NORDP 2021 Leadership Award – Gretchen Kiser

The Leadership Award award honors a member, a group of members or a team, a research development unit, or an organization that demonstrates exceptional leadership and/or a deep commitment to volunteerism in ways that advance the profession or field of research development.

Who: Gretchen Kiser, Executive Director – Research Development Office

Where: University of California San Francisco

Number of years in research development: 20

Length of NORDP membership: 11 years

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

I would say that NORDP’s efforts to integrate diversity as an organizational mandate is something I am proud to have initiated. When I became NORDP President, Rachel Dresbeck told me that you only have a year in the role and you need to choose something specific to champion. I felt that NORDP had to do more to encourage inclusion and support diversity in an active way, both in our ranks and the organization itself.  

In addition to modifying the NORDP committee structure into the form that exists today, we also set in motion a diversity working group that has now turned into the Committee on Inclusive Excellence (CIE). We worked and are still working hard to infuse these values into all that NORDP does.  

I believe that diverse voices make teams and organizations stronger. It is important to me that we reflect that value in NORDP. Working in RD, we serve in key roles on our campuses where we can serve as instigators of change, acting as change agents for this kind of inclusive excellence mindset. 

How has your service to NORDP enhanced your career?

I always leaned in heavy when opportunities presented themselves during my time with NORDP. My service has enabled me to have experience in leadership roles that I would not have in my day job. My involvement on the board especially has provided invaluable experiences quite relevant to my career progression.

NORDP has also afforded me the visibility as a professional person of value. Many folks in RD are not always lifted up with awards and recognition at their home institutions as this is sometimes limited for professional staff in the academic area. I have been a conference chair, developed leadership programs, served as a leader on a non-profit board, presented conference posters, workshops, and panel presentations, developed important relationships with national and international leaders through my NORDP roles, and grown my strategic planning skills through NORDP organizational projects like developing the CIE and NORD. 

Additionally, my engagement with NORDP has provided me with a huge cadre of colleagues to bounce ideas off and share both successes and failures. Some of my closest friends are colleagues from NORDP and some of my most valuable colleagues are my friends from NORDP. 

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

A research administration colleague at an institution where I worked previously had heard about a small group called NORDP. I was Director of Special Projects reporting to a VPR at the time and what I did sounded like RD to her. I immediately checked it out and realized it was my group of people. It brought together a myriad of things for me; the ability to adapt and extrapolate experiences, strong organizational skills, the ability to communicate across research disciplines, the judgement to recognize the critical elements at hand, and a passion for research.

What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP?

I have made many lifelong friends and colleagues over the years. I now have a huge support network both professionally and personally for career and my job. Whenever I begin a new project, I can always find someone who has been involved with something like it or who is willing to brainstorm on it. NORDP is an exceptional resource, and it offers a rare joy in the way I can call someone up about virtually anything. The tone of NORDP has always been one of holding each other up instead of competing with each other. The comradery and mutual respect have been uplifting and strengthening throughout my decade plus membership. 

Describe how NORDP has changed from when you initially joined

Our commitment to diversity across the organization has been a big change. A structure of mentoring has become a large part of NORDP as well. It was not always codified, but the Mentoring Committee has made significant advances in offering mentoring of all types to our membership. Another change is that things are much more structured than at the beginning e.g., our system of committees and their key goals. Overall, the culture of sharing and volunteerism is still the same and we are always trying to expand and provide more resources to our members.

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

Getting involved gives you so many opportunities for growth in things like data analysis, strategic planning, facilitation, etc. It also gives you a chance for professional visibility that RD folks don’t always get elsewhere. NORDP is a living resource that provides countless chances for networking, people you can call on for advice/questions, past conference presentations, program examples, and so on.  

The options are limitless, and you can take your engagement in any direction with NORDP. Throughout my time I have been involved as a presenter at numerous conferences, in exploring RD Continuing Education, as chair or member for several Committees, Conference Chair, Vice President, and President, as well as numerous other areas. To be fair, volunteering for NORDP does take a time commitment. But, it affords you so many avenues to grow and do good: you won’t regret it!

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee