Conference Cameo: Jennifer Schaefer

#NORDP2019 starts Monday, April 29, in Providence, RI. Keep checking back here at the blog and on our Twitter feed (@NORDP_official) for conference updates. Register at


Who: Jennifer Schaefer, Research Concierge Administrator
Where: Penn State College of Medicine
Number of years in research development: 5
Length of NORDP membership: 4 years
Number of NORDP conferences attended: 4
How do you unwind? Spend time with my dog & horse

My journey to a career in Research Development could best be described as unconventional. After earning my Master’s degree in Geography, I spent the better part Jennifer Schaefer_DSC8703of 18 years in private consulting,  working my way up the career ladder with a Pennsylvania-based firm that specializes in community planning and funding strategies. As a senior associate, I supported a wide variety of projects for clients in both the public and private sectors, doing everything from writing grant proposals and drafting support letters to facilitating focus groups and briefing elected officials. A significant focus of the firm’s work was the development and implementation of public funding strategies – a government relations function that required direct engagement with local communities, strong relationships with state and federal legislative delegations, and a working knowledge of the federal appropriations and state budget processes. As a project manager, I was frequently responsible for managing client communications, developing congressional briefing documents, and project white papers. I enjoyed the challenges of my work, but after 18 years in consulting, I was looking for a  career opportunity that would allow me to grow in new directions.

In Summer 2013, I came across a job posting for a Research Concierge Administrator at the Penn State College of Medicine. The position was established to strengthen the research support infrastructure for investigators at the College of Medicine and would work closely with the Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute (Penn State CTSI). Because the Research Concierge Service (RCS) was a newly created unit in the Office of the Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, I would have an opportunity to build the unit from the ground-up, working in partnership with the Director of Research Development. The position has afforded me the opportunity to leverage the skills I amassed in private consulting and presented me with new learning opportunities. At its core, the Research Concierge Administrator serves as a physical and virtual coordinating hub for research support services at the College of Medicine. As a service of Research Development, I work closely with a variety of key stakeholders to connect investigators to potential research collaborators, to help build research teams, to strengthen grantsmanship skills, to maintain web-based resources through the Research Concierge Service website, to promote the field of interdisciplinary research by organizing seminars and talks, and to serve as a project manager for strategic initiatives. At first glance, it might seem that my previous work experience is incongruous to my current role. But I have found that, in many ways, the skills I amassed in private consulting were invaluable preparation for my current role.

I attended my first NORDP conference in Spring 2015 and have continued attending NORDP conferences since that time. NORDP conferences are a great place to network with peers from a diversity of institutions. This broad exposure to professional colleagues is a value-added of NORDP conferences. If you are attending the conference with other team members from your institution, I recommend you review the conference schedule as a team to determine which sessions each of you will attend. To achieve the greatest return on investment, “divide and conquer” by spreading team members across the conference schedule. If you are attending the NORDP conference as your organization’s sole representative, review the conference schedule with your team members to identify key questions you will keep in your back pocket for presenters. Whether flying solo or attending the conference with co-workers, remember to step out of your comfort zone — introduce yourself to someone new. We all find comfort in the familiar, but it is often when we step outside of our comfort zone that growth happens.


Visit the NORDP Store online now through March 15! 

We hope to see you at the Conference, which will be held April 29 – May 1, 2019, at the Omni Providence Hotel in Providence, RI. For more information about the conference program or to register, visit Follow @NORDP_official on Twitter for all the latest #NORDP2019 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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