UNO alumna helps build dreams
Published: Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 18:06
In the early 1980s, then-student Viv Ewing invested much of her time helping improve peers', family's and fellow students' life quality. Today, as a UNO alumna, she's as busy serving others, working as the director of human resources and organization development at Habitat for Humanity Omaha and holding several leadership positions on various boards and councils.
Ewing has an obvious passion for community improvement, which began during her adolescent years. Not only was she a Girl Scout, she also participated in the Morning Star church youth group, volunteered at the Wesley House community center and served as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army.
When the Omaha native arrived at UNO, she was met with an abundance of resources to help turn her love of public affairs into a career. She gives credit to the professors that mentored her.
"The Urban Studies program led by professor and program chair Emeritus Dr. Peter Suzuki, gave me first hand exposure to the various communities and cultures in Nebraska," Ewing said in an e-mail interview with the Gateway. "I learned skills in leadership, public speaking, program organization, evaluation techniques and instilled an appreciation of the rich cultural communities of this state."
While she focused her studies on public affairs, Ewing used her spare time to better campus life. She founded Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the Gamma Xi undergraduate chapter and the UNO NAACP college chapter. Ewing also participated in the Student Activities and Minority Student organizations. Her always-bright smile and positive attitude helped her earn the title of Homecoming Queen in 1982.
Just as she does in various communities, Ewing left her mark on UNO.
"My goal is to always leave things, bigger, better and brighter because of my involvement," Ewing said.
The university certainly acknowledges her impact. In 2009, Ewing was given the UNO Outstanding Alumni award.
With credentials like these, it's no surprise she found herself working for an organization like Habitat for Humanity.
"I chose Habitat because of my commitment to making a positive, tangible difference in the community," Ewing said. "I love being a part of improving the community through home ownership and making a positive impact on the families, volunteers and the city."
Since her beginning as volunteer manager at Habitat Omaha, Ewing has been involved in the organization and building process of more than 20 homes in Omaha. She is the one responsible for setting the wheels in motion to get construction started. She builds personal relationships with local businesses and public figures that provide finances, manpower and other resources. Much coordination must occur before ground can break.
Ewing says the effort is worth it. The expecting home owners or family partners work with Habitat through the whole building process, so she gets to experience a range of emotions with them.
"The families are elated to have a new Habitat home," Ewing said. "We rejoice with the family partners, we celebrate with the family partners and we cry with the family partners. It is very heartwarming to be a part of helping families buy their first home through Habitat."
Habitat Omaha enlists more than 7,000 volunteers annually, with more than 200 of them UNO students. Ewing hopes to incorporate the student volunteers in a special Habitat project some day.
"I'd like to see a UNO Habitat house that the students work on and raise money to cover the cost of the house. That would be so exciting," Ewing said. "Alumni could come out and help, too."
Since her childhood, Viv Ewing has had her eye on the community. She continues to live by the values instilled by her family and mentors. Her recipe for success is simple, but true.
"Obtain a degree that makes you marketable in many fields, stick to your values and don't let anyone rain on your parade. Be the kind of leader that others want to follow."
If you'd like to follow Viv Ewing, tune in to 660 AM at 4:30 PM on Saturday's for her show "The Best Is Yet To Come."