NORDP 2021 Holly Falk-Krzesinski Service Award – Etta Ward

Named for NORDP’s founding President, this award is voted on by the Board of Directors and given annually to a NORDP Member in recognition of outstanding service to the organization, to the research development profession or field, and to peers.

Who: Etta Ward, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Development

Where: Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Number of years in research development: 19 +

Length of NORDP membership: 6 years

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

There are several, but my work with the Mentoring Committee has been a highlight of my volunteer experience with NORDP. I enjoyed working with Jan Abramson and others to help develop and adapt resources for the Mentoring Program that would allow participants to be much more intentional about their experiences as a mentor or mentee. I was happy to partner with the Mentoring Expertise, Support and Helping Hands (MESHH) subcommittee to develop a custom kit adapted from proven research-based materials. I also loved working on this part of the program, understanding that it provides the resources needed to be successful.

Another pivotal aspect of my work with the Mentoring Committee was an effort with Jan, through funding from the NORDP Strategic Alliances Committee, to attend the National Research Mentoring Network Level One Entering Mentoring Facilitator training, which allowed us to train others. As a result, members of the Mentoring Committee built a relationship with NRMN and the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) that allowed us to modify modules for RD professionals to deliver competency-based mentor training, and now our content is an official part of their training curricula.  

I was also part of a team led by Kathryn Partlow from the Mentoring Committee to present at the University of New Mexico Mentoring Institute conference in 2019. This annual conference brings together a broad constituency of researchers, educators, community leaders and other professional partners who support the power of mentoring. 

At the UNM Mentoring Institute, strategic connections were made, and knowledge garnered to support NORDP’s endeavors around effective mentorship. As a result of participating in the Mentoring Institute, NORDP was published in the Journal of Coaching and Mentoring, and those in attendance discovered there was such a thing as mentoring software to support mentoring programs. By early 2021, the board had invested in mentoring software to support the membership.

Members of the NORDP Mentoring Committee will be presenting and participating in the 2021 UNM Mentoring Institute.

How has your service to NORDP enhanced your career?

NORDP has truly been catalytic in my career trajectory in RD. My first job in higher education was as a faculty development professional, which is what I considered my focus. I did not consider myself in RD at the time. Members of my staff actually got to know NORDP first. Alicia Gahimer, program and operations manager at IUPUI, went to a number of conferences and told me I had to go. I took her advice and ended up finding my people, as many of us say!  

I went to conferences and learned to be intentional in my involvement. I talked with my Vice Chancellor about NORDP being the premier RD professional organization and over time he wanted me to come up with a title and job description that represented what I was doing. I used NORDP’s salary survey to find a match for my role to accurately describe my current position as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Development. 

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

Colleagues in my office had heard about NORDP through our regional contacts. I supported staff members who wanted to attend conferences where they could find a match/fit for the type of engagement they had with faculty. Many of us became involved with NORDP committees. It really got my attention when they were coming back with great new ideas and amplifying our existing efforts. Alicia encouraged me to join as well and when I did, I found people both similar and different than me which only added to what I was able to learn from them. 

What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP?

When I joined the board, I began by asking a lot of questions so that I could learn more about the board and the individuals who were on it. Over time I developed strong relationships with these folks who are also leaders at their home universities. It is an honor and a privilege to work with people leading a national organization with international influence. I love that I can continue to build intentional relationships with people in strategic positions where I can create and drive the direction of the RD profession. 

Describe how NORDP has changed from when you initially joined

When I first joined, I had the sense of a tension about access to certain groups, but I now understand that some of it was a perceived tension. I do acknowledge that there were members who found it hard to connect with others. NORDP’s leadership recognized this and has since been willing to go deep to understand the concerns of members, especially in the area of inclusion. Members expressed concerns in the membership survey and the board responded. They were willing to get to the point of discomfort and stay there if necessary to advance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, something that will be a priority for the organization moving forward. NORDP’s leadership pays attention to areas where the organization needs to improve. 

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

When you join NORDP you will find your people, but don’t stop there. Get to know someone you don’t work with or know deeply. These relationships open up a world of possibility personally and professionally. You can reach out through the listserv, committee work, and conferences. Make it a point to connect with people you don’t know as well as those who work in different parts of RD.  

If you need help in getting involved don’t hesitate to contact a board member. We are always happy to help you. Finally, I would say get the most out of your membership. Don’t be a bystander and sit on the sidelines.   

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee