NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: The Little RD Office That Could: Lessons Learned from RD Program Flops

The Little RD Office That Could: Lessons Learned from RD Program Flops


  • Karen Fletcher, Appalachian State University
  • Katie Howard, Appalachian State University

Thanks to our session scribe, Suzanne Lodato, Indiana University Bloomington!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • Unsuccessful programming gives you an opportunity to rethink and revise your programming and move forward.
  • If you observe your audience while you are facilitating a program, you will see it is obvious when they are beginning to lose focus. Exercises like stretching breaks can help participants refocus.
  • Sometimes it is more effective to split longer workshops into smaller, more digestible sessions. For example, for finding funding, an overview session can be followed up by a separate hands-on funding database workshop.
  • Often a single session is more effective than a series of multiple sessions, particularly if you can gather some feedback within the single session. Participants tend to drop out of multi-week programs.
  • Workshops that require registration draw much better participation than drop-in workshops.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

  • Appalachian State is a PUI, but is currently recruiting more faculty who are “research intensive.”
  • Most participants who attend a finding funding workshop do not think it works well.
  • A two hour finding funding workshop tends to be ineffective because too much material is presented in one sitting and people lose focus.

What were the most interesting questions asked by audience members, and what was the presenters’ response?

  • For finding funding, some research development professionals encourage faculty to set up profiles before attending a hands-on database session.
  • What didn’t work: one person organized drop-in days for consultations on finding funding that were poorly attended.
  • Appalachian State has a separate office for undergrad research.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Here are two grant writing workshop models that worked well:

  • A multi-week program that required a sign-off from the faculty member’s department chair. Participants submitted a white paper to apply for the workshop, and the white papers were judged by means of a competitive process. Faculty had to commit to attending a specified minimum number of sessions. Participants identified a scientific mentor. Staff identified a senior mentor with whom the participant met once a month. Participants were also mentored by staff and peers. Only senior mentors were paid, because they had to meet with participants once per month and report back. Mentoring and accountability to the mentor were the reasons for the success of the program. Participants talked about more than just their current proposal with their mentor, so they developed their career paths, too.
  • Short, internal grant writing workshops 1.5 hours in length. The grant program is reviewed in the session, and participants spend time discussing their proposal ideas to receive feedback. An exercise may encourage participants to write for a very short period of time (e.g., 90 seconds), but they are not required to write during the workshop.




Reminder: 2018 NACRO Annual Conference – Registration ends soon!


Join the premier organization for corporate-university relations professionals at our annual conference! Now open to anyone interested in corporate relations, university/industry partnerships, and our organization, this year’s conference will be in Atlanta, GA on July 24-26, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta Downtown. Whether you’re new to the industry or a veteran, you’ll find opportunities to connect, learn and collaborate with peer institutions and industry representatives throughout the 20+ sessions and breakout groups. For program details and to register visit

NEW FOR 2018: NORDP members will receive a 25% discount off of conference registration! Contact for details.

The Transition from Postdoc to Research Development: Courtney Hunt

The following is part of a limited blog series from the Strategic Alliances Committee highlighting NORDP members who have transitioned from postdoctoral positions to careers in research development.

Courtney Hunt, Assistant Director, Center for Drug Discovery, College of Pharmacy, University of Houston

Describe your work in RD: I am currently the Assistant Director, starting up a new research center. I just transferred to this position. Previously, I was in the central Research Development Office in the Division of Research for three years. My current responsibilities include establishing the center recruiting members, developing the research program, educational program, and external outreach; managing the submission of multi-PI and core facility proposals; etc. My former position entailed identifying funding opportunities and matching them to appropriate faculty, running the limited submission program, getting teams together to discuss the potential for large, multi-disciplinary proposal submissions, hosting program officers, hosting or conducting grant writing workshops, etc.

Describe your postdoc work: I did a two-year postdoc at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Along with the expected experimental design, performing experiments, and data analysis, I got involved in a lot of other activities. I mentored summer students and doctoral students in the Graduate School for Biomedical Sciences, was an active member (including a board member) of the Postdoctoral Association, researched and negotiated equipment acquisition, was awarded a PhRMA Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, and gave seminars at other departments’ seminar series. I also participated in any career development activity that MDACC offered. My postdoc advisor also went on sabbatical for the second year of my postdoc fellowship, so I operated with a high level of independence.

Describe your transition from your postdoc/research background to RD: My transition was a bit serendipitous. I was looking around and happened upon an interesting job posting at the University of Houston for a Research Liaison Officer. This required a PhD and seemed to fit my skill set and interests quite well. I contacted someone via LinkedIn who previously held the position and got some additional information about what they were really looking for, tailored my application materials accordingly, and prepared thoroughly for the interview.

Describe the benefits your postdoc work provides to your skill set related to RD: My postdoc allowed me to perform with a level of independence that I didn’t have in graduate school, especially with my advisor out of the country and having obtained my own funding. This developed the critical thinking and problem solving that is necessary for a career in research development. It also provided the opportunity to personally talk with faculty members in the department, which is also vital to an RD position. Perhaps equally important are all of the “other” skills that I refined during my postdoc – writing, communication (both email, phone and in person), serving in leadership positions, editing other researcher’s manuscript, abstracts, etc.

What words of wisdom do you have for current postdocs who might consider an RD career? In RD, you will learn a little about all sorts of different research, but it will no longer be YOUR project and you will not be the expert. Make sure you are ready for that. In exchange, you GET to learn about many different disciplines, which is intellectually rewarding. You enter RD because you want to stay close to science and help people be more successful.

What has been your best experience, so far, with your work in RD? Having a faculty member tell me, “I couldn’t have done this without you.” Being awarded a $10 million grant that I spent hours on was a pretty great experience, too!

Why do you think RD is a good career choice? RD enables you to stay tied to cutting-edge research without focusing on the same protein for your entire career. It is intellectually rewarding while also keeping your nights and weekends free. This is a growing field, with more institutions building RD offices, especially with the funding climate shifting to multidisciplinary research.

Posted on behalf of the Strategic Alliances Committee committee

NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Perspectives from Federal Agencies – NEH and IMLS

Perspectives from Federal Agencies – NEH and IMLS


  • Brett Bobley, National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Ashley Sands, Institute of Museum and Library Studies

Session Scribe: Paige Belisle, Harvard University

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • Both the NEH and IMLS can fund a wide range of project types. The best way to learn about all of the individual programs offered is to visit the funders’ websites.
  • Both agencies recommend that prospective PIs reach out to a program officer to discuss their proposed projects prior to applying. Program officers can also read proposal drafts.
  • NEH encourages faculty members from outside of the humanities to apply via interdisciplinary projects.
  • IMLS has a broad definition of what constitutes a museum or library – so it’s good to check to see if a PI’s project might fit within this agency by looking at the requirements of the individual programs.
  • Both agencies have an interest in funding projects in the digital humanities and in digital infrastructure.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Many faculty and research development professionals alike are under the impression that all research projects supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities must result in a scholarly book. However, this is not the case! The NEH supports a wide range of projects, including programs for the public, preservation and access, and the digital humanities.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

Both of the program officers emphasized that samples of successful proposals are available on their agencies’ respective websites, organized by individual program.

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

One audience member asked how to advise faculty who wanted program officer feedback after the stated draft deadline had passed. Both program officers suggested such faculty members reach out to their respective program officers directly to ask about sending a draft regardless—this is sometimes a feasible option and can be mutually beneficial.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

NEH and IMLS staff are available to travel to give outreach presentations at institutions. For NEH/IMLS budgeting purposes, it is helpful to request such a presentation well in advance. The presenters also recommended partnering with other institutions in your region to host a joint event, as having the opportunity to present to multiple/larger groups allows the program officers to justify their budget requests more successfully.