In 2005, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation of Midland, Michigan established a $1.5 million endowment at Saginaw Valley State University. Its purpose was to create a new cadre of educational leaders through a leadership development program that would expand the vision and leadership capabililty of a select group each year of premier teachers and administrators. Through this initiative, the Gerstacker Fellowship Program, the quality of K-12 education in our communities would be improved as our students would be better prepared to meet the challenges of living in a global community and competing in a global economy. During the past eight years, 91 teachers and administrators have completed the twelve month, monthly week end educational program which also involves an international travel and study experience.
The reach of the Gerstacker Fellowship Program has extended to twenty-two school districts throughout the state. School leadership is influenced by Gerstacker Fellows in school districts as far north as Grand Rapids, to the west, Port Huron Schools to the east, and Warren Consolidated Schools to the south.
The school districts represent rural, surburban, and urban communities. Those communities include Alpena Public Schools, Avondale School District, Bangor Township Schools, Bay-Arenac ISD, Bay City Public Schools, Brandon School District, Carrollton Public Schools, Coleman Community Schools, Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, Frankenmuth School District, Hale Area Schools, Kentwood Public Schools, Lapeer Community Schools, Marysville Public Schools, Marlette Community Schools, Mesick Consolidated Schools, Midland County ESA, Oxford Community Schools, Romeo Community Schools, St. Clair County Regional Educational Service Agency, Saginaw City School District, Saginaw Township Community Schools, Swan Valley School District, Swartz Creek Community Schools, Utica Community Schools, and the Warren Consolidated Schools.
Almost half of the Gerstacker Fellows have advanced their careers since the completion of the Program. They have earned the opportunity to provide leadership at an advanced level as Superintendents, Associate and Assistant Superintendents, Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals and Directors as well as stronger teachers in the classroom and educational leaders within their school building.
The Gerstacker Fellows have all acknowledged the "life-altering" experience provided by the Gerstacker Fellowship Program. Specifically, they have noted its intellectual stimulation, the ability to see what is in play educationally on the other side of the world, to articulate a vision of what it means to educate our students for the 21st Century, and to develop leadership skills required to translate that vision into practice.
The curriculum for this leadership development program spans twelve months with monthly week end meetings commencing in January. Topics include: organizational development, organizational change, communications, ethics, human resources, finances, global education and leadership, politics, and diversity. The curriculum also includes a seminar which is designed to assist the Fellows to synthesize the work of previous sessions, an international travel and study experience and a concluding symposium at which the Fellows present the findings and perspective they have gained as Gerstacker Fellows.
Previous international trips have included Finland, China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. These trips involve visits to: elementary, middle, and high schools, and the opportunity to discuss issues of mutual interest with administrators and teachers; the Ministry of Education to discuss K-12 education and its role within the national purpose; a university's graduate school of education to discuss how teachers are prepared and certified; and a corporate setting (such as Dow Chemical Company in Shanghai or the Dell Corporation in Chongquing, China) to understand how leadership plays out in different cultural and economic settings. The 2015 international travel and study experience will include Finland and Poland.
Twelve aspiring school leaders are selected each year. They are nominated by their school districts and selected on the basis of past academic, service, and professional experience, the recommendation of others as to their potential for true excellence in leadership, and an assessment as to their ability to benefit from and contribute to the Program.
Applications are due in October. A selection committee reviews those applications and selects a group for interview on the Saginaw Valley State University campus. From the interview group, the new Gerstacker Fellows are selected by early November. In early December, an induction ceremony and banquet is conducted to welcome the next class of Gerstacker Fellows.
The endowment gift of the Gerstacker Foundation and the financial support of Saginaw Valley State University provide for all costs associated with the program. Therefore, there is no cost involved for the Fellows other than that associated with travel to the University Campus for the program sessions.