NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Strategies to Grow Research at a Branch Campus

Strategies to Grow Research at a Branch Campus


  • Sian Mooney, Arizona State University
  • Susannah Gal, Penn State Harrisburg
  • Faye Farmer, Arizona State University

Thanks to our session scribe, Kara Luckey, University of Washington, Tacoma!

Key points from the session. We learned: 

  • Working in the RD space at a “branch” campus (and similar contexts) can present challenges for the RD professional and the faculty they serve stemming from feelings of isolation, distribution of power and resources, and a lack of energy for the research enterprise.
  • To meet these challenges, the presenters suggested multi-pronged approaches in three broad areas: Culture change, enhancing visibility internally and externally, and creative allocation of existing resources.
  • Presenters from ASU West Campus and Penn State-Harrisburg suggested a number of tools to move towards a culture of active research, including: Promoting and celebrating research through regular newsletters/publications and annual recognition events; creating opportunities and a ‘safe space’ for faculty to develop collaborations and a shared sense of purpose; and one-on-one encouragement to individual PIs who are well-positioned to pursue significant funding opportunities but require a ‘push.’
  • Presenters outlined a number of mechanisms to improve internal and external visibility of faculty research, including: Using consistent talking points on and off campus to emphasize faculty work and its importance to the larger university, developing relationships with key champions and allies within the branch campus, with other branch campuses, and at the primary campus; and seek out university-wide committee appointments to bring visibility and resources to research on your campus.
  • Finally, presenters encouraged branch campuses to pursue opportunities to effectively and creatively allocate resources, including: Developing a strategic plan that can be used to make the case for the needed for resources; rigorously demonstr­ate the return-on-investment of requested resources and equipment; Maximize access to existing resources and trainings offered at the main campus, and make the case to central campus staff for why they should come to the branch campus; Encourage the use of classrooms for research, especially for faculty with high teaching loads: Offer a cohort-model to train undergraduates across branch campuses to minimize the burden on individual faculty members.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

One branch campus (ASU, West Campus) saw an impressive 8-fold increase in funding revenues after several years of targeted efforts toward cultural change led by Sian Mooney that followed many of the approaches identified in the session.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

The presenters used a helpful real-time polling tool – (or – that allowed audience members to respond to questions posed during the presentations. This made for a more interactive panel than would have been likely for the last session of the conference.

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

An audience member asked about the sharing of DUNS numbers across campuses, and the implications for funding. The presenters agreed that the sharing of DUNS numbers has political importance – e.g. communicating that the campuses are part of *one* university – however, there are limitations that can be frustrating for faculty on branch campuses. In particular, faculty on branch campuses must compete internally for limited submissions, which can leave branch faculty members feeling that they are at a disadvantage.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

A large part of the cultural change achieved by the presenters from ASU West Campus and Penn State-Harrisburg was the result of encouraging faculty to think of themselves as active researchers. This was achieved through a good deal of cheerleading and deep support provided at the individual and collective level. As trust was (re-)built, faculty began to internalize their identity as active researchers, and – with targeted communication up the chain – administration at both the branch and main campuses began to take notice as well.


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