GER2I: Changing life trajectories and influencing education at all levels

The Gifted Education Research and Resource Institute (GER2I) has appointed a new director who plans to continue the work started by his predecessors and continue expanding and improving the services of this innovative center.

Nielsen Pereira
Nielsen Pereira

Nielsen Pereira, associate professor of Gifted, Creative and Talented Studies, was appointed as Director of GER2I in April 2023. Since September 2022 he served as interim co-director with Kristen Seward, clinical associate professor of Gifted, Creative and Talented Studies, after the passing of then-director Marcia Gentry. Seward has now returned to her position as associate director of GER2I, where she has served since 2016.

“GER2I was founded by John Feldhusen in 1977 and we offer enrichment programs for gifted, creative, and talented (GCT) youth, graduate programs for future scholars and leaders, and professional development and coursework for educators of GCT students,” Pereira said. “We also engage in cutting-edge research in psychology and education related to giftedness, creativity, and talent development.”

GER2I increased its international reputation under Gentry’s leadership by providing innovative summer residential programs and collaborating with K-12 school partners across the nation to expand access to academically challenging curriculum and gifted instructional strategies for all students. She pioneered methods of identifying giftedness in youth from low socioeconomic status, Black, Latino, and Native American communities.

Kristin Seward
Kristen Seward

“Rather than the old paradigm of identifying students for gifted programs, GER2I’s focus is on identifying and developing the intellectual, social, and emotional strengths of all students through a continuum of services approach that includes appropriately challenging academics and counseling and career services that effectively address students’ affective characteristics and needs,” Seward explained.

Moving forward, Pereira and Seward have several goals for GER2I:

  • continuing the work started by Gentry and previous directors, John Feldhusen and Sidney Moon, with an emphasis on increasing opportunities for gifted students from underserved populations to be identified and served both in GER2I youth programs and their schools;
  • increasing opportunities for teachers, administrators, and future scholars to engage with GER2I’s teacher licensure and certificate programs, graduate programs, and professional development offerings;
  • partnering with other centers, programs, and colleges to attract and recruit talented youth, especially those from underserved populations, and create a talent pipeline for Purdue’s undergraduate programs;
  • expanding GER2I’s international reach through partnerships with schools/school districts and organizations, and sharing its expertise and experience in delivering high-quality enrichment programs for youth, teacher preparation and professional development, and graduate education;
  • engaging in research and practice related to Gentry’s Total School Cluster Grouping Model for talent development and the HOPE Scale for identifying talented youth in underrepresented populations; Dr. F. Richard Olenchak’s positive psychology identification and support for PreK-16; the Place-Based Investment Model of Talent Development to develop all students’ strengths and enrich their communities; the Integrated STEM Talent Development (INSTEM) Model, which focuses on students’ cognitive and affective development; and other promising gifted education practices and models.

“We have one of the most successful doctoral programs in gifted education – as evidenced by student publications, awards, employment after graduation,” Pereira said. “I hope we can continue to improve our scholarly productivity.”

Seward’s vision for GER2I dovetails with Pereira’s. “My vision is to build on Dr. Marcia Gentry’s success in establishing GER2I as an international leader in talent development research and services that advance the academic, social, and emotional potentials of all students and educators,” she said.

Pereira, Seward and their team will hold two summer programs this year. Super Summer is a commuter camp for grades K-4 and Summer Residential is a program for grades 5-12 (with a commuter option available for 5th and 6th graders). “To our knowledge, the GER2I summer residential program is the oldest program of its kind and I plan to continue expanding it and improving it,” Pereira said.

What are the summer programs like? “Students take one to two courses, and we have some of the most amazing instructors and teachers, coupled with the fun activities organized by our fabulous camp counselors, field trips, and opportunities to meet other gifted individuals,” Pereira said. “There is so much to learn about gifted students and gifted education in a program like this and I love the atmosphere of academic challenge.”

Pereira and Seward are both enthusiastic about GER2I’s future. “I believe GER2I will continue to change the life trajectories of those we touch and to influence education at all levels under Dr. Pereira’s leadership, with Dr. Olenchak’s experience and know-how, and Dr. Alissa Cress’ passion for teaching and GER2I – because Dr. Gentry and these beloved colleagues have changed mine,” Seward said.

Source: Nielsen Pereira; and Kristen Seward