PEERD Double Cameo: Peggy Sundermeyer and Jerilyn Hansen

The NORDP Board of Directors invites qualified members to apply to be a PEERD NORDP Consultant. More information and a link to the online application can be found here. The deadline to apply is Friday, June 30.  If you have questions, please contact PEERD@nordp.org. Meet two NORDP members you have worked as consultants: Peggy Sundermeyer from Trinity University and Jerilyn Hansen from Utah State University.

Who: Peggy Sundermeyer
Where: Trinity University
Number of years in research development (approx.): 13
Length of NORDP membership (approx.): 8

  1. Why do you enjoy external consulting?

Photo PSundermeyer

I get a lot of satisfaction if my “outsider” perspective and experience can help individuals see their own organization and operations more clearly. If I can accurately reflect what I see, hear, and learn, then I can help decision makers to understand their challenges, their strengths, and their options more fully. But the real reason I make time to consult is because I am endlessly curious about people, organizations, and how they all tick! It’s really so much fun to be able to get inside another university and see how it works!

  1. Are there any challenges?

Yes, but it wouldn’t be for me if it wasn’t challenging. Besides being a great listener, you need to be flexible. Based on what you’re hearing, you need to be able to go “off script” and pursue new information you might not be expecting. Plus, the campus site visit is intense because there’s so much to learn in a short period of time.  Fortunately, in the NORDP model, I always have a partner to work with.

  1. Are there best practices when you work as an external consultant?

One of my practices is to try to learn as much as I can about the university before the visit. This means scouring the website for strategic plans, goals, organizational charts, and even policies. I want to be able to soak in the culture when I get there and ask informed questions. It’s also important to understand and deliver on what the client has asked for. I try to stay focused on the scope or purpose.

  1. What recommendations do you have for other NORDP members considering applying to be a PEERD reviewer?

Jump in, the water’s fine! NORPD members are “can do-ers!” Don’t underestimate your expertise or your ability to share what you know. Remember — this is peer consultation, and it has a unique value.

Who: Jerilyn Hansen
Where: Utah State University
Number of years in research development (approx.): 13
Length of NORDP membership (approx.): 6

  1. Why do you enjoy external consulting?Jerilyn Hansen

I find external consulting rewarding on two fronts: 1) helping others in the profession improve what they are doing at their institutions; and 2) learning about how other institutions have approached providing research development services (what is working, what isn’t really working). Regarding the latter, despite the fact I’m supposed to be the one providing insight and advice, I often come back with new ideas after spending time understanding another institution’s approach. Plus, consulting is a great way to expand your professional network!

  1. Are there any challenges?

Finding the time to be away from my “day job” is always a challenge. However, my VPR and AVPR view external consulting as part of my professional development so they are very accommodating. When considering consulting work, it is important to remember that it involves more than travel and several days on another campus – the time it will take to write the final report also needs to be considered.

  1. Are there best practices when you work as an external consultant?

You need to have a clear understanding of what issues you are being brought in to understand and provide advice on. You also need to be a good listener but also able to control conversations in order to get answers to the questions you have been asked to investigate. It is important you have a clear picture of the history of an institution and its research development efforts to date so you don’t end up making recommendations that either don’t apply to an institution or have been tried already and found ineffective. Always remember your primary role is as an objective outsider.

  1. What recommendations do you have for other NORDP members considering applying to be a PEERD reviewer?

Just do it! I have a tendency to under-estimate my knowledge and experience so I never thought anyone else would be looking to me for advice. But that’s the great thing about consulting – people are really looking for fresh eyes and a different perspective. It is also worth mentioning the PEERD program sends a team of consultants (usually 2 people) so members shouldn’t be concerned they would have to carry the entirety of the work themselves.

More information and a link to the online application can be found here. The deadline to apply is Friday, June 30.  If you have questions, please contact PEERD@nordp.org.

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