The Charger Blog

Associate Director of CSELO Looks Forward to Creating New Traditions with Students this Academic Year

Meet Erica Gardner, associate director of the Center for Student Engagement, Leadership, and Orientation, who loves pineapples and looks forward to traveling internationally again when it is safe to do so.

September 22, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Ericka Gardner at the 2019 Student Affairs Awards Ceremony
Penny Lane ’19 (left), Erica Gardner (center), and Gio Roper ’19 at the 2019 Student Affairs Awards Ceremony.

The lifeblood of the University of New Haven are the faculty and staff members who dedicate their lives to helping our students reach their goals. Periodically, we’ll introduce you to a member of the staff so you can learn more about him or her – beyond their day to day work.

Next up is Erica Gardner, associate director of the Center for Student Engagement, Leadership, and Orientation, who was very involved in campus life when she was a college student and who enjoys creating fun and meaningful experiences for University of New Haven students.

Erica Gardner planting flowers.
Erica Gardner plants flowers outside of the German Club on Earth Day in 2019.

Renee Chmiel: What did you do this summer that you enjoyed the most?

Erica Gardner: I’ve been able to concentrate on self-care. Summer is typically a busy time for CSELO, and the pandemic has impacted how we operate. I have had the opportunity to prioritize my many other responsibilities outside of work. I have become more disciplined in the way I approach things and I’ve increased my peace of mind.

RC: What is your favorite restaurant?

EG: I don’t have a favorite restaurant because I love exploring new foods. I love Caribbean, Asian, and Mexican/Spanish cuisine. My go-to food order is typically tacos. I love tacos!

RC: What organizations were you involved with when you were in college?

EG: As an undergrad at UConn, I served as a resident assistant, and I was a member of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. I also served as chair for our work with March of Dimes. I worked as a lab monitor for the School or Engineering, as a new student orientation facilitator with the Violence Against Women Prevention Program, and as a library assistant.

Erica Gardner with Nikki Giovanni.
Erica Gardner with poet and civil rights activist Nikki Giovanni in March 2020.

RC: What are you most looking forward to doing after the coronavirus pandemic ends?

EG: I am looking forward to traveling internationally, spending time with family, and wearing a full face of makeup.

RC: What is something that people are often surprised to learn about you?

EG: I played the violin for 11 years and the marimba for one year in high school. I made the switch from orchestra so that I could attend the Quadrennial Disney Trip with the band. That ended up being the first year they allowed the orchestra to also attend. I don’t regret my decision to switch because I learned how to play a new instrument in less than two months!

RC: What is something you are passionate about?

EG: I love pineapples. Anyone who has visited my office can attest to this. Pineapples are such a unique fruit that can be transformed into an array of things. They also represent hospitality and being welcoming, and I always want those who I interact with to feel as if they are having positive experiences with me.

RC: What about this academic year are you most excited about?

EG: I’m looking forward to building new traditions with students and collaborating with campus partners to support our new normal. We are definitely being creative and innovative on how we approach this year to make experiences as meaningful as we can.