Perry earns 40 Under 40 recognition

Lifelong devotion to social justice and service puts CSC director on Erie’s map


Nadya Makay

Becky Perry, who graduated from Gannon with her bachelor’s degree and from Ohio University with her master’s degree, worked to become the director of Gannon’s Center for Social Concerns and Global Exploration, work which earned her a spot on the Erie Reader’s 40 Under 40 list.

Anna Malesiewski, Assistant News & Features Editor

If you asked Becky Perry to describe her life, it would consist of meaningful work. Her work life and her personal life often mesh, but if you ask Perry, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
As director of Gannon University’s Center for Social Concerns and Global Exploration, Perry exemplifies the center’s pursuit of “purposeful service, exploration, and action for the common good” through her life and work. The center strives to foster these ideas both locally and globally, and so does Perry. As director, she oversees engagement opportunities for students, which include community service, advocacy and awareness building, and cultural immersion.
Because of her efforts with the Center for Social Concerns and Global Exploration and the Gannon and Erie communities, Perry has earned a spot on Erie Reader’s 40 Under 40 List for 2020. Those named on this list play a role in transforming Erie and making it more diverse, inclusive and successful.
“I know I can do more to walk with my neighbors to bring about and fight for an Erie that is on fire for equity, justice and community for all,” Perry said.
Traveling frames much of Perry’s world. Her interest in traveling began during her undergrad days at Gannon, and it hasn’t died out since.
Perry began at Gannon as a political science major. After making her way through her first four years of school, she still could not decipher what she actually wanted to do with her life. Through Gannon, Perry received opportunities to travel and participate in service abroad. These experiences changed her life.
Eventually, during graduate school, Perry had the opportunity to participate in a fellowship during which she was able to travel around the Middle East and consequently learn the Arabic language.
One day, Perry received a Facebook message from a professor at Gannon asking if she would want to teach as an adjunct lecturer at the university. In Germany at the time, she responded that she was unsure. Simultaneously, she received another message from the director for the Center for Social Concerns asking if she would like a part time position as a property manager of a building that housed international students.
“It just felt like two things telling me, ‘You don’t know what you want to do yet, you don’t have a plan. Why don’t you try and go back to Erie,’” Perry said.
Eventually, Perry earned a full-time position at Gannon, and she has been here ever since. She later got the chance to help create the TRAVEL (Transforming Residents Abroad via Engaged Learning) program, in which she could manifest her love for traveling. She continues to direct TRAVEL today.
Through the Center for Social Concerns and Global Exploration, Perry has accompanied over 100 Gannon students on over a dozen international trips to places like Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Perry finds fulfillment in walking along students throughout their experiences through the CSC.
The Rev. Michael Kesicki, associate vice president of University Mission and Ministry, emphasizes Perry’s value as part of the Mission and Ministry team.
“Her passion and heart are directed toward walking with students and colleagues to live the Gannon mission-values of faith, leadership, inclusiveness and social responsibility,” Kesicki said. “Her intellectual gifts include an appreciation for and study of history with the capacity to understand and articulate how faith and culture interact in order to give to the student experience better insight into contemporary issues in intellectual, economic, social and political life.”
Although she loves traveling, Perry will always feel at home in the Erie and Gannon communities. With the Center for Social Concerns and Global Exploration, Perry is trying to coordinate more sustainable service opportunities for students, as opposed to one-time or irregular service opportunities, especially throughout the Erie community.
“I love getting to know this community,” Perry said. “I didn’t really appreciate it when I was a student at Gannon. Getting to appreciate where I am is really important to me.”
Her favorite part of her current job as director for the Center for Social Concerns and Global Exploration is her ability to work closely and engage with students. Through the center both Perry and the students she works with are able to encounter the Gannon community through programs like ABST, TRAVEL, GIVE Day or Day of Caring.
“I really like being part of the mission work of the institution,” Perry said. “Everything from feeling connected to Gannon regardless of your faith or background, to those conversations about why respect and community and service matter, and how we can all feel connected through those values, no matter where we came from.”
Perry’s colleague, assistant director for the Center for Social Concerns Allison Cyphert, thinks that Perry exemplifies this in her everyday work.
“She is amazing at connecting with the students she works with and works tirelessly to help each student discover and grow through their engagement with our office programs,” Cyphert said.
Above all, Becky Perry values authenticity in both work and relationships.
“I had a colleague say once to me, ‘I have never seen someone who appreciates authenticity more than you,’” Perry said. “I just love to have those genuine conversations.”
Melissa Bronder, a senior molecular and cellular biology major, can attest to Perry’s vast authenticity. Bronder has worked closely with Perry as a Navajo Nation ABST co-leader and through her work-study position at the Center for Social Concerns and Global Exploration.
“She empathetically converses with students when big changes occur or when small events in students’ lives threaten to overwhelm them, keeping her mind and heart always open to those passing by her in the hallway or just passing through the Center for Social Concerns office,” Bronder said.
“She gives me freedom to create my own projects in the office and follow where my interests and ideas take me, while checking up with me and asking how she can best support me.”


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