NORDP 2018 Conference Cameo: Ellen Freeman

#NORDP2018 starts Monday, May 7 in Arlington, VA. Keep checking back here at the blog and on our Twitter feed (@NORDP_official) for live conference updates. Register here:

Who: Ellen Freeman, Assistant Director of Research & Policy
Where: College of Education & Human Development, University of Minnesota
Number of years in research development: 8
Length of NORDP membership: 6
Number of NORDP conferences attended: 4
How do you unwind? Books, wine, and a finely-tuned sense of humor

While in grad school, I worked in my university’s sponsored projects office doing odd jobs. My old roommate’s uncle was the director there, and he thought I’d be good at the work. I loved the environment and the connection with research, and I quickly found myself with a semi-useful master’s degree in journalism, good communication skills, and a good working knowledge of university research grants.  That turned out to be the perfect recipe for a career in research development, and I’ve been straddling the divide between pre-award work and RD for 13 years now.FreemanE-2017

I am the assistant director for research for one college in a large, decentralized research university. Our college comprises everything from kinesiology to social work to developmental psychology, so there’s no one-size-fits-all RD program that we can implement that will meet everyone’s needs. Some faculty have a strong background in external funding, while others have never written a grant proposal.  With such a broad range of investigators, many things just don’t scale. I find and tailor strategies that work for specific units and groups, and implement them with our collegiate grant coordinators. I’m also working on establishing a university-wide professional network of staff interested in research development.

I first got involved with NORDP when Peggy Sundermeyer recommended that I and a few other U of MN grant staff attend. I actually first met my colleague Anna Brailovsky at the 2012 NORDP conference! I love getting new ideas at the conferences and figuring out how I can bring them home and make them useful for my investigators. I always return energized and reassured that there are others out there dealing with the same problems that I am.

My recommendation for NORDP attendees is to remember that no one has it all figured out and that RD is infinitely customizable to their own unique situation. You don’t need to be putting on a fully-structured workshop series that receives rave reviews from faculty in order to be an RD professional. You just need to be committed to finding something that works for you and your institution and willing to give it a try.


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.  For more information about the conference program or to register, visit Follow @NORDP_official on Twitter for all the latest #NORDP2018 updates.

NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.

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