A Community of Lifelong Learners

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Faculty & Staff Stories in Fine Print, the Magazine of Rowland Hall

Ingrid Gustavson Reflects on First Year as Upper School Principal

As the 2016–2017 academic year wraps up, Rowland Hall's Fine Print magazine asked Ingrid Gustavson to reflect on her first year as Upper School principal. Her candor, ease, and excitement about the community she's been embraced by is as infectious as her enthusiasm for the future.


There is always something interesting happening at Rowland Hall. Every week that goes by, I experience a new aspect of the community that blows me away and gets me excited as a learner myself.

One example is the eleventh-grade advertising unit, a collaboration between the English and history departments. In the final part of the unit, students receive guidance from the school marketing department and work in groups to create an ad promoting Rowland Hall. Then, they pitch their ads to Rowland Hall administrators and a panel of advertising professionals from the community. The students practice real-world skills in the research, design, iteration, collaboration, and presentation of their ads. The best part is how the students articulate what they think is great about a Rowland Hall education through words and images—and I couldn't agree more. Here are some of the slogans they came up with:

  • "Focus on the individual."
  • "Find your rhythm. Find your muse. Find yourself."
  • "Learning is a relationship, not a lecture."
  • "Go beyond ordinary learning."
  • "Our well-rounded education fosters boundless opportunities."

I love how the ads reflect some of the key aspects of a Rowland Hall education like student choice; connections with supportive teachers; a strong academic curriculum; a diverse, immersive arts program; and a healthy, productive, collaborative culture.

The advertising unit led me to reflect on Rowland Hall's many strengths, such as the high level of student and parent satisfaction with teachers and the program. The faculty, administration, and staff are highly responsive, empathetic, and experienced. From the beginning, I have felt inspired by a Strategic Plan that puts learning first—both student and faculty growth are valued. Rowland Hall's leadership models these values and expectations, and the mission feels real and relevant.

Other visible strengths include the impressive signature programs ranging from yearlong immersive experiences—Rowmark, debate, internships, Project 11, athletics—to short-term adventures, often with an emphasis on ethical and experiential learning: Camp Roger, Project 10, Interim, Half Day/Whole Heart, chapel, and more. The high-touch admissions and college counseling programs stand out among high schools throughout the state.

This year for me has of course been about getting to know the community and the culture. I've done a lot of listening, and tried to be visible, present, and observant. I've spent time building relationships with faculty in large and small groups and with individuals in and out of the classroom. I've used the mission and the Strategic Plan as guides for areas to focus on in this first year.

I believe Goal 1 of the Strategic Plan—enhance the student learning experience—is already well established, and it is one of the strengths that drew me to Rowland Hall in the first place. I have looked to encourage and support collaboration and professional growth with the goal of empowering teachers to follow their own passions while serving students well.

Goal 2 of the Strategic Plan—provide the Intermountain West's most outstanding math and science program—is also taking shape in the Upper School. Under the leadership of Department Chair and chemistry and AP Biology teacher Alisa Poppen, significant work is underway to grow our science lab program and align departmental practices across courses. The math department, guided by Department Chair and personal finance and AP Statistics teacher Brian Birchler, is developing a strong placement process and course progression in conjunction with the other divisions. A new course, Advanced Topics in Mathematics, has been designed for next year for students wishing to extend beyond Calculus BC.

Prioritizing community wellness in the Upper School is also a goal of mine. We already have outstanding academic and social-emotional support counselors, coaches, and health and fitness teachers, as well as a growing First-Year Experience program to support and coach ninth graders in their transition to high school. Next year, we are partnering with Challenge Success at Stanford's Graduate School of Education, a program for secondary schools looking to create mission- and culture-focused opportunities to improve community wellness.

I am thrilled to be part of a four-division, PreK–12 school. It is a bonus to have my kids as students in school with me. It also means I have several talented peers in shoes similar to mine providing a high level of support, collegiality, and learning. I thrive on the challenge of how to best align, collaborate, and work across the needs of four schools in one.

For the first time in my career, I feel truly surrounded by a group of leaders who are both colleagues and mentors. There is a great balance of veteran and new leadership at Rowland Hall, and I am learning each day from Head of School Alan Sparrow and Associate Head of School Jennifer Blake, from division principals and assistant principals, and other members of the administrative team.

I am also thoroughly impressed by my colleagues on the faculty, not to mention our students. I will never claim that having a leadership role means I know it all. I relish every classroom visit, serendipitous conversation in the hallways and faculty room, and inspiring example of student work.

People

Welcome Upper School Principal

Rowland Hall is happy to announce Ingrid Gustavson as the new Upper School principal beginning July 1, 2016. Ingrid comes to Rowland Hall from the Darrow School in Lebanon, New York, where she served as director of studies and oversaw all aspects of the academic program.

Prior to her position at Darrow, Ingrid helped to found Sage Hill School in California, and worked at the Webb Schools and Idyllwild Arts Academy in California. Ingrid earned a master of arts from Williams College and is a graduate of Bowdoin College, where she majored in French and art history and played on the school’s volleyball team.

Ingrid’s former head of school described her as a “transformative educator.” The Rowland Hall search committee was enthusiastic in its decision to offer her the position. Her extensive background and varied interests—arts, sports, history, languages, travel, and community excellence—offer an immediate connection with students and parents alike. A number of school events next fall will offer opportunities to meet Ingrid; her husband, Kurt; and their two sons, Kai and Luc.

“I am thrilled to be joining such a passionate, dedicated, and supportive learning community,” Ingrid said. “Throughout my visits, I was impressed by the strong connection that students, teachers, and parents felt towards each other and their evident pride in the excellence of the program. My family and I look forward to making Rowland Hall our new school home."

People

Rowland Hall is happy to announce Ingrid Gustavson as the new Upper School principal beginning July 1, 2016. Ingrid comes to us from the Darrow School in Lebanon, New York, where, as director of studies, she was in charge of all aspects of the academic program.

Prior to her position at Darrow, Ingrid helped found Sage Hill School in California, and worked at the Webb Schools and Idyllwild Arts Academy in California. Ingrid earned an MA from Williams College and is a graduate of Bowdoin College, where she majored in French and art history, and where she was a four-year member of the volleyball team. 

Ingrid has been described as a “transformative educator” by her former head of school and our search committee was enthusiastic in its decision to offer Ingrid the position.

Ingrid's extensive background and varied interests offer an immediate connection with students and parents alike – art, sports, history, languages, travel, and community excellence. A number of school events will be held next fall to meet Ingrid; her husband, Kurt; and their two sons, Kai and Luc.

“I am thrilled to be joining such a passionate, dedicated and supportive learning community,” Ingrid said. “Throughout my visits, I was impressed by the strong connection that students, teachers, and parents felt towards each other and their evident pride in the excellence of the program. My family and I look forward to making Rowland Hall our new school home."

People

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