The following questions were asked by the membership during the NORDP Board Candidates’ Forum. Please find below, in alphabetical order, their responses. The responses are unedited. The candidate briefs, links to their CVs, and a link to the recorded forum are available here: https://www.nordp.org/2020-board-candidate-profiles.
1. Our org has grown exponentially in the last few years – and yet that growth has not reflected an equally exponential growth in the diversity of our RD professionals. What will each of you do in your first 100 days on the board to advance the inclusive excellence of NORDP and RD enterprise?
Although the more visible categories of diversity – gender and race – clearly remain a challenge for NORDP, the organization actually has quite a bit of less visible diversity. Our organization encompasses members who arrived at RD by way of research administration, industry, writing and editing professions, project management, university administration and the professoriate, among many other paths; we have members representing R1 institutions, HBCUs, MSIs, PUIs, and medical schools; and we have members with large centralized RD teams, offices of one, decentralized networks, or no formal RD responsibilities at all. Along these axes, NORDP has grown increasingly responsive to planfully supporting the different strengths and needs of our members through conference tracks, webinars, various mentoring venues, and regional groups. I look forward to learning from my NORDP colleagues about where the organization could be better serving the existing diversity of our membership, and opportunities to encourage additional diversity within the organization.
In the first 100 days, I would reach out to the Inclusive Excellence Committee to understand their priorities, activities, and strategic plan for the next year. Specifically, I would be interested in learning about activities focused on externa and internal stakeholders. For external activities, I would be looking for events such as listening sessions, partnerships with MSIs, and recruitment of minorities through organizations such as SACNES, SHPE, NACME, NHPE, OSTEM, AISES, and others. I would also be interested in activities focused internally on NORDP members and leadership, including activities to assure that the organization is welcoming and promoting diversity. Such activities may include reviewing and rewriting policies though an inclusion lens, assuring that cultural competency is weaved throughout all meetings and sponsored events, ensuring that diverse voices are represented and celebrated in all meetings and activities, training all organizational leadership in cultural competency, and developing resources to help members promote and support diversity and inclusion in their workplace. I would support and promote the activities the committee has developed, and would offer to work with them on additional opportunities in these areas.
As I mentioned in my opening comments, I am an action-oriented person and so am always ready to go! I am known for the connections that I make on LinkedIn and have long been reaching out to Indigenous populations for purposes of inclusivity. Being a board member is a tremendous opportunity for me to formalize that outreach through NORDP. The Native Learning Center (NLC) is one group that I am connected to on LinkedIn that I would reach out to in order to gage interest and seek suggestions for individual institutions that might have an interest in participating with NORDP.
Another area of diversity that I would like to focus on is that of Community Colleges. As our country re-aliens some priorities, I believe that community colleges are ripe to enter the RD world in a more formal way. I LinkedIn with Martha Kanter when she was the Under Secretary for Education during the Obama presidency and reporting to Arne Duncan. Now ExeMartha has a accountcutive Director, College Promise & Senior Fellow, New York University Martha Kanter would be my first choice in connections to tap on behalf NORDP and our efforts to be inclusive and innovative.
The composition of NORDP’s membership must to reflect our world. We can only succeed if we are diverse and inclusive and appreciate what everyone has to offer. These two groups would be my primary focus.
I agree that NORDP needs to be an inclusive and diverse organization and that it lacks strong representation of people of color. I would start as I intend to go on by working with all potential stakeholders to clearly identify what can be known about various types of diversity in the research development community, what can serve as appropriate measures of NORDP’s diversity, and to formulate outreach plans to achieve, and if possible, exceed the diversity goals set.
That the percentage of African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, etc. has not changed as the organization has grown is a matter of significant concern. I would, though, point out that the situation is not as simple as the question makes it sound. First, we can’t say definitively the NORDP membership is not representative because we don’t have demographics for all research development professionals. All that is known is the racial and ethnic identities reported by the NORDP membership, a sample rather than the population from which it is drawn. Second, to the best of our knowledge research development professionals are an usual group, more the exception than the rule. That over 80% are female and over 85% hold advanced degrees is sufficient evidence of this exceptionality. Therefore, national averages for racial diversity and even race and ethnicity figures for higher education will not be appropriate standards for RD. Those are the normal patterns which should not be seen as applicable to a specialized and exceptional subset. Third, people of color are underrepresented among faculty and administrative staff in higher education, the very population from which RD professionals are drawn. We can and should support change in this area but that is a different concern, recruitment and training. Finally, we cannot assume a standard staffing pattern for MSIs. While HBCUs employ high percentages of African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, etc., the same cannot be said of HSIs, Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU), and Asian American and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AAPISI). The data I am familiar with suggests that four of every five employees at HSIs are non-Hispanics and the figure is closer to nine out of ten when the focus is narrowed to HSIs that are four year institutions. Staffing at TCUs and AAPISIs are much closer to this pattern than that characteristic of HBCUs.
We also need to recognize the limited penetration of NORDP in the MSI community. And, it is at that point where we may find an appropriate standard for diversity in NORDP and a means of setting realizable goals and assessing progress. The counts of HBCUs, HSIs, TCUs, and AAPISIs are known as is the distribution of institutions across the various Carnegie classifications. I would suggest that a goal for NORDP would be to have equal representation from all spheres of higher education and that tracking this, percentage of HBCUs, HSIs, TCUs, AAPISIs, R1s, R2s, etc. with NORDP members, would be a beneficial way of approaching this concern. At present, NORDP is strongly skewed in the direction of R1s and R2s and away from MSIs. It is this trend I would suggest we correct as we are a professional organization seeking the fullest representation across the higher education spectrum. The types of institutions represented rather than the traits of individuals chosen on various campuses to fill RD roles is, in my opinion, a clearer, more appropriate, more accurate, and actionable focus. The racial and ethnic diversity of employees at MSIs lies entirely with the institution but recruiting members from a broader range of institutions is something NORDP can target and achieve.
2. As new members of a leadership group, you have lots of energy and new ideas. You may be met with people who are resistant to change and lots of historical knowledge to back up their resistance. How do you plan to navigate this dynamic?
This has been a fairly common dynamic in my current position — we’re creating new ways of fostering collaboration within my institution, and there can be a lot of systemic and cultural resistance to overcome. Sometimes, learning the history of what hasn’t worked before changes my thinking about whether some goal is achievable at all, but sometimes the context has changed enough that learning the history helps me to refine my thinking about new approaches to achieving the goal. I think this will be equally true with NORDP: the organization has grown rapidly in recent years, and is no longer a young start-up. Things that may not have been possible in the past may now be possible, while things that have worked well in the past may no longer suit the organization as well, and fresh eyes will be able to bring new perspectives on carrying out the organization’s mission and goals.
Change can be stressful, especially to those who have worked hard to develop the current practices and policies. As a new board member, it is critical that I recognize the challenges that change creates for those who are comfortable with the current way of doing. There are several behaviors and approaches I would take to get buy-in for new activities and ways of doing. First, I would celebrate the successes and accomplishments of the current approaches and try to make links between current/previous successes and the new way of doing things. Second, I would try to be open and honest about the expectations, vision, and expected outcomes of the change. By outlining the reasons behind the change, I would try to develop buy-in for the approach. Finally I would listen to concerns, discuss pros and cons of proposed changes, clearly articulate why the changes are needed, and outline a path for making the change happen in a stepwise fashion if needed. And I would be open to adjustments to the process and approach for implementing the change.
Navigating this dynamic is how I was raised. Institutional history is as valuable as the strategic plan for its future. Respecting the knowledge and experience of those who might be resistant to change starts with understanding their perspective. While I am very enthusiastic, I understand the need to rein in that enthusiasm when suggesting change. I find that when proposing new initiatives, a well thought out plan of how, when, who and delineating the impacts. Just like when working with faculty on proposals, I try to anticipate questions or issues that may raise a red flag and be prepared to discuss. Patience is a virtue which I possess as is the realization that I will not win every time, but I can do my best.
I have spent most of my professional life operating as an agent of change including five years helping Czech non-profits transition from a communist to a free-market setting. I have learned a number of key strategies that I regularly enact when working with PIs, teams, and organizations. First, I approach each situation as a learner. I emphasize understanding purposes and perspectives above advocating for my own. Second, I recognize that as a party entering a setting with existing relationships, alliances, historic patterns, and power structures, I have very little immediate authority. Any impact I hope to have as a new board member will be limited to one or two areas. I will work hard to choose mission critical concerns as the points I will emphasize. I will also look for areas that have the broadest impact so they naturally form platforms for conversations about other topics. Third, I emphasize relational and experiential authority. On the board, I seek to establish and strengthen relationships with my counterparts and use my experience/expertise to establish footholds and then build out from those.
I have worked extensively with at least three members of the current board and with one of my co-nominees so I won’t be starting from ground zero. There are also several board members who know me and who have worked successfully with me in the past. That will make the task of entering the board setting easier.
For influential parties within NORDP who are not members of the board, I will employ the same strategies. I will seek to understand, attempt to establish/maintain transparent and trusting relationships, and work toward critical and therefore shared purposes. To those I will add a sincere interest in understanding the setting and influences that led to the current commitments or patterns. In these settings, being a current board member will establish some positional authority but that would not be an emphasis in my relationship with these individuals. Like with the existing board, I believe I am in a fairly advantageous position. Having worked within NORDP investigating research development, I already have cordial relationships with many of the past presidents and board members. This will be helpful should concern about new directions arise.
3. Would you please elaborate (for Anne M) or discuss (for Anne P., Eva, Michael) a bit on how you would engage federal sponsor representatives in partnerships with NORDP for mutual benefit? That is, what is in it for them? What is the incentive for doing things together?
The model being used by NSF, DOE and DHS for the ongoing CIVIC funding competition is an interesting example of how RD can contribute to federal sponsors’ priorities. In addition to the typical involvement by the program officers, this competition is also supported by an external team that works with stage 1awardees to build team capacity and develop strong stage 2 proposals. This is a twist on the Ideas Lab model, in which the agency holds ideation and team formation events that are a prerequisite for submitting a full proposal. Both these models are entirely compatible with RD practices, and offer an opportunity for NORDP to partner with program officers. For example, NORDP could develop a program similar to PEERD but focused on working with program officers to run complex competitions. In such a scenario, the incentives for “doing things together” are bi-directional: the funding program would receive stronger applications, and the RD professionals would gain new experience, expand their networks, and contribute to NORDP as well.
I would take advantage of the current budget situation at most universities and agencies limiting professional development and travel opportunities and focus on online/virtual workshops. I would identify two or three areas for which both federal agencies and NORDP have strong interest in promoting success (such as “how to effectively articulate the broader impacts of your research” or “effective approaches to managing and fostering diverse research teams”) and propose content and approaches that matched the needs of the agency and NORDP. I would then reach out to people with whom I have existing relationships (especially at NSF and NIH) and propose to work with them to do the “heavy lifting” on developing content and logistics. Knowing that outreach is a critical activity for funding agencies, I would leverage and align our complementary priorities to promote improvements in proposal and research development.
I have had the great fortune to get to know some leaders in a couple of Federal Agencies. Jean Feldman is the Head Policy Analyst for the National Science Foundation. She very graciously came to Christopher Newport University this past December. She presented to our faculty as well as some of the surrounding college and university research folks. She was extremely generous with her time. For me, the greatest outcome was Jean’s statement that she had forgotten how difficult it was for PUIs to find the time to write successful proposals. Patricia Moore Shaffer, Deputy Director at the National Endowment for the Arts also came to CNU. She presented a sort of TED Talk for the CNU Chapter of ACE Women in Higher Education. She also presented at NORDP in Arlington a couple of years ago at my request.
The one thing that I can say about sponsors is that they want good proposals that match their funding strategies. It is in their best interest to affiliate with NORDP. My personal connections can not create the relationship that the question is addressing, however, I believe that a seat at the table with FDP and similar groups may provide that entre. I strongly suggest that as an organization, NORDP seek that seat with FDP as well as a seat a COGR. The goal of these organizations melds well with FDP. We seek good relationships with government that benefits all involved.
I have experience approaching federal program officers about project ideas, clarification of requirements, and just in time requests or project related concerns. While I am not an expert in how to engage a federal sponsor at the program or policy definition level, I expect Anne Maglia will be an invaluable resource in that respect. Mutual benefit is, however, a topic I can address.
NSF’s recent additions and changes related to Hispanic-Serving Institutions are a good example. Federal funders benefit from clear understanding of the context in which they are seeking to encourage activity and/or enact change. That is why they employ scientists as program officers and bring in scholars on rotation rather than just hiring portfolio managers with MBAs. In my example, actionable information was lacking in respect to HSIs and NSF requested that the higher education community propose means of generating this information. The result was a virtuous circle. Information generated has and continues to inform NSF’s offerings related to HSIs which are now more accurately focused on the needs of the institutions and their students.
NORDP and its members have the ability, given the breadth and the depth of experience in a wide variety of research, intervention, performance, and community service endeavors, to provide valuable insight and actionable information to federal agencies. We can convene groups of people and gather and help interpret information that can initiate conversations about future directions, modify priorities within existing programs, or simply fine tune the way some offerings are presented. This can create a funding environment that is even more closely tailored for and responsive to the current research efforts and educational needs than is now the case. The experts on review panels and advisory boards can also provide this type of information but NORDP has the capability of sampling specific subsets of institutions, project types, etc. These patterns then benefit the teams and institutions applying and potentially produce more effective projects which serve the interests of all stakeholders and so on. It may seem like a “pie in the sky” perspective but this is the way the Hispanic-Serving Institution label came into being, the means by which Title V was added to the CFDA 84.031 group, and how NSF is working to identify ways to aid HSIs. As Margaret Meade said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, dedicated citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”