Stronger than setbacks: Rush Ehrhart ’24 channels resiliency through reflection at Gettysburg

Rush Ehrhart ’24
Rush Ehrhart ’24 facilitates a leadership experience through the Garthwait Leadership Center (GLC) at Gettysburg College.

For all that Rush Ehrhart ’24 has accomplished during his academic career at Gettysburg, he’s also acutely aware that life, like baseball, can throw its share of curveballs. An unexpected injury during his first year dashed his hopes of playing baseball at Gettysburg. His family also moved from his childhood home in New Jersey to South Carolina during his sophomore year, and he lived alone in various places between semesters before studying abroad.

But Ehrhart didn’t let these changes—and other unexpected events that would come his way—derail him from focusing on the big picture. By embracing his discomfort and taking time for reflection, Ehrhart realized he was ultimately stronger than his setbacks.

An all-encompassing liberal arts and sciences education

Ehrhart first set his sights on Gettysburg College as a high school junior when he attended a baseball camp on campus and stayed overnight at the Gettysburg Hotel. Dave Balken ’91, the stepfather of one of his high school friends who played football at Gettysburg, took Ehrhart on a campus tour and shared stories from his time at Gettysburg with Ehrhart. Returning to his home in Asbury, New Jersey, Ehrhart’s campus visit piqued his interest in attending Gettysburg. Then, in 2020, he returned with his dad during his senior year of high school.

“Both my parents went to liberal arts colleges and always believed in a liberal arts education,” Ehrhart said. “When I began to learn more about Gettysburg’s liberal arts and sciences education, it was all-encompassing.”

After an interview with a Gettysburg Admissions counselor and conversations with John Campo—who served as the Bullets head baseball coach for 36 seasons before he retired in 2022—Ehrhart said he was “all in” for Gettysburg and applied Early Decision. Gettysburg’s small-town setting and tight-knit community resembled his New Jersey hometown, attributes that ultimately made him commit to Gettysburg.

Ehrhart’s introduction to Gettysburg’s breadth and depth of knowledge began with his only in-person class, Critical Thinking with Philosophy Prof. Emerita Lisa Portmess. The course was held during the fall 2020 semester of his first year at Gettysburg amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was my one opportunity to be in an in-person class, and it was a tough class. Prof. Portmess helped us understand how to build arguments and make sure your arguments were sound and logically correct,” he recalled.

He added that the course provided a foundation for the work he would encounter in the Business, Organizations, and Management Department, including studies in organizational psychology.

“I enjoyed studying business, as I’m a business, organizations, and management major now, but I appreciated being able to move outside my comfort zone with classes in other areas at Gettysburg,” he said.

Rush Ehrhart ’24 prepares to lead a challenge course
Rush Ehrhart ’24 prepares to lead a challenge course experience for the Garthwait Leadership Center. Ehrhart serves as a GLC leadership mentor, where he directs team development workshops on campus for groups of three to 50 people.

Complementing his academics, Ehrhart looked for co-curricular opportunities to help him apply what he learned in the classroom to hands-on experiences that would cultivate his leadership skills, including through clubs and organizations.

For Phi Delta Theta, he served as its scholarship chair during his sophomore year and as diversity, equity, and inclusion chair during his junior and senior years. Those roles later led to greater responsibilities as its risk manager and warden.

As Ehrhart began making connections between what he was learning in the classroom and what he would need beyond Gettysburg, he saw an unfilled need to help more students at Gettysburg realize those connections. With his Apple Hall roommate Jason Chase ’24, Ehrhart launched a new club to help students bridge that gap, translating their knowledge into real-world applications and enhancing skill development.

“We took a business club that had been inactive since COVID and developed it into the Professional Development Club,” said Ehrhart, who serves as vice president. “This club acts upon that gap and tries to expose our members to professional skills.”

Ehrhart leverages Gettysburg’s campus resources to support the Professional Development Club’s activities, including meet-and-greets with guest speakers, including Gettysburg alumni, to discuss their careers and share advice. He’s partnered with Billy Ferrell, director of external relations for Gettysburg College’s Center for Career Engagement, for professional networking and the Garthwait Leadership Center (GLC) to organize sessions for students on public speaking. He also invited Gettysburg College President Bob Iuliano to share the story of his career in higher education for a club meeting during the spring semester.

Since its founding, Ehrhart estimates approximately 10% of Gettysburg’s student body has connected with the Professional Development Club.

When he’s not helping other students through professional growth opportunities, Ehrhart is cultivating his own knowledge and enduring skills. Through the GLC, Ehrhart completed a Gettysburg College Leadership Certificate and Group Facilitation Fellowship. Last spring, Ehrhart accepted a position as a leadership mentor for the GLC, where he leads team development workshops on campus for groups of three to 50 people.

Rush Ehrhart in Dolomites
Rush Ehrhart ’24 ascends to the heights of the Dolomites in northern Italy. (Provided photo)

He also studied abroad in Rome during the fall of his junior year, profoundly impacting his worldview and understanding of himself. “I would walk in the heart of Rome for 45 minutes every single day to class,” he said. “I embraced the culture, was able to travel around Europe, and visited 10 different countries, with multiple cities in between.”

“Resiliency and reflection are important parts of the learning experience in the Gettysburg curriculum.”
– Rush Ehrhart ’24

A consequential journey rooted in reflection and resiliency

While experiences like study abroad and leadership development presented themselves in ways he didn’t expect, through them, Ehrhart learned how to leverage the potential within him.

“I like being a little uncomfortable and having something to work toward. When you get pushed down, rejected, or struggle, it can help you get back to where you wish you were,” he said. “Reflecting can help bend those negative emotions into a positive attitude and help you create steps to move forward. Resiliency and reflection are important parts of the learning experience in the Gettysburg curriculum.”

As Commencement draws near, Ehrhart expresses gratitude to the Gettysburg College community for supporting him and providing the knowledge and skills he’ll lean on as he begins his career in Boston at AIG, a leading global insurance organization. He believes Gettysburg’s strength in delivering A Consequential Education is the College’s ability to provide the resources to help students succeed. To all Gettysburg students, present and future, Ehrhart encourages them not to be afraid to find the people who can help them navigate their college journey.

“Gettysburg does a great job of bringing people to the place, but it’s the people who do a great job of making the place,” he said.

Visit Gettysburg College to explore leadership, academic, and personal development opportunities available to students.

By Michael Vyskocil
Profile photos and video by Abbey Frisco
Posted: 03/22/24