Who: Jennifer Lyon Gardner, PhD, Associate Vice President for Research
Where: The University of Texas at Austin
Number of Years in Research Development: 10
Length of NORDP membership: almost 6 years
When and how did you enter the field? What kind of RD work do you do?
I was an analytical chemist, then a grant writer, then a program manager for the center grants that I wrote that were funded, and now a full-fledged RD professional. Over the span of about 10 years at UT, I worked first in an interdisciplinary research unit, then in a Dean’s office providing college-level RD support, and since 2016, as Associate VPR. I design campus-level initiatives that promote collaborative research, including UT’s research grand challenges initiative, Bridging Barriers, which involves more than 800 faculty and researchers. I also lead a campus-level RD team, which provides competitive intelligence and proposal development guidance to interdisciplinary teams of researchers. One of the most exciting things I’ve done recently is run a flash-funding retreat for newly minted associate professors – I’ll tell you more about this in Providence, if my conference abstract is selected!
What’s your history with NORDP? How have you engaged with the organization (committee work, conferences attended/presented)?
When I started my Dean’s office job in 2012, my dean suggested that I look into NORDP. It just so happened that the NORDP conference that year was taking place down the street from me, in Austin. My involvement in NORDP has steadily increased over the nearly six years that I’ve been a member. I have served on the annual conference planning committees for the past four conferences, and I co-chaired the 2016 conference in Orlando. In 2016 I was honored to receive the NORDP Rising Star of Excellence Award in recognition of my contributions to the organization. I am currently serving as Secretary (2018-2019).
What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP (new colleagues, connections to institutions where you previously had no point of contact)?
Too many to count! Some informal mentors who deserve a shout-out in this blog post for the inspiration they’ve given me include Peggy Sundermeyer (former NORDP Treasurer; I consider her NORDP’s fairy godmother); Gretchen Kiser (who tapped me to co-chair with her in Orlando); and Karen Fletcher (current Vice President and former Secretary of NORDP). The community spirit of NORDP gave me the confidence to cold-call the RD leadership at UCLA (NORDP members Michelle Popowitz and Cassie Rauser) to invite them to give a research grand challenges talk with me at the 2017 conference in Denver. Since then, a university-led grand challenges community of practice has been formed, which produced a really valuable best practices report (with several NORDP members contributing).
What inspired you to run for a position and serve on the NORDP board?
Several NORDP leaders that I admire encouraged me to go for it. The opportunity to give back to the organization that has been a never-ending source of inspiration and encouragement for my professional life really appealed to me. We all know that what makes NORDP awesome is the dedication of our members – serving on the Board, to me, seemed like a great way to rededicate myself to the organization.
What initiative are you most excited about in your role as a board member?
The Conference Co-Chairs are orchestrating what could be our best NORDP conference yet – new presentation formats and new opportunities to network are coming, and they look extremely cool. Also, I love what the Communications Working Group is doing to keep us all up-to-date on the latest blog posts and NORDP news. Meanwhile, I’m geeking out behind the scenes as Secretary, bringing order to our internal processes and file storage systems. That might not sound very glamorous, but the satisfaction of crossing tasks off a list can be a great thing, you know?
Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee
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