New Member Cameo: Donn Miller-Kermani

Welcome to NORDP: Donn Miller-Kermani
Where: Florida Institute of Technology
Number of Years in Research Development: 1
Joined NORDP: 2017

What is your RD work?

profiledonnI serve as the Associate Vice President for Research Administration at the Florida Institute of Technology. Our 7 person team manages pre & post award, compliance, accounting and research development. We work with faculty at all stages of the process including brainstorming, building budgets, proposal submission, and keeping faculty focused to become more competitive. My area of focus is improving processes to become more efficient in everything from electronic workflow of proposal submissions to invoicing to help create a seamless flow through all stages of the process.

What is your professional background?

I joined the RD world about a year ago, but I have worked at FIT for thirty years in a number of settings across the university. I served as Associate Dean of the Business School, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Founding Director of the Women’s Business Center, and Assistant Director of the National Center for the Small Business Administration. I have experience on both sides of research having written numerous grants earlier in my career.

What attracted you to NORDP?

I met a number of members through my involvement with the Florida Research & Development Alliance who encouraged me to join. NORDP offered me the chance to sharpen my skill set, meet colleagues from across the country, and improve our RD services for our campus.

How will your NORDP membership enhance your own career?

The professional development available through NORDP provides a valuable set of tools that I can bring to support FIT’s Pillars of Excellence that are part of our Strategic Vision.  Earlier in my career I served as a PI and membership will help me re-engage in the field and reinforce things I have learned in my other roles on campus. NORDP allows me to see the broader picture of RD that I can bring to support both my staff and faculty here at FIT.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

NORDP 2018 Opening Keynote: From Tweaks to Transformation with Saul Kaplan

From Tweaks to Transformation: Do Research Development Professionals need to explore new business models to ensure institutional competitiveness? 

Saul Kaplan, Founder and Chief Catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory (BIF), argues the answer is yes. For Kaplan, the barrier to delivering better value are humans and our institutions—both stubbornly resistant to change—impeding our ability to network people, resources, and capabilities within and across organizations. Kaplan calls for a safe, manageable environment to explore new business models, a real-world testbed to innovate collaboratively without disrupting current operations.

“Most organizational leaders today have only had to lead a single business model throughout his or her entire career,” says Kaplan. “And most haven’t had to significantly change a business model in order to sustain the organization competitively. Organizational leaders of tomorrow will have to change their business model several times over the course of a career and the successful leader will establish an ongoing process to explore new business models, even models that might threaten the current one.”

Saul Kaplan

Kaplan started BIF in 2005 with a mission to enable collaborative innovation. BIF is creating a real-world laboratory for innovators to explore and test system level solutions in areas of high social importance including health care, education, and energy.

Before focusing on business model and system level innovation at BIF and Innomodels LLC, Kaplan served as the Executive Director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation and as the Executive Counselor to the Governor on Economic and Community Development. Prior to his state leadership role in economic development, Kaplan served as a Senior Strategy Partner in Accenture’s Health & Life Science practice and worked broadly throughout the pharmaceutical, medical products, and biotechnology industry.

Kaplan holds an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute focusing on the strategic management of technology and a BS in Pharmacy from the University of Rhode Island. He shares his innovation musings on Twitter (@skap5) and his blog (It’s Saul Connected), and as a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Fortune, and Bloomberg Businessweek. Kaplan is also the author of The Business Model Innovation Factory.

Saul Kaplan will be the opening keynote speaker for the 10th Annual NORDP Research Development Conference on May 7. We hope to see you at the Conference, which will be held May 7-9, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, VA. Follow @NORDP_official on Twitter for all the latest #NORDP2018 updates.

NORDP 2017 Conference Notes: Research Development: Results from and Opportunities through a NORDP Approved Study

Research Development: Results from and Opportunities through a NORDP Approved Study


  • Michael Preuss, Executive Director, West Texas Office of Evaluation and Research, West Texas A&M University
  • Kimberly Eck, Director, Research Development Team, University of Tennessee Knoxville
  • Mary Fechner, Proposal Development Specialist, Office of Research Development, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Loren Walker, Director, Office of Research Development, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Thanks to our session note-taker!

Key points from the session. We learned: 

  1. The dataset for this study included 442 position descriptions collected over the course of 10 years (2006-2016). They found that the most frequent postings come from R1 or R1-aspiring institutions.
  2. Director was the most commonly posted Position Description.
  3. 73% of all PDs had a requirement or a preference for a graduate degree.
  4. Only 60% of all PDs required # of years of experience.
  5. Chose 1 term –“funding opportunities”– to determine its use in the PDs. Focused on 6 job titles out of the 14. Half included “funding opps” in the PD. 94% of the Specialist job title included “funding opps” in the PD. Expected this task to be primarily entry level, but found it at all levels.
  6. Looked at every instance of the term “research development” in all PDs and conducted a qualitative analysis. Research development conceived as being distinct, organized, person- and knowledge-based, interactive, targeted, and measurable.
  7. Proposal development vs. research development – RD had many more descriptors but proposal development was used as a noun as a commonly understood concept. Proposal development is experienced-based while research development is knowledge-based.

 What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

It was surprising that half of director positions included funding opportunities as part of the job description. The similarities in responsibilities across job titles could be due to the limited number of RD personnel at institutions.

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenters’ response?

Q: It would be helpful to cross-analyze job descriptions versus the number in the RD office. Funding opportunities might not be part of a job description but they might supervise someone who does.

A: Not possible with current data set, but possible in the survey. We don’t collect how many people you have as direct reports. Could consider adding this as a question with renewal/new members.

Comment: Original definition of RD posted in 2009. Developers of PDs often use the described set of activities as a basis for developing their PDs.

Q:  Would be interesting to see how the RD term has shifted over the years.

A: That Q was one of the motivating factors for doing this work. Haven’t forgotten it but it’s on the back burner.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

  • If you haven’t taken the survey, please do so.
  • Also, they would love help if anyone has data visualization ideas.
  • Next steps: analyze survey data. Conducting focus groups with the NE region. Then, conduct another survey.


New Member Cameo: Kate Walters

Welcome to NORDP: Kate WaltersKate_Portrait.jpg
Where: University of Maine
Number of Years in Research Development: 1
Joined NORDP: July 2017

What is your RD work?

I am a Grant Development Specialist at the University of Maine. The focus of our office is to assist junior faculty as they navigate the grant seeking world, and to work on large center proposals and proposals that fall under the University’s signature research areas. My focus area is NIH proposals and efforts to increase our success rate that include faculty writing workshops and training opportunities.

What is your professional and education background, experience?

Similar to many in RD, I have taken a winding path through my career. I began writing grant proposals and reports on funded projects for a non-profit in Alaska. This led to work with the State of Alaska reviewing proposals for recreational trail funding and ultimately assessing projects & helping grantees. Looking to be closer to family I took a pre-award administrator position at the University of Maine in 2015. After two years I changed roles and began working in the Grant Development office seven months ago. I love being a part of the proposal development team which has given me the opportunity to learn a great deal about research efforts on campus and truly get to know faculty and their interests.

What attracted you to NORDP?

I was recruited by a co-worker to join NORDP this summer. Since I am relatively new to RD and our office is less than 3 years old I thought it would benefit us as we build our office. The professional development available through the conferences and regional meetings have confirmed we are on the right path. NORDP helped me answer the question, “So, what exactly is grant development?”

How will your NORDP membership enhance your own career?

NORDP has provided me with a wealth of resources to learn from others in the field.  Members are very generous in sharing their knowledge, experience, and resources.  Their willingness to help, especially on the listserv has been wonderful.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

NORDP 2017 Conference Notes: Strategic Use of Spaces for Research Development


  • Jasmin Patel, Assistant Vice President, Research Strategy, Saint Louis University
  • Julia Lane, Executive Director, Research Development, University of Chicago

Thanks to our session note-taker, Sarah Polasky!

Key points from the session. We learned: 

  • Session focused on physical space that has been designed and built for research development activities – physical infrastructure to change conversation on and off campus for research development purposes, benefits of the spaces, discussion about spaces in use by audience, successes, and future needs.
  • Entrepreneurial community spaces – collaboration spaces, coworking spaces, communal workspaces for diverse groups – open concept, relaxing, white boards, amenities (snacks, high speed internet), programming, opportunities to meet with investors.
  • 4 types of silos in academia – faculty-faculty; faculty-administrators; research-development/fundraising; industry-university.
  • Examples of spaces:
    • Faculty-Faculty: Neutral Space – Catalyst (UChicago, ARETE) – externally funded with low startup and maintenance costs ($100K; $200/mo); revamped a former tech store; lots of programming offered; research development staff co-located; open space/concept; coffee, wine, food; 3rd floor of bookstore; open to faculty primarily, potentially could expand to graduate students.
    • Faculty-Administrators: Increasing Proximity to VPR – ResearchNorth (St. Louis U.) – changing culture of research office and increasing accessibility; very low startup and maintenance ($20K; $160/mo; 525 sq. ft.); programming; intellectual resources (books); faculty can use it for meetings (use increasing) and lab meetings bring students to the space; snacks, coffee, beer; open door culture has increased casual interaction; VPR and Provost have dropped in on meetings; similar space has been requested for second campus – space has somewhat bridged a physical division between north and south campuses.
    • Research-Development/Fundraising: Philanthropic Space – Computer & Data Science Hub (UChicago) – very expensive ($ not disclosed) paid via a major naming gift and matched university funds; over 27k sq. ft.; houses computer science, computational resources, digital humanities; conceived as first floor of a traditional library.
    • Industry-University: Industry – Cortex (St. Louis U.) part of CIC space in St Louis – $5000 startup; rent $4500/mo; 440 sq. ft.; emphasis on community presence and partnership; required more internal advocacy (convince president); considering space versus personnel; two other universities were already present at the space when they joined; Technology Transfer for SLU also at this location; used for student business competitions.
  • Still trying to capture ROI for the spaces – new metrics that could be captured that could or should be considered – plus considering the potential – is there a long term plan or idea for these spaces?

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?      

  • Wide range of startup and maintenance costs.
  • Underutilization of space, often due to location, was echoed in comments from attendees.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenter(s)’ response?

  • How do these incubators calculate impact (e.g., number of jobs)? Count number of new companies, the number of jobs each, and number of jobs with co-located/nearby new companies (coffee shops, deli).
  • Were architects involved? Round tables somewhat force collaboration as an example, versus linear tables that allow isolation.
    • Catalyst space – yes. Designed spaces were too expensive and too corporate. Designed internally and was less expensive even with custom furniture. Feels more like a living room. New larger space will have designers involved but faculty want to maintain the feel of the catalyst space.
    • Cortex – used Ikea for renderings. Was initially too corporate but did use reconfigurable desks.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?       

  • Lots of audience participation and questions about both strategic planning for the space and functional, practical uses of the space. Many questions about use of space for students versus faculty.

New Member Cameo: Bill Layton

Welcome to NORDP: Bill Layton
Where: Colby College
Number of Years in Research Development: 14
Joined NORDP in: August 2017

What is your RD work?

Bill Layton

I serve as the Director of the Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs at Colby College, a liberal arts college in Maine. Our team works across many aspects of pre-award and post-award activity including idea generation, proposal development, budgets, and grants submissions for all divisions and programs, with an emphasis on developing research capacity. We manage award negotiation and acceptance, monitoring and tracking, reporting and compliance, as well as communication and outreach.

What is your professional background?

I have worked in a variety of settings on both sides of the grant process over many years. Before joining Colby I worked at larger, more research intensive universities (Princeton and Stanford) where I focused on building relationships with government agencies, independent foundations, and business enterprises. I also worked as the director of foundation relations at the United Nations Foundation, a UN affiliated organization funding international development aid projects around the globe. In the corporate world, I ran a technology product line at Hewlett Packard in Silicon Valley. I have additional experience working in foreign trade and commodity futures trading, and in software start-ups. Along my career, I earned an M.A. in International Relations and an MBA.

What attracted you to NORDP?

My initial exposure to NORDP was through the North East Regional meetings, and from there I decided to join the national organization. NORDP is an incredible network of research development professionals who are willing to work on shared challenges and to help each other grow in this ever-changing field. I have found NORDP to be an integral touchpoint for what’s happening in the field of research development.

How will your NORDP membership enhance your own career?

My career will naturally be enhanced as I share my knowledge and learn from others through the rich and adaptable resources and services of NORDP. Having access to ideas from peers around the world offers our team invaluable assistance as we expand our services to meet the needs of our campus.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee


NORDP 2018 Abstracts due Friday, 11/17

Abstracts for NORDP’s 10th Annual Research Conference are due next week on Friday, November 17th. This is the final deadline – there will not be another extension. If you have started a submission, don’t forget to complete it and hit send. The full announcement from Conference Co-Chairs Karen Eck and Kari Whittenberger-Keith can be found here. Some important details are highlighted below:

  • Click HERE to access the online proposal submission form. The Call for Abstracts document is also available for download on the conference home page.
  • Deadline for Proposals: Friday, November 17, 2017, 11:59 PM Pacific Time. The Program Committee intends to notify presenters by early January 2018.

Eight days left – get ’em in!

Michael Thompson
Conference Marketing Committee