NORDP 2023 Keynote: Mentors-of-the-Moment with Dr. Brad Johnson

NORDP 2023 Keynote Speaker, Dr. Brad Johnson

For Dr. Brad Johnson, it was a crucial conversation with a valued mentor early in his career that offered him the affirmation that he needed to pursue his professional goals. Johnson, at the time, was a brand new clinical psychologist serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps. And despite the extensive training he had undertaken to become a practicing clinical psychologist, he was having some misgivings about his chosen profession. Johnson remembers working up the courage to share his thoughts with the senior psychologist who was serving as his supervisor and telling her, “You know, my happiest moment in the week is when a client cancels an appointment and I actually have time to do some writing. I love working on research articles and I love teaching, and I’m kind of thinking I don’t want to be a clinical psychologist in the traditional sense. I’d love to teach and be an academician.” His mentor’s response? As Johnson recalls, “She just looked at me and said, ‘Of course.’ like she’d known that all the time.” That pivotal conversation was a lightbulb moment for Johnson about the power of mentorship.

Dr. Johnson, now a Professor of Psychology in the Department of Leadership, Ethics and Law at the United States Naval Academy and a Faculty Associate in the Graduate School of Education at Johns Hopkins University, will be delivering the closing keynote at the 2023 NORDP conference. His address, entitled  Mentors-of-the-Moment: Creating Mentoring-Rich Organizational Cultures, will focus on how to leverage developmental relationships and existing mentoring infrastructure to create cultures of mentoring within organizations.

When he began teaching and supervising students  in a clinical psychology doctoral program, Johnson’s initial research focused on the treatment of depression. But that started to shift when one of the doctoral students he was supervising became interested in researching mentoring. “He came to me and he said, ‘You know, I found this article on mentoring in graduate training, and I find it really interesting and I think I might want to do this for my dissertation.’” His decision to join his mentee in pursuing this new line of research was another pivotal moment for Johnson. “It absolutely shaped the whole arc of my career, focusing a bit less on clinical treatment and a lot more on developmental relationships.”

Johnson’s next career move brought him to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he has been a faculty member ever since. As far as his research was concerned, this move was, in Johnson’s view, “such a natural, seamless transition because mentoring is so important in the military.” One of Johnson’s initial projects at the Naval Academy was a large study focused on retired Navy Admirals and their experience with mentoring in the fleet. One of the most powerful findings from the study, in his view, concerned the longevity of these mentoring relationships. “One of the things we asked was, ‘Why did the relationship end?’ and by far the most common response was that the mentor had died. It turns out that these relationships were lifelong. And they continued, even up to the point where the mentor was no longer living.” This finding was reminiscent of Johnson’s own relationship with his mentor from his days in graduate school. “We don’t see each other as often, but if I ever have a major career decision to make, I always reach out to him, even now. The effect of really great mentoring often lingers, and in the best case, these relationships become lifelong friendships.”

Johnson is particularly excited to speak to NORDP conference attendees about actionable strategies for moving beyond mentoring programs to creating cultures of mentoring, both within NORDP itself and within attendees’ organizations. “We know that a lot of talented junior folks fall through the cracks because they don’t think it’s for them or that they’re entitled to mentoring. And senior people feel like mentoring programs can be a burden and don’t engage.” For Johnson, building a mentoring culture means becoming a mentor-of-the-moment, someone who shows interest in junior colleagues in the day-to-day interactions we have at work. “Being a mentor-of-the-moment might mean being the kind of person who will initiate a conversation with a colleague about something you admired about their work, offering affirmation, or just saying, ‘Hey, if you ever want to drop by and just chat about where you’d like to go in the organization, I’ve got an open door,” he says. “If you have that kind of culture, we find that retention goes way up, satisfaction and belonging go way up. And I think we need to spend a lot more time thinking about our culture, not just our formalized programs.” 

Mentoring Wellness

By Melissa Li, University of Michigan

Mentoring is a valuable relationship that can have a significant impact on one’s life, both personally and professionally. Recognizing and addressing mentees’ wellness is a critical component of mentoring. As shown in the figure below, well-being spans multiple dimensions, including emotional, mental, physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, financial, etc. A few of them are discussed as follows.

Credit: University of Michigan

Emotional wellness: Emotional wellness refers to an individual’s ability to manage their emotions in a healthy way. In a mentoring relationship, it’s important to create a psychologically safe space where the mentee feels comfortable sharing their feelings and concerns. The mentor can provide emotional support, offer guidance on managing stress and anxiety, and help the mentee develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Mental wellness: Mental wellness is about maintaining a healthy state of mind. In a mentoring relationship, the mentor can encourage the mentee to practice mindfulness, help them identify any negative thought patterns, and provide guidance on setting goals and developing a growth mindset.

Physical wellness: Physical wellness refers to maintaining a healthy body through regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate rest. The mentor can encourage the mentee to prioritize physical wellness, share tips on healthy habits, and offer guidance on finding a work-life balance.

Social wellness: Social wellness involves having meaningful relationships and a strong support system. The mentor can encourage the mentee to build positive relationships, offer guidance on effective communication and conflict resolution, and help the mentee identify and navigate any social challenges.

Intellectual wellness: Intellectual wellness refers to an individual’s ability to engage in creative and stimulating mental activities. In a mentoring relationship, the mentor can encourage the mentee to pursue their intellectual interests, offer guidance on developing critical thinking skills, and provide resources for continued learning.

Overall, prioritizing the mentee’s wellness in all these areas can lead to a more fulfilling mentoring relationship and the mentee’s success.

SAC Spotlights: An Interview with Tisha Gilreath Mullen, SAC liaison to to Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS)

In April, 2023, Elizabeth Festa sat down with Tisha Gilreath Mullen to discuss Tisha’s experience as a SAC Liaison to Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS).

Tisha Gilreath Mullen, SAC Liaison

The Strategic Alliances Committee (SAC)‘s NORDP Liaisons Program is an exciting opportunity for NORDP members to thoroughly advocate for Research Development to external organizations and associations while gaining additional professional experience. While championing NORDP, Liaisons provide an invaluable service to NORDP members by gathering and sharing relevant and useful information as part of a broad and strategic outreach program.

In April, 2023, Elizabeth Festa sat down with Tisha Gilreath Mullen to discuss Tisha’s experience as a SAC Liaison to Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS).

Tell me about your role at University of Nebraska.

I lead the Office of Proposal Development, a five-member team situated within the Office of Research and Economic Development’s research development group at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

What is the mission of your liaison organization, ARIS?

Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS), an NSF-funded initiative that originated as NABI (National Alliance for Broader Impacts) in 2018, brings researchers and engagement practitioners together to build capacity, advance scholarship, grow partnerships, and develop resources to help facilitate and demonstrate the impact of research in communities and society.  

Why did you decide to become a liaison to ARIS?  What benefits has it conferred on your organization and on your own professional development?

My role as a liaison offers me an opportunity to broaden my professional network by meeting and collaborating with colleagues working in the research impact space. It made sense for me to seek out this type of engagement because the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has enjoyed a strong relationship with ARIS from its very beginnings as NABI and the relationship has always been viewed by my leadership as mutually beneficial. Over the years, we have offered ARIS Broader Impacts 101 training for faculty and we were among the pilot participants in the ARIS Program to Enhance Organizational Research Impact Capacity (ORIC). ORIC, in particular, was useful for enhancing the supports and resources we deploy to help our faculty extend the societal impact of their work. We now have a research development position dedicated to research impact and we are involved in piloting the ARIS Toolkit Project in one of our faculty development programs.

What benefits and resources of ARIS would you like NORDP members to know about?

The ARIS Toolkit, a compilation of resources that research development and research impact professionals can use to help faculty think strategically about how to identify and cultivate robust community partnerships, is publicly available. It’s an amazing resource for NORDP members who guide faculty toward understanding what elements are needed to create a robust and mutually beneficial broader impacts plan. Beyond the Toolkit, ARIS offers webinars on topics of interest to both our communities (NSF CAREER proposals, for example) and, of course, there are opportunities for organizations to participate in ORIC. Upon graduation from ORIC, organizations become part of a research impacts community of practice, which helps to sustain momentum gained through the program. It’s also worth noting that NORDP and ARIS have a joint Memorandum of Understanding, which includes discounted registrations for NORDP members to attend the annual ARIS Summit and ARIS members to attend the annual NORDP conference. I encourage anyone interested in learning more about ARIS to attend the Summit. It affords access to colleagues who are doing innovative research impact work, sneak peeks at new tools to facilitate research impacts; and insights into new concepts that are driving innovations in the space. If your experience is like mine, you’ll be challenged by the Summit to think in more expansive, powerful, and inclusive ways about the work you do. 

How were you challenged by this year’s ARIS Summit?

This year’s Summit in Baltimore focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. The speakers and sessions challenged me think more deeply about what we are doing well in the Office of Proposal Development and areas in which we need to improve.  The keynote was delivered by Dr. Natalie Shaheen, Assistant Professor of Special Education at Illinois State University, who is blind.  She talked about access and equity for a blind population and identified different strategies for engagement and disseminating research. For example, when introducing speakers to an audience that includes blind individuals, do we describe the speaker’s appearance? If we are using slides, are they fully accessible? As an audience how do we express engagement with a blind speaker (such as finger snapping or foot stomping, for example)? When we publish research, what considerations are we giving to accessibility (do we translate the work into Braille, for example)? While we are attuned at my institution to the importance of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, we have less often considered how to reach audiences with physical disabilities. These insights will impact how my team coaches on inclusion moving forward.

How does our alliance with ARIS help to promote the professional development of NORDP as an organization?

The NORDP/ARIS alliance is a natural connection that is integral to the work of both organizations and we can accomplish so much more by working together. There is a true synergy to this alliance, where the whole is most definitely greater than the sum of its parts. We can learn from each other at the grassroots level and wield more influence on the national and international stage when we unite for change.

About the Strategic Alliances Committee

The Strategic Alliances Committee focuses on the interactions between NORDP and all external entities, including research funding, government and private agencies, and other professional organizations. Our goal is to become recognized as the “go-to” organization regarding interactions between funding agencies and research performing institutions, and to facilitate communication and collaborations between research institutions themselves. The signature program of the Strategic Alliances Committee is the member-led NORDP Liaison program which utilizes a matrix approach to reach out to over 20 organizations including AAAS, APLU, the National Academies, and the European Commission. Click here for more information and to get involved.

NORDP 2023 Keynote: Diversity in the Data with Dr. Christine Yifeng Chen

NORDP 2023 Keynote Speaker, Dr. Christine Yifeng Chen

From a young age, Christine Yifeng Chen had an affinity for the outdoors. Growing up in upstate New York, she spent many afternoons amusing herself in the local woods observing plants, rocks, and passing wildlife. When the sun was down or the weather was poor, she watched nature documentaries on public television and read books about historical expeditions and voyages, captivated by stories of field scientists working in far-flung places. Despite her enthusiasm, she never considered that outdoor field research was something she could ever do herself. After all, she had no camping or hiking experience, and hardly traveled outside of her hometown, as the costs of such activities were prohibitive.

That all changed when she “won the lottery,” as Chen puts it, by gaining admittance to Princeton University for her undergraduate studies with a full tuition financial aid package. Scanning the catalog of course offerings, she noticed that the earth science department offered classes with field trips, all expenses paid. Soon enough, in her first semester, she found herself in California, gazing at snow-capped mountains, climbing up sand dunes, and walking amongst ancient pine trees for the very first time. This formative experience set the stage for Chen’s future in field geology. “It was a complete culture shock,” Chen says. “Suddenly, I had access to all these resources at this school, to do all the things I’d always read about or seen on TV. It was nothing short of life changing.”

Chen understands first-hand the impact that access to social and material resources can have on one’s career. She will deliver the 2023 NORDP Conference opening keynote address, entitled “Racial disparities in research funding.” In her remarks, she will highlight results from a recent study she led showing systematic racial disparities in funding rates at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Using publicly available data, Chen and her colleagues showed that from 1999 to 2019, proposals by white researchers at NSF were funded at rates higher than most other non-white groups, and that these trends held regardless of scientific discipline and proposal type. Since similar patterns have been observed at the National institutes of Health, NASA, and other philanthropic funding organizations, they are likely widespread throughout the research funding ecosystem.

Despite countless of initiatives at colleges and universities to diversify the professoriate, data on faculty demographics indicate that higher education institutions appear to have little to show for it. Chen believes that the long-standing funding disparities have played a significant role in stymieing diversity goals: “Eliminating inequalities in STEM and academia will require a reorganization of what causes inequality in the first place: unequal access to social prestige and material resources.”

As a geologist and geochemist by training, Chen is very familiar with the lack of diversity amongst faculty. The geosciences are the least diverse field of all STEM disciplines in terms of race and ethnicity; less than 10% of geoscience PhD recipients are people of color, and little has changed in the last 40 years. And unlike other STEM disciplines, Asians are underrepresented amongst geoscience PhD recipients.

That statistic, along with the rise in anti-Asian sentiments during the pandemic, spurred Chen and two of her colleagues to start an affinity group, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Geosciences (AAPIiG), to build community for AAPIs in the discipline. It was through one of the early virtual AAPIiG community gatherings that Chen first learned from a senior academic about the “open secret” that Asian researchers have the lowest proposal success rates at the NSF. The rest is history.

Chen is eager to engage with the NORDP community about these widespread funding disparities and what we can do about them, both as individuals as well as a collective organization. She hopes that we might consider the funding data at our own institutions from both public and private funders with a critical eye. Chen also hopes that NORDP can mobilize a coordination action in response to these trends, given our unique vantage point as being embedded in the research community at multiple levels and sectors. “NORDP is ideally positioned to guide and catalyze action around this issue. If not you, who else?”

Chen is now at a national lab where she continues her geological and geochemistry research.

Help us welcome her to the NORDP stage in May.

Follow @NORDP_official on Twitter for all the latest #NORDP2023 updates.

NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion, and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.