NORDP Fellow Cameo: Karen Eck

Who: Karen Eck, Assistant Vice President

Where: Office of Research, Old Dominion University

Number of years in research development: 16

Length of NORDP membership: 11

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

I am very excited about NORDP’s membership in INORMS (International Network of Research Management Societies) that began in July 2020. We had been involved unofficially in the past when Peggy Sundermeyer represented NORDP at the 2018 international INORMS Congress in Edinburgh. Prior to membership, Rachel Dresbeck participated on the INORMS committee that put together the 2019 RAAAP Survey of research managers. After I completed my term as NORDP President I became a co-chair of the Strategic Alliances Committee and worked with Peggy to apply for membership and build a case for joining. It is a great leap forward for NORDP to be on the international stage and collaborate with others around the world involved in research management.

I also represent NORDP in my role on the INORMS Council. I am proud that we put in the effort to be on the world stage. Over the past year we have seen the importance of international collaboration to solve big problems in response to the COVID pandemic. The international relationships we foster through INORMS will provide professional opportunities for individual members as well as the organization itself. 

How has your service to NORDP enhanced your career?

It has enabled me to meet so many different people in many roles around the world. I have been able to learn about the issues facing them at their institutions. It has also helped me to bring back new ideas to ODU in every realm of our work, from interactions with faculty to communication to how we position ourselves as an office.

NORDP has widened my network that now includes friends and colleagues from around the world who I can call on for questions or advice. Getting involved with your professional organization is a win-win for you and NORDP. 

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

My introduction to NORDP came through the listserv. I joined ODU in October 2009 as Director of Research Development. I had always worked as part of a team, but the leadership role was a new one for me. I was also coming from Canada, so it was a new institution as well as a new funding landscape. When I found out about an organization that was focused exactly on what my job was, I knew that I had found my tribe and I had to join.

I heard about the Chicago conference in 2010 and when I went, I saw that most people had roles like mine, and it really allowed me to learn more about my new role. I was relieved to find others doing exactly what I was trying to do at ODU. The RD role is often unique on-campus and NORDP helped me figure out how to find the right collaborators back at my home institution. 

I am still working with many of the people I met when I first joined. It has been rewarding to maintain these relationships for over a decade and it has been exciting to watch NORDP grow as well. 

What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP?

I have been part of the Mentoring programs for the past seven years, and it has been rewarding to maintain those relationships long after the official mentoring period has concluded. My four years on the NORDP Board and in leadership roles including conference organizing helped me develop some great friendships that I cherish to this day. There are many wonderful and dedicated people in NORDP!

When I worked in Canada, I was a member of CARA (Canadian Association of Research Administrators) and I now serve as NORDP’s liaison to CARA. It is wonderful to interact with leadership in both organizations. I hope to capitalize on this role to help educate and build RD connections in Canada where it is growing in scope. 

I am also excited about my engagement with INORMS where I have been meeting people from around the globe and been able to talk with them about research management issues. 

NORDP is a group of people who wants to learn and collaborate with our peers. While this may seem counterintuitive, since we are all competing for funding, by helping each other it helps the research enterprise as a whole.

Describe how NORDP has changed from when you initially joined.

I think one of the biggest changes is the number of members. We have increased our membership by tenfold with over 1,000 currently. Our first official conference was 120 and our most recent was over 700.  

It is amazing to see how far we have come and how much we have grown as a volunteer driven organization. NORDP has always been run by volunteers and the commitment shown by everyone involved from committee members and chairs to board members over the years is remarkable.  

Another big change has been the engagement of professional staff in recent years. They have been a great asset helping manage conference-related activities and helping NORDP expand its capabilities and respond to what members are looking for from their professional organization. 

It has really been amazing to watch the Mentoring program evolve into such a sophisticated operation. There are many opportunities to serve as either a mentor or mentee. The efforts in the areas of inclusive excellence and programs like the NORD research grants are also exciting elements. 

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

Be an active participant on the listserv by keeping up with it and contributing where you can. Take advantage of the tools offered on the website. 

Attend the conference if possible. It is a great experience and will be an asset for your job. Every year there are programs that will help you do your job better. It is a great opportunity to learn from others who are focused on the same issues from around the world. 

Figure out what you are passionate about in your professional development. There are so many areas to get involved with, ranging from broadening participation and inclusivity in the RD profession to research on best practices and mentoring. Joining a committee is a great way to connect with NORDP as well. 

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee