Major Grant from Gerstacker Foundation to Enhance Community-Based Learning

Albion College’s institutes, faculty and course development are among key areas of support.

March 25, 2019

With the support of a two-year, $500,000 grant from the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation of Midland, Michigan, Albion College will continue its civic-engagement initiative that benefits not only its students but the community at large.

“To extend the impact of Albion College’s many strategic community investments, there is a special focus on interactions with partners in the Albion community, especially through the institutes,” said Albion College President Mauri Ditzler of the new grant program, titled Albion College’s Institutes, Community-based Learning, and Civic Engagement. “The program will augment student learning while also supporting the community.”

With support from the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation of Midland, the College’s Gerstacker and Ford institutes will complete their moves into the downtown Ludington Center by fall 2019.

Foundation funds, awarded in December, will focus on three areas: maximizing the impact of the College’s institutes for connecting students to the community through the Ludington Center and Munger Place; developing and supporting community-based learning through logistical assistance, faculty
development and course-based project funding; and building and maintaining strategic partnerships with community organizations.

“This grant is going to do a lot for Albion College,” said Associate Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Academic Affairs John Woell, who is helping to administer the grant. “The key is that the College has been investing a great deal in the community, and now we can focus on student learning and measuring the impact of student learning on the community. This does that and allows us to see how we can create a better learning environment for students.”

Several areas of community-based learning will benefit. One example will be the completion of the move of the Carl A. Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management and the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy and Service into the Ludington Center by the fall of 2019. The Ludington Center, located at 101 N. Superior St. in downtown Albion, just around the corner from Albion City Hall, opened two years ago after a complete renovation and modernization of the century-old, 20,000-square-foot brick building.

“This grant is allowing the Gerstacker Institute to move to the Ludington Center full-time, which will provide us with greater opportunities to be engaged,” said Laurel Draudt, director of the Gerstacker Institute. “The Gerstacker and Ford institutes have already, for example, partnered with the Albion Economic Development Corporation, Stirling Books and Brew, the Bohm Theatre and the Albion Chamber of Commerce; we will now be able to expand our relationships with these and other organizations and enhance student learning. It is an exciting time for us, as Institute staff and students, to be leaders in this effort. We’re looking forward to greater collaboration, communication and stronger partnerships with the Albion community and among the institutes.”

“We want to leverage the Ludington Center as a site for College and community interaction,” Woell said, adding that the grant includes funding for a Ludington Center programming and operations manager, a new position.

Also at the core of the grant: dedicated support for faculty development focused on community-based learning; a social innovation fund and skill-based programming for students and the community; and the facilitation of the move of the new Lisa and James Wilson Institute for Medicine into Munger Place, located at 301 E. Michigan Ave., between Superior Street and the College’s campus Quad.

“The Gerstacker Foundation wants to provide new opportunities for Albion’s students and the community,” said Alan Ott, Foundation trustee. “We have long been interested in the success of the College and the town, so when a program like this brings the College, institutes and Albion community together in long-term collaborations for community benefit, we want to see it succeed. Also, these types of learning experiences will certainly help prepare Albion’s students for future leadership and success.”

“This grant is the result of five years of really hard work by a lot of people in a lot of different areas,” Woell said. “This is an important next step in a long-term strategy, and we’re delighted to have the support of the Gerstacker Foundation, who have been important partners for decades.”