Gannon University — a new community presence

Dr. Richard Johnson, left, is program director at Gannon’s new Florida campus. Overseeing the development of new campuses is part of Steve Mauro’s (right) responsibility as vice president for academic administration, so he commutes from Erie regularly. BILL HODGES PHOTOS

Editor’s note: Gannon University officials at their main campus in Pennsylvania informed us that the university will be closed due to the oncoming storm. No re-opening date has yet been specified.

Gannon University has almost 100 working on master, doctoral degrees.

By PHYLLIS HODGES

We have all observed with wonder the growth boom here in south Hillsborough County; new homes are sprouting up all over and that means new businesses too.  Now it appears the academic world is taking notice as well.

In 2015, Gannon University, a Catholic university in Erie, Pennsylvania, decided to extend its southern reach.

When they narrowed their search to Florida and zeroed in on the South Shore area, they leased an industrial complex on S.R. 674 near the Ruskin/Sun City Center I-75 exit. Administration officials said the growing population and the excellent location — between Tampa and Sarasota — were factors. Also cited were Florida’s growing need for healthcare professionals and the limited graduate programs available.

Gannon moved quickly on building renovations and began offering summer classes in mid-2015. The third fall semester is starting now with about 100 students and 20 faculty members. Doctoral degrees in Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy and Master of Athletic Training are offered on this campus. Most of the course material is taught on-site due to the hands-on nature of the curriculum.

Named Gannon University Ruskin, the campus is impressive with everything new and accented with the school colors—maroon and gold. The classrooms and labs are well equipped, incorporating the latest technology and health initiatives such as standing desks and working treadmills. Most of the students have just acquired their bachelor’s degrees and are enthusiastic about pursuing their higher-level degrees.

Steve Mauro, Gannon’s vice president of academic administration, has responsibility for overseeing the operations of additional campuses and locations. That means he travels from his office in Erie to the new campus often. He said he is extremely pleased that enrollment is meeting or exceeding expectations, and they are making their presence in the area known through relationships with area colleges and health care organizations.

Gannon starts its third fall semester with about 100 post-graduate students working on master’s and doctoral degrees. A show of hands poll in this classroom showed students had come from over 10 states to study at the new campus.

The Program Director at Ruskin is Richard Johnson, PT, EdD.  He came to Florida from New York with his wife Lisa and three sons and now lives in Sarasota. Dr. Johnson said he is excited to be part of Gannon’s entry into Florida. “Gannon is well-known in the Northeast as a quality university, and everything I knew was positive, so when I learned they were seeking leadership for the campus, it wasn’t a ‘hard sell’ to convince me to join the team,” said Dr. Johnson.  He is planning a public health fair in the spring as part of Gannon’s community outreach efforts.

The 17,000-square-foot complex housing the new campus is on S.R. 674 near the Cypress Creek Blvd. intersection. It is the former Minto Communities sales office. In 2014, Gannon leased the east and west wings (12,000 square feet). When Minto moved its sales office to Verona, a new community it is developing in Sun City Center, Gannon exercised its option for the remaining space, and renovations are now underway.

Gannon also acquired a three-acre parcel adjacent to the leased building. Mauro said they are currently considering moving the parking lot to that area, which would enable them to expand the existing complex. “This is a long-term commitment,” he said. “It is a major milestone for Gannon to enter a new region, and we expect to be an integral part of the community.”

Visit www.gannon.edu for more information.

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