated by Gannon students, some unused rooms in Finegan Hall, located at 120 W. Fifth St., were home to 432 plants, explained Sarah Morgan, AmeriCorps VISTA employee.

Arrays of pea, onion, asparagus, lettuce and spinach seedlings were being incubated within the residence hall greenhouses for Gannon’s very own Goodwill Garden, an urban garden initiative at the University’s West Hall. The garden is a collaborative effort between Erie-Gannon Alliances to Improve Neighborhood Sustainability (Erie-GAINS), the University’s facilities department staff and volunteer labor. The growing plants were moved to the garden in early June.

Morgan said the initiative of the students will not only benefit the Goodwill Garden, but the entire community of Erie as well. “These plants will produce food that will be distributed to food pantries,” Morgan said. “The Gannon Goodwill Garden has been working to connect people with the food they eat.”

According to David McCartney, one of Finegan’s residence assistants, the idea to create a greenhouse inside the building started with the Residence Life Office challenging the residence assistants to come up with a program that was new, innovative and functional.

McCartney said he had some empty rooms in the west wing, situated on the third floor, and thought about ways to best allocate the spaces in order to help the Gannon community. Then, he got an idea.

"The initiative of the students will not only benefit the Goodwill Garden, but the entire community of Erie as well."

“[It] came from high school biology, where we began to grow plants in late winter, and I thought why not see if we can make Finegan into a service opportunity within the building,” he said.

Before the greenhouses were installed, McCartney met with Morgan to discuss preliminary ideas, thoughts and concerns regarding the project. Once Residence Life approved the idea, “we were up and running,” he said.

About five students tended to the greenhouses, as well as several residence assistants and residence directors. McCartney said that the simple task of planting a seedling can go a long way.

"One of the things that resonates with the idea of the project is that less than a pound of seeds [will] turn into an abundance of food," McCartney said. "Taking five minutes to make sure that the plants are thriving, surviving and knowing that the food produced by the seedlings will turn into meals for the Erie community is an easy way to remind students that service can be small and easy."