Who: Nathan Meier, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research
Where: University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Number of Years in RD: 18
Length of NORDP Membership: 10
When and how did you enter the field? What kind of RD work do you do?
Like many NORDP members, I followed a circuitous route to the profession. Following undergraduate study, I farmed full-time with my family for two years before going on to earn a Master of Technical and Professional Communication from Auburn University—the only place in the country where that specific degree is offered. I started out wanting to be an English professor but changed my focus as I learned more about the challenges of the tenure track once I began my graduate work. My first semester at Auburn, I ended up in a principles of technical communication course and really enjoyed the experience because it gave me a chance to meld my interests in writing and technology. The MTPC program was a great fit for me and felt like an applied English degree. During my final semester at Auburn, I audited a class called “The Proposal as Genre and Argument,” and it was another natural blend of my interest in writing, rhetoric, literature, and technology. When I returned to Nebraska after graduating, I applied for a proposal writing position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and have been in RD ever since. I did not set out to be in this field, but the skills I brought and learned and my natural interests led me here. I am grateful to have the opportunity to add value to faculty-led projects on our campus.
My current position is focused on faculty and institutional success especially as they relate to external funding competitiveness. My RD portfolio of work involves providing strategic direction for our proposal development, external faculty recognition and awards, and research impacts programs. I also get involved with many special projects for our vice chancellor and our campus (e.g., efforts related to diversity and inclusive excellence, federal relations, pursuing the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, etc.). I also have become heavily involved with our institution’s pursuit of grand challenges.
What’s your history with NORDP? How have you engaged with the organization (committee work, conferences attended/presented)?
I started out as a listserv lurker and became a member after a couple of years. I joined the conference planning committee in 2015 as an abstract reviewer and then got involved with conference marketing. I later joined the nominating committee and was eventually designated as its chair. I basically helped out wherever I could starting with a variety of little projects and scaffolded toward increased responsibilities over time. I have been a mentor as well. Following an invitation from the board, I threw my hat in the ring to fill out the remaining portion of a departing board member’s term in 2019. During my two years serving as an appointed board member, I felt like I found my niche with NORDP and realized there is more I could do, so I decided to run for a full four-year term.
Over the years, we had been hearing from members that NORDP needed more intentional pathways to advance organizational leaders. We needed to find ways to help members become engaged members and ultimately committee leaders and then, hopefully, candidates for the board. I worked with Jan Abramson, Katie Shoaf, Mady Hymowitz, and Karen Fletcher to stand up the NORDP Leadership, Engagement and Development (LEAD) Initiative. This program, which is still evolving, is designed to nurture organizational leaders and help NORDP members cultivate their own individual careers.
I also been working with other NORDP colleagues for the last couple of years to expand the recognitions available to NORDP members and our external champions of RD. We want to recognize and reward the important, impactful contributions our colleagues are making and ensure they capture the attention of our members.
What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP?
The RD community is at its core a very strong network, and NORDP is its backbone. We openly share knowledge to help our faculty and institutions succeed. Our “back of the house” support allows our nation’s research enterprise to thrive and achieve its goal, which, from my perspective, is to help improve the human condition.
NORDP is an incredible crucible in which we can mix with others from around the world and from a variety of organizational types. I appreciate the free and open exchange of ideas we enjoy from which you can pick and choose what works best for your individual context. For example, I have learned and adapted a great deal from my colleagues at PUIs and MSIs that is helpful in my RD work at Nebraska, which is a comprehensive research, land-grant institution.
For the last few years, I have really come to value a collection informal peer mentoring groups formed by NORDP members with shared interests and goals. I get to connect with colleagues from all ranks and from a variety of institutional types. It is wonderful to know that I have many great colleagues across the country with whom I can spitball ideas and get frank, helpful feedback.
What are you most excited about as a board member?
I think that NORDP is at an inflection point. We now have 1,100 members, and we need to sustain the organization and position it for a dynamic future. The fact that our membership continued to grow during the pandemic is incredible. I am excited about the climate survey that the Committee on Inclusive Excellence is launching to help us determine what we can do better and inform strategies to make sure NORDP is a place welcoming to all. I am excited to see how we deliver on our current strategic plan as it comes to an end next year and think about how we will reflect and plan for the next stage by continuing to innovate and remain relevant to the RD community.
RD has come a long way since NORDP began. We are moving away from mostly experimentation and anecdotal evidence about what works to having colleagues laying RD down as a field through rigorous study. I hope we learn how to work smarter not harder in the RD space as a result of our colleagues’ research results.
I am also very excited about the LEAD Peer Mentoring Group that Jan Abramson, Karen Fletcher, Katie Shoaf, and Mady Hymowitz are facilitating. We are seeing many new faces in NORDP and the profession—and this is captured well in the group’s participants. I view that as a sign of NORDP transitioning with new players coming to the table, and I hope that they will emerge as the next generation of contributors and leaders—both within NORDP and to RD.
Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee