Gannon University Ruskin, Fla. Campus Celebrates One-Year Anniversary

Posted: August 19, 2016

One year ago today, Gannon University formally opened a new campus in Ruskin, Florida, and started a new era in the history of the institution founded in 1924 in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Today, the campus, located between Tampa and Sarasota on the western shore of Tampa Bay, is thriving. It's home to 24 students in a graduate program leading to an occupational therapy doctorate (OTD), one of only three programs accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to offer the OTD degree in Florida.

Those 24 pioneering students will soon be joined by 27 more students. They are drawn from across the country by the opportunity to receive a high-quality graduate education in a discipline that is much in demand in Florida's rapidly expanding healthcare economy.

Though the small Florida town was the site 100 years ago of a college founded on the principles of the English theorist, John Ruskin, Gannon University's interest in this location was driven by factors of demography and opportunity, not history.

Florida is America's third most populous state, a place where the population of both older persons and school-age persons is growing. This offers a dual opportunity for both student recruitment and community service.  

The initial Ruskin class of 24 enthusiastically responded to the challenge, and to Gannon's tradition of service by conducting outreach activities in non-clinical settings. Some of the organizations that were served include Inspired Living of Sun City Center, Mary and Martha House for homeless and abused women, the local affiliate of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), Selah Freedom housing for female victims of sex trafficking, and the Stay in Step spiral cord rehabilitation center, among others.

Students at the Ruskin campus have distinguished themselves with their academic accomplishments, as well. In April, Selena Hengy, a native of Glenside, Pennsylvania, became the first student from the Ruskin Campus to present at AOTA's annual conference and expo at Chicago's McCormick Place. Hengy presented her design of an eyeglasses applicator to assist individuals who, without the use of their upper extremities or hands, are unable to apply and remove their glasses. The device can be placed on a wall where a hook and magnet is used for support, to keep the glasses upright, and to make removal of glasses simpler.

Hengy is one of three graduate assistants to the faculty of five at the Ruskin campus. That number will be growing soon as Gannon plans to add a Doctor of Physical Therapy program to the Ruskin campus curriculum.