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Gersich’s behind-the-scenes work nets Hatch Award for service

Barry McNamara
Frank Gersich (right) receives the Hatch Award for Excellence in Service from Dean David Timmerman.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – In his role as associate dean of academic affairs at Monmouth College, Frank Gersich doesn’t make lesson plans or hold student advising meetings. But he makes those lesson plans and advising meetings better for his colleagues.

Gersich was honored for all the work he does behind the scenes – what he called the “back processes” of academics – with this year’s Hatch Award for Excellence in Service.

“We brought in a speaker five or six years ago, and he asked ‘How do you describe faculty development?’” said Gersich. “It made me examine that, and my answer is, I’m helping faculty get ready for their classes. I’m helping them get better at what they do. I get satisfaction from seeing them be more successful at what they’re doing.”

Gersich’s work has a similar effect on students. Over the last decade, he’s launched and helped lead student support initiatives including the Bridge Program, the Second Start program, Supplemental Instruction and Academic Peer Coaching, as well as helping to improve student disability services.

Gersich joined Monmouth’s faculty in 1998. Halfway through his 20-year tenure at Monmouth, he applied for the associate dean position, which comprises half of his Monmouth duties. The other half is teaching accounting.

“To some extent, my decision to focus on the service side goes back to my choice of graduate school,” said Gersich, who received an Ed.D. from Northern Illinois University. “Instead of going for a traditional Ph.D. in accounting, which would’ve put me on a very accounting-centric path, I got my doctorate in education. I was thinking even then about the entire educational experience. I think at a small school like Monmouth, that’s what we should be about.”

One of Gersich’s first administrative tasks was to develop the College’s Teaching and Learning Center.

“I think that’s helped, over time, to provide resources for students,” he said.

Students who benefit from the TLC might not realize all the work that Gersich put into launching the center, nor might they appreciate Gersich while having a meaningful conversation with their academic adviser. But the Hatch Award recipient has a mark on that important area, as well.

“I worked with faculty to make advising a more robust service for students,” he said. “We wanted to make it more of a mentoring experience, where students could discuss their life goals with their advisers and then determine how to get there. When I started at Monmouth, advising was really just about scheduling classes. Now we work with the faculty to have those important discussions with students. That can often be a stressful experience for some students, especially freshmen, but the faculty can earn their trust over time.”

Gersich has also helped influence his colleagues through a series of faculty development programs on pedagogical practices and innovations.

“Those have helped to bond the faculty,” he said. “We’ve had good conversations and shared good thoughts. Those programs have helped make this a richer place for faculty, and hopefully that leads to better instruction of students and to mentoring of students.”

These days, much of Gersich’s time as associate dean is devoted to leading the efforts in preparing for the College’s reaccreditation visit and review by the Higher Learning Commission, which will take place in the fall. The effort has been comprehensive and has strategically included staff representation from all the divisions of the College, as well as numerous faculty members.

Although the official review is still a few months away, Gersich has already seen positive signs.

“Some of our faculty traveled to an HLC workshop, and they told me afterward that they’d heard a lot of the information before, because I’d met with them,” he said. “That was good to hear. And we had some HLC liaisons here in February. They came in the middle of the second year of the process, as opposed to the beginning. They liked what they saw because of the awareness across campus. We got more people involved with the HLC review than many other schools, who just have a handful of administrators involved.”

Part of Gersich’s plan for overseeing the review came from his previous HLC experience. He was part of the steering group during Monmouth’s last review, and he is also a certified accreditation reviewer for HLC who regularly serves on the review teams for the reaccreditation reviews of other colleges and universities.

In addition to his HLC leadership and all his accomplishments launching and shepherding faculty development and student learning initiatives, Gersich has served on all of the College’s major faculty committees, including Faculty Senate, the Faculty and Institutional Development Committee, the Faculty Grievance Committee and the Assessment Committee.

Funded by the late 1957 Monmouth graduate W. Jerome Hatch, the Hatch Awards were established in 2004 to recognize outstanding work by Monmouth faculty in the areas of teaching and scholarship, in addition to service.