NORDP Fellows Award Cameo – Jacob Levin

Who: Jacob Levin

Where: Founder & CEO, LGG Research Funding & Strategy Services

Number of years in research development: 20+

Length of NORDP membership: 12 years

What initiative are you the most proud of in your role as a NORDP volunteer? 

I would say that NORDP as a whole is what I am most proud of. I was part of the initial founding group and honestly we struggled in the early years. I sometimes wondered if we would survive during our first four or five years. It has been amazing to see NORDP’s growth from a plucky little startup to a reputable, full-scale professional organization, through the efforts of its dedicated, diverse, and collegial members. We have many great programs, but I think we still have not hit our full stride. 

Of all the things we do, I feel that the listserv is still NORDP’s most valuable asset. It has continually provided a wealth of valuable information to broad spectrum of members, and is a great example of the open and supportive communication that is a hallmark of our group. I have been involved with a number of other professional organizations throughout the research enterprise and no other community is as collegial and supportive. 

How has your service to NORDP enhanced your career?

It has been enormously impactful. NORDP is intrinsically entangled with my career. My service and engagement with NORDP has benefitted me professionally in countless ways, and motivated me to engage in activities take risks professionally that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve worked on well over 1,000 grants, with 2,000 plus faculty, and dozens of universities, but I consider NORDP my most impactful professional accomplishment, and the one of which I am most proud. I literally cannot imagine what career I would have had without NORDP. It has driven much of what I have done and vice versa. 

How did you hear about NORDP and what made you join initially?

Back in early 2009 I received a phone call from Holly Falk-Krzesinski out of the blue. She was truly the driving force in getting us all together. There were a number of people doing RD seemingly alone at universities across the country. It was a new idea that everyone had simultaneously. Holly had looked through directories of major universities for RD related job titles and began reaching out to people. When she first called me we talked for over an hour. Soon the listserv began, we had our first meeting, and we undertook the process of incorporating as a 501(c)3. I actually came up with the name for NORDP back then. Holly had suggested calling it the National Research Development Professional Association, but nerds as we all may be, I wasn’t sure that NRDPA would be a draw. Sorry Holly!

What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP?

My closest professional friendships are people that I have met through NORDP. I am still in touch with colleagues who have moved on from my office, and those I have worked with for years at universities across the country. RD is really my field now, despite my original training as a physicist and biologist. Research development is a network of networks that has opened up many opportunities for me. There are numerous things that I would not have done without my involvement in NORDP. Nothing else has been quite like it in terms of opening doors and developing professional relationships & lasting friendships. 

Describe how NORDP has changed from when you initially joined.

At the start we were very grassroots with everything done basically by hand. Back then the Vice President was responsible for putting on the annual meeting which I did for the second one which had 200 people. It was like putting on your own wedding (and it was actually in the same place I was married!). I had my family and work colleagues bringing in food, setting up signs, making badges, and working registration, while I was directing and introducing people, managing invited speakers, interacting with the hotel staff, and presenting in 5 sessions! The entire conference I was running around in chaos. It was like that for a few years, but it was what was needed at the time. 

Now we are truly a professional organization. Our most recent conference made me proud. Successful conferences do not come easily and are not a given, especially when they have to be done virtually. NORDP 2021 was the best online conference I have attended.

I think we are still only halfway there, however. We have become an effective entity and are now serving as sponsors at other group’s conferences, like the recent INORMS 2021. Research development is now considered a basic function at many universities. Vendors now see us a one of their primary customer bases.We have earned a level of professionalism and respect in the research enterprise and we are known throughout it. 

What recommendations do you have for members to get more involved with NORDP?

Just do it. Just start. Whatever it is that interests you, or you have experience with. You couldn’t find a more welcoming community. Everyone is so collegial, and they know what you are going through. NORDP pays you back in ways that you do not expect.

RD is a field that lends itself to volunteerism. We are all used to working on teams and on things that are not quite done yet. RD work like NORDP engagement is always in progress. 

NORDP is accepting of people and their interests. If you have an idea that is helpful to you, chances are it will be helpful to others. Get involved in any way you can. I promise you will not regret it!

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

References:

  1. Levin, J. 2011. The Emergence of the Research-Development Professional. Chronicle of Higher Education, March 27, 2011. http://chronicle.com/article/The-Emergence-of-the/126906/
  2. Rainey, R.F. 2013. Jacob Levin brings in the research money. AAAS Member Spotlight, Feb 1, 2013. https://www.aaas.org/jacob-levin-brings-research-money
  3. Currie, E. 2011. Off the Path – Jacob Levin, UCSF Synapse, 25 May 2011. https://synapse.library.ucsf.edu/?a=d&d=ucsf20110525-01.2.10&e=——-en–20–1–txt——txIN–
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