Dr. Sarah Ewing, seen during the commencement for Gannon’s Ruskin, Florida campus.
Dr. Sarah Ewing stepped into her current position of Provost & Vice President for Student Experience prepared by a driven, caring personality and a tremendous amount of experience. Ewing was a first-generation student who funded her own college education, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Penn State Behrend before completing the Ph.D. track of North Carolina State University’s comparative biomedical sciences program. She returned to Erie as a biology professor, transitioning to Gannon in 2009 before advancing to department chair, associate professor, associate dean and penultimately dean of the Morosky College of Health Professions and Sciences. As dean, Ewing helped steward the opening of the Ruskin, Florida campus, form meaningful community partnerships like the UPMC Jameson School of Nursing and the research and education collaboration with the Regional Science Consortium – all benefitting students working to advance their careers and pursue their passion in health care.
Q: How have the first few monthsin your role as Provost and Vice President of Student Experience been for you? Have there been surprises? Challenges? Delights?
A: The first few months in the new role have been exciting, challenging, and fun! I have likened my experience thus far to a rollercoaster ride, in the best way possible. I’ve been learning, gathering information from my team, listening, and working to tackle priorities. This experience has been akin to climbing the first hill of the rollercoaster. The last few weeks as we transitioned to mid-semester, I feel the pace and rush of the momentum of initiatives we are working on, the thrill of each accomplishment achieved by the university, our students, and our faculty and staff, kind of like the rush of turning over the peak of that first hill. I know there are going to be many twists and turns, more hills to climb and then the excitement as we crest and drop down the other side. I am truly excited for the opportunity to take in each moment this first year as I get to know our Gannon and surrounding Erie communities more through the lens of my new role.
Delights have included engaging with so many of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the university through events and conversations across campus.
Challenges include choosing between the multitude of events, meetings, and opportunities to engage with others to learn more about their experience at or with Gannon. There are so many opportunities and limited time to do everything I’d love to do. It is a blessing and an opportunity to be part of a community so dedicated to creating an incredible experience for our students and employees and welcoming members of our Erie, PA and Ruskin, FL communities to participate with us. For example, I recently attended the Navratri Festival hosted on campus by our global Indian students through the Indian Student Association in collaboration with the Indian Association of Greater Erie. It was a beautiful event featuring prayers, traditional Indian cuisine, and community dancing.
Dr. Ewing greets Gannon faculty and staff during a Community Meeting in the Yehl Ballroom.
Q: We’d love to get to know more about you: many of us enjoyed watching you compete in the inaugural Flagship City e-Sports tournament during Welcome Week this year! How was that experience? And aside from your illustrious Mario Kart career, what are some of your other favorite hobbies or activities?
A: My experience participating in the inaugural Flagship City e-Sports tournament was a little nerve-wracking if I am honest; I am not a gamer. Yet, I had a ton of fun! I had never played Mario Kart or really any games since the original Nintendo and Atari were popular. So, leading up to the event, I had a trusted team of colleagues who helped me train and practice for the big event. We had a great time competing with one another and a few of our students. I look forward to playing again and the opportunity to connect with our students and our community in such a fun way. I was truly amazed by the talent of our participants and am looking forward to the next tournament we host.
My favorite activities are to read, hike, backpack, camp, bike, and bake. I love losing myself to a great book, a walk through the woods, disconnecting from the technology around us all the time, and baking delicious treats for others to enjoy.
Dr. Ewing competing in the inaugural Flagship City Esports Invitational: “The Battle of Lake Erie.”
Q: Back on campus, we are in an incredible period of transformation at Gannon between our expanding footprint, building upon our commitment to the community and neighborhoods around us, the work of Project NePTWNE and more - what has you the most excited for the future of the university?
A: I am excited about the incredible opportunities created through Gannon University’s growth, innovation, and community engagement, particularly through several key initiatives including Project NePTWNE. We have strong momentum and are taking an action-oriented approach to achieving our goals and fulfilling our purpose to our students, employees, and surrounding communities. We are creating new and collaborative learning environments that enable our students to apply their knowledge, often in partnership with local, regional, national, and global community and business partners. None of this would be possible without an incredible team of faculty and staff who are committed to excellence and critical to implementing and leading these initiatives in the coming years. I am grateful and blessed to work with such creative, dedicated, and talented individuals who make Gannon such a special community. The opportunity to work closely with the Gannon community on these initiatives in the months and years ahead to deliver an exceptional education of our students is truly exciting.
Q: As Provost you have the opportunity to interface directly with students on a daily basis- what has that experience been like? What is the community most interested in talking about, and what have you been hearing?
A: Over the past few months, I have enjoyed getting to talk with and meet our students where they are and to support them and their interests. I have enjoyed getting to learn more about the beautiful country sides and cultures of Columbia, Venezuela, and India from our global students; attending student organization and student government association meetings to hear about topics our students are passionate about or working on to support their peers; celebrating wins with our athletic teams; educating the community about mental health; and more. Our students are amazing individuals balancing so many responsibilities as they pursue their education and degree at Gannon. I have always been amazed by what our students set their minds to accomplish and their tenacity to get it done. Students are interested in leading change, engaging with one another, sharing their experiences with others, seizing the moment, and pursuing their goals. They want to feel supported and heard. I am grateful for our students each day and want to ensure each student finds a sense of belonging and their home away from home at Gannon to achieve those goals.
Q: With the continued development of facilities and programming on Gannon’s Ruskin, Florida campus, including the emergence of student clubs and orgs, really expanding the student experience - how is that community continuing to grow and build its own identity?
A: The Ruskin, Florida campus community continues to thrive and identify new opportunities to engage with the local and regional communities. Our academic programs in Ruskin regularly host guest lecturers and members from the community for our students to learn from and to practice their hands-on skills as they develop as future healthcare providers. Recently, we announced a new partnership with the University of Tampa to support undergraduate students earning their allied health science degree from the University of Tampa to transition directly into our doctor of physical therapy, occupational therapy doctorate, or master of science in speech-language pathology degree program. In August 2023, we were recognized for the second year in a row with an honor of Best of the Best for Graduate Schools by the Tampa Bay Times.
Our students from Ruskin also continue to seek opportunities to engage fully in the life of the university including serving as representatives on the Student Government Association, the Graduate Student Government Association, and through programming provided by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. I continue to be proud of our Ruskin employees’ and students’ motivation and leadership to serve others and truly embody our GU+ service standards – respect, engaged, seamless, and wellbeing.
Q: Gannon’s mission drives us to excellence in teaching, scholarship and service with faculty and staff preparing students to become global citizens What is your personal mission?
A: My mission is to learn and grow each day, and my vision is to inspire. I seek opportunities to serve as an authentic and collegial leader who motivates and empowers others through collaboration, effective communication, and supportive action to become their best selves. I aspire to serve in roles that challenge me as a person, mentor, and leader. These challenges allow me to grow and better serve those around me while helping the organization achieve its mission and strategic goals.
Through my experience as a first-generation, low-income student, part of my mission is to create pathways for all individuals to pursue an education and define their passions for a stimulating career. In pursuit of an education, individuals are exposed to new experiences, people, and environments. Students are granted room to be creative, challenged, and supported. I also want to provide students with an exceptional education coupled with an experience that will support their growth as individuals and preparation for their future. To achieve this goal, I want to support and engage our faculty and staff who are directly responsible for the education, growth, and development of our students. I want to encourage collaboration and delivery of an integrated experience combining what happens in and out of the classroom to offer students diverse opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills in meaningful ways.
Dr. Ewing with Gannon students on a 2018 Alternative Break Service Trip to Merida, Mexico with the Center for Social Concerns.
Q: With some of our major university priorities being recruitment and retention in particular as we enter a period of change for higher education as a whole, how is Gannon uniquely prepared to meet that challenge?
A: Gannon is built on and operates from a strong foundation, rich Mission and purpose, and dedicated people. Dr. Iwanenko, Gannon University’s eighth President, has set a clear vision and path forward that will guide the Gannon community through the challenges facing higher education. With a relentless and balanced approach focusing on our Catholic Identity; the well-being of our students, employees, and community; financial optimization; and enrollment growth, Gannon will remain strong and prepared to educate future generations of students into the next 100 years.