University Park, IL,
15:51 PM

GSU Alumnus Wins Golden Apple, Credits Faculty

Josh Long, a 2013 Governors State University alumnus, completed his Master of Arts in Education Administration - Principal Leadership to better serve young people with disabilities at

Southside Occupational Academy in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. Earlier this year, he won the 2019 Golden Apple Leadership Award for exemplary performance in school leadership.

“Every decision I’ve made relates back to what I learned at GSU as a student,” Long said.

What did you learn at GSU that you couldn’t have learned anywhere else?

I had a class where I learned that developing curriculum was the starting point to improving every school, and that engaging the faculty was the key. When I got to Southside, I did it exactly that same way. And it really worked.

Why did you choose GSU?

I noticed that services varied widely across schools for students with special needs. I decided to become an administrator to address the inequities in services for students and was drawn to GSU for the practical expertise of its adjunct faculty. It made the most sense to me to learn from people who were actually doing the job.

How did your GSU degree help you advance your career?

Immediately after earning my degree at GSU, I was named principal at Southside, and one of my first tasks was overhauling the school’s curriculum.

I was also able to secure funding for job training, forming a partnership with Anixter Center and Safer Foundation to co-author a Kessler Signature Employment Grant, which, along with local funds from the Chicago Community Trust, awarded the group $400,000 to bridge the gap from public education to employment for individuals with disabilities.

What are your plans for the Golden Apple Award prize?

A cash award of $10,000 is split, with $5,000 going toward professional development and $5,000 to the school for a project. Southside Academy is the only CPS school to have a therapy dog every day, and I thought we should have another one. So, a mini Bernedoodle, half Bernese Mountain Dog, half miniature poodle, is on its way to Chicago.

What are you most proud of when you look back at your GSU experience?

I am proud of the collaboration and the trusting environment that I was able to establish along with the other students in the cohort. We worked together to develop skills necessary to become strong administrators. This was all fostered by GSU staff.

What advice would you share with current GSU students?

Take full advantage of the practical expertise offered by faculty—people who are actually doing the job.