The Gunnery, a boarding school in Connecticut, has hired Emily Gum as Assistant Head of School for teaching and Learning. Peter Becker, the Head of School, said her experience and expertise are “deeply aligned with Frederick Gunn’s focus on moral character and the formative power of schools and boarding schools in particular.”
VoicesNews.com covered the hiring to learn more about Becker’s motivations for bringing Gum on board and his vision for her role.
Gum’s acceptance of the Gunnery’s offer represents the culmination of a three-month search process. Becker thinks the time was well spent, noting that “[Gum] is skilled at turning ideas into action and is, in her words, ‘driven to make the theoretical practical . . . [s]he has a gift for listening and learning across disciplines and for implementation and managing change.”
Gum arrives as Assistant Head of School for Teaching and Learning with a variety of experience. She currently serves as interim Executive Director of New City Commons, a nonprofit in Charlottesville, VA. Prior to that position, she held multiple roles at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.
An added bonus to her professional experience—Gum attended a boarding school herself growing up, The Hill School in Pottstown, PA. Her time at The Hill School left an impression. She said, “It is with this experience in mind that I am excited by the opportunity to serve the faculty and students of The Gunnery in the same way.”
Becker is betting that Gum will be able to help the school translate character-formation theory into practice. Boarding schools have a unique dynamic as “total institutions” where students eat, sleep, learn, and play, and Gum will be tasked with ensuring that this opportunity is leveraged to the fullest extent possible.
Headmaster Peter Becker describes the ethos that permeates his institution, “Following [founder Frederick Gunn’s] example from the earliest days of the school, we strive to support our students in the development of character and citizenship, the active life, as much as the life of the mind at The Gunnery today.”
Gum will have this in mind while overseeing “the school’s Academic Office, including curriculum development and management of the day-to-day details of student scheduling and parental inquiries.” She will also “lead the Curriculum Committee, serve as a member of the Campus Life Committee and Core Administrative Council, be a student advisor and teach one class per term.”
The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture studies character formation in a variety of school types—including boarding schools. Dr. Kathryn Wiens, the lead researcher for prestigious independent schools, noted that “These educators believed that their schools, rather than being elitist, reflected the best in character education.” The Gunnery stands very much in this tradition of boarding schools that take seriously the responsibility for forming future leaders, as is evidenced by their selection of Mrs. Gum, who is deeply committed to the formative work of schools.
Dr. Wiens’ research in the prestigious independent schools found that commitment to forming character is a common feature of these schools. “Each of the schools we studied had a mission, a new strategic plan, or an academic or co-curricular program that directly related to moral formation. Moreover, we found tight couplings between the curriculum, the pedagogy, and the schools’ guiding moral framework.” Mrs. Gum will now have the privilege and responsibility in her new role as Assistant Head of School to turn these ideas into action.
Dr. Wiens has contributed a chapter to The Content of Their Character which captures the breadth of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture’s research in ten sectors of American secondary education. You can pre-order the book for a deep discount on the cover price, plus free shipping.