NORD/ InfoReady Research Grants in Research Development

In a partnership with InfoReady, NORDP launched a New Opportunities in Research Development (NORD) grant Initiative which began funding grants in 2018 that support the disciplinary field of Research Development. Eleven grants of up to $2500 each have been awarded to date. A new grant cycle will be announced in the Fall of 2021.   

Please keep an eye out for the call for proposals and/or visit the below link in the coming months to check for application details on the competition:

https://nordp.infoready4.com/#competitionDetail/1790746

Awardee Feature

Who: Susan Ferrari, Director of Corporate, Foundation & Government Relations  

Where: Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa

Proposal: Faculty Development and Institutional Grant Leadership at Small Liberal Arts Colleges

What problem in Research Development are you looking to solve with your project? 

Grinnell is a small school with about 1,700 students and 180 faculty FTEs. We have a number of institutional grants here, which are common at many smaller schools, and they cover areas of both research and pedagogy. At many schools, including Grinnell, these grants were historically run out of the Dean’s Office, but we’ve begun to shift to having more faculty members run the grants, particularly in cases where they have subject matter expertise that’s relevant to the grant. 

I had seen this phenomenon across the liberal arts sector and had been talking with my peers about what it means to have faculty run these programs effectively. I talked to faculty who have led successful institutional grants to learn what did and did not work and to determine what we can use from their experiences to enhance future programs to develop grant leaders. 

What is the status of the project now?

I have completed interviews with faculty at Grinnell and at Carleton College, a small liberal arts school in Northfield, Minnesota, which is similar to Grinnell. The next steps will be transcribing the interviews, analyzing the data, and writing a report. 

Do you have any suggestions for NORDP members considering submitting to the 2021 competition?

My first suggestion is to do it! This has been a great educational exercise for me. I have a background in life sciences research with a little experience in qualitative research. The feedback that I received through the application process was very beneficial. It was helpful in teaching me to be attentive to what I was putting forward and made it clear on how I needed to clarify the import of what I was trying to do. Kim Littlefield was one of my reviewers who spent a great deal of time with me shepherding the feedback to help me improve my project. 

What did you find the most challenging?

Figuring out how to make a case on the relevance of this work to RD professionals working in different institutional contexts was challenging, but having to do this really strengthened the project.

What did you find the most surprising?

The interviews have been both inspiring and depressing. I had not anticipated that this project would be therapeutic for the faculty who have led these institutional grants. Many of them had lingering frustration and pain, even when the grants were successful and many years prior. It made me think that it would make sense to build more opportunities for reflection into these programs that would allow faculty to process what they have learned and what the project has meant to them.  

I see these institutional grants as a blending of scholarship and service, and, at best, they provide faculty members with an opportunity to write their own legacy and leave their mark on campus. I will be using a modified version of the survey from this project for future exit interviews with faculty to gauge what is and what is not working. 

What would you say is your main takeaway from this experience?

I think faculty grant leaders would really benefit from a more developed community within and across institutions of other faculty who are leading similar efforts. It can be a challenge to lead a campus-wide initiative without any real authority. Faculty would really benefit from more interaction with others who have had similar experiences. Ultimately, people are just looking to talk to others who have been in their shoes.

What are your plans for sharing or disseminating what you learn in this project?

I plan to share my findings with leadership at both Grinnell and Carleton, and I hope to present at a future NORDP conference. I would also like to share it with other organizations I am involved with, such as the College of Liberal Arts Sponsored Programs group (CLASP) and the Associated Colleges of the Midwest. Ultimately, I would love to write about my findings in a professional journal as well. 

Has this experience changed how you approach your RD work?

When I started this job, I did not realize how much emotional labor is part of running a grants office. A big part of my role here is helping people deal with rejection and frustration as they wend their way through a research career. It also helped me think about how our role needs to continue to support and develop mid-career & senior faculty as well. In RD we focus a lot on early career folks, but we also can play a role in helping experienced faculty rise to new challenges, such as leading institutional projects. 

What are/will be the outcomes of your research?

My hope is that I can set up a system to best support faculty here who are leading institutional grants. I would like to be able to put together a multi-institutional network of faculty to share ideas and get real feedback in a supportive community of practice.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee