March 25, 2009
The Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation has established a new endowment for undergraduate research and development at MSU. The $600,000 endowment will fund a unique program for students from the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines to develop and implement their own concepts. Through this program, students will gain an understanding of the entrepreneurial process related to research.
Students will submit a concept to an advisory board. If a concept is deemed promising, the student will be granted seed funding to develop the proposal further. The final proposal (including a realistic budget) will be presented to the board, who will determine if full funding is appropriate.
Funded students will address business and marketing needs of their project as well as any social, ethical and policy issues. While the focus will be centered on STEM research, these additional components will help students gain understanding of the many functions that contribute to a successful entrepreneurial effort.
In addition, a portion of the endowment is focused on implementing university wide initiatives to support the understanding and development of entrepreneurial thinking across multiple aspects of the curriculum. This support would be used to sponsor workshops and seminars focused on entrepreneurial innovation in curricular design, promoting active participation with industry and the academic community, and expanding students’ knowledge about issues such as writing a business plan and business start-up.
“The benefits of an undergraduate research experience are unequivocal,” said Doug Estry, associate provost for undergraduate education and dean of undergraduate studies at Michigan State University. “Participating students are more deeply engaged in their academics as a result of the opportunity to work closely with faculty and gain additional time to explore topics in greater depth.”
Data clearly indicate the valuable contribution that research makes to student learning. In most cases faculty take the lead in proposing the work and charting the course. This limits a student’s ability to gain important learning outcomes that can optimally come from the opportunity to think critically about a problem and independently propose research that could lead to exciting new answers and important additional questions. Accordingly, the ambition of the Gerstacker Foundation program is to provide an avenue for undergraduate students to move to the next level – student-generated innovation that flows from their enhanced ability to think critically, devise solutions to problems, and generate creative and testable solutions – to put students in the driver’s seat with faculty and industry partners as the guides on the side.
Based in Midland, Michigan, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation was established by Eda U. Gerstacker in 1957 in memory of her husband. Mrs. Gerstacker died in 1975. Family members continue to serve as officers and trustees of the foundation, whose primary purpose is to continue financial support of charities of all types supported by Mr. and Mrs. Gerstacker. Funding for educational purposes is an ongoing priority of the foundation.