Gerstacker Institute Summer Program develops better business leaders

Adding art, music and community spirit to the curriculum takes Gerstacker sophomores beyond the basics of studying business and management

August 24, 2023

Roy Mathews, Director; Nathan Ward, Caden McKinley; Dominic Orselli; Anudari Gansukh; Carson Foor; Maxwell Honiss; Joseph Dorsch; Kiera Murphy; Dylan Mitchell; Aadhya Mohan; Dominic Orlando; and Suzanne Tanguay, ’85, Director of Personal Health Care Quality Assurance at Proctor & Gamble.

From left to right: Maxwell Honiss, Aadhya Mohan, Anudari Gansukh, Kiera Murphy, Carson Foor, Caden McKinley, Dominic Orselli, Dylan Mitchell, Dominic Orlando, and Nathan Ward- At Fountain Square in Cincinnati enjoying some live music.

After three years of being completely/mostly/partially virtual, this year’s Gerstacker Institute Summer Program was all about being in person.

It wasn’t, however, necessarily “all about” business, thanks to the vision of new Gerstacker Institute Director Roy Mathews. A teacher and scholar of environmental and natural resource management, Mathews is firmly committed to the idea true business leaders need a much bigger education.

During this year’s summer program field trip to Cincinnati, Mathews arranged the usual business tours and meet-and-greets, but also made sure students had time to listen to live music, tour an art museum and walk in the heart of downtown.

“We learned a lot about business, but we also got to experience art and music and get a feel for the city,” Mathews explained with a smile. “When the students are with me, they’re going to do a lot of different things.”

Mathews has been a member of Albion’s economics and management faculty since 2020, but this year was his first as leader of Gerstacker and its summer program, which provides an intensive, immersive study experience for sophomores.

“During the school year, students are busy with classes, sports and clubs and have a lot of distraction,” Mathews said. “It’s nice to take the summer and focus on skills and experiences that will launch them into the next two years.”

The Cincinnati trip gave students a behind-the-scenes look at two very different business worlds. Suzanne Tanguay, ’85, director of personal health care quality assurance for Procter & Gamble, spent a morning with the group in P&G’s Tech Center.

“We had a class this summer on global business models, and that was where a lot of our discussions centered — how P&G’s products went across the world, and how things that worked in one place might not work in others,” recalled Caden McKinley, ’25.

The students also visited Cintrifuse, a venture capital firm co-founded by Jeff Weedman, ’75.

“We learned the value of the active network that Cintrifuse uses to connect tech startups with partners in order to stimulate innovative ideas,” said Kiera Murphy, ’25. “I enjoyed the tour and being able to understand all of the components that make Cintrifuse who they are.”

Of course, most of the summer program took place in Albion, where Mathews took advantage of a rich pool of local alumni for networking and mock interview events.

“One of the best things I took away from the summer program was networking,” McKinley said. “People use that word a lot, but I had never really understood it before this. Throughout the summer we met with Gerstacker alums. I actually got an internship offer for next summer. There were opportunities for every student that came out of all the networking.”

Mathews also invited local business leaders as guest presenters, talking about processes, growth and development and sharing the important lesson of how local business isn’t just about business.

“All businesses are residents of their community — they ‘live’ in an office building and should have an interest in building relationships where they live,” Mathews explained. “It’s a given community development should involve businesses and plans for business investment.

“This means we need students to know that wherever they end up, they know how to encourage businesses to be more involved in the community. That’s outside of business and what I’m bringing to Gerstacker.”

McKinley came to Albion because of the Gerstacker program, noting his father, Cullen McKinley, ’95, was also a member. He noted he previously thought the summer program was “just an extra semester,” but now sees it as central to Gerstacker’s mission.

“In the summer, students could focus not only on what we’re doing in the classroom but on career goals,” McKinley said. “Roy and the other people who are part of this have been great people to talk to and help you find your path. That’s been another great thing I’ve found about Gerstacker.”