Fletcher’s Leadership Honored with 2022 Holly J. Falk-Krzesinski Service Award

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.

Karen Fletcher, Holly Falk-Krzesinski Service Awardee

Who: Karen Fletcher, Director of Grants Resources & Services

Where: Appalachian State University

Number of years in research development: 13

Length of NORDP membership: 11 years

You have served NORDP in numerous roles and capacities over the years. Could you share a bit about what that journey has been like?

The visual metaphor that comes to mind when I think about my journey with NORDP is that of a flashlight where the light starts out very concentrated but grows, and shines over a wider and wider area. When I started out in NORDP I was really cautious – I was new to research development and the field was just getting off the ground. As I got to know NORDP, I was asking myself: “Where do I see myself in this organization given the talents I feel I can bring? And what are the skills I’d like to develop?” I feel like I’m good at organization, so when I initially joined the Mentoring Committee, I started volunteering to do things like writing up meeting minutes; my involvement continued to grow as I was invited to take on additional tasks – and I said yes to all of those invitations because everything was so interesting to me and I wanted to learn how to do it all. I was eventually asked to be a co-chair of the Mentoring Committee, and then I had the opportunity to run for the Board. I thought, “Hey, I think my organization skills could be put to good use to support the Board and NORDP at large.” I may be starting to sound like a broken record at this point, but as the secretary position on the Board became open, I thought, “Oh, here’s another chance to use my organizational skills.” I thought the secretary position would be a safe role because I couldn’t become Board President if I held that role, but the joke was on me because I ended up leaving the secretary position (which I loved) early when I was invited to be vice president.

Within NORDP, there are so many opportunities to be involved. I just started trying everything because I wanted to know what it was about. I was willing to take things on where I felt like I had the talent and skills to put towards them. I’ve ended up doing a lot of things, which has been really exciting for me.

In your view, what makes an effective leader, and how has your philosophy of leadership informed your work within NORDP?

I think good leadership boils down to this question: “How do you empower the people who are around you?” When you empower people to make what they think is the right move, it makes them effective, and the job of a leader is to highlight that. A big part of my philosophy is servant leadership, which I think helps empower the teams I lead. Good leaders give advice and input, but they also know when to ask their team, “How do you think we should be solving this problem?” It’s about giving power back. My philosophy of leadership has changed throughout my professional journey, from wanting to do all the things to realizing – as I held various leadership positions – that one person can’t do it all and that collective ideas are much more effective. And as a leader, if you empower your team, it allows you to put your attention elsewhere when needed.

As NORDP president from 2019-2020, you played a key role in implementing a long-term vision for NORDP, informed by input from NORDP members. Why do you think this process was so important for the organization?

I think 2019-2020 was a turning point for NORDP as an organization. It felt like the organization had entered our “teenage years.” Membership had been growing and exceeded 1000 for the first time. As a Board, we knew it was important to start mapping out where NORDP goes next as an organization and that the time was right to create a more formal strategic plan. When I was vice president and Karen Eck was president, we, with the Board, initiated a member survey because we needed to know what the members wanted for NORDP, what they thought was working, and what needed improvement. We’re an organization of volunteers and we’ve grown because of the efforts of our volunteers. NORDP benefits from having members in a variety of positions across a variety of institutions and we wanted to hear from members about where they saw research development going as a field, making sure that we were serving them during the strategic planning process.

The next year when I was president, the Board mapped out the strategic plan, relying on all of the member feedback gathered through the member survey to create seven Key Result Areas (KRAs). It was a whirlwind two-year process, and I think it was an important learning experience for all of us on the Board. We had a lot of enlightening conversations about the field and where the Board and NORDP membership saw it going that have really stayed with me.

What do you see as the biggest rewards, and challenges, of serving in leadership roles within NORDP?

I’m going to start with the challenges, and one that immediately jumps out at me is imposter syndrome. I’ve certainly felt it as a NORDP member when I contemplated serving as a committee co-chair or running for the Board. I think imposter syndrome is alive and well, particularly when you start out in research development and you may feel like, “I don’t really know what’s going on” or “I don’t have anything to contribute.” But you do! We have amazing members with amazing talent, and we all deserve to be here. I think time is another challenge – so many NORDP members are doers, and there’s almost always so much that we want to be involved in but balancing that with the commitments of our everyday jobs and our other lives can certainly be a challenge. Communication – getting the right information to the right people at the right time – can also be a challenge. I remember working on the messaging when we had to cancel the 2020 conference due to Covid-19 and being confronted with the challenge of how, when, and with whom to communicate when so much was unknown.

But the rewards are so plentiful. The network that I’ve developed since I’ve been in NORDP and the enduring friendships that have come out of that have been some of the biggest rewards. Beyond that, I have had opportunities to share my talents in new ways and try things I didn’t know I wanted to try. Leading an organization of 1000 people is an opportunity NORDP gave me that I never saw coming. You get back what you give when you’re a NORDP volunteer. Everything I’ve done in NORDP has in some way informed what I do in my everyday job in positive ways and I’ve been able to move up in my career because of the information I’ve learned and the skills I’ve gained as a NORDP member and leader.

More recently, you have played a crucial role in revitalizing the New Opportunities in Research Development (NORD) Committee. What has that process been like, and what do you see as the greatest opportunities for the field of research development moving forward?

I’m excited about this effort! Dave Stone, the original chair of NORD, really laid the framework for this committee, and it’s been exciting to take up the mantle. The NORD / InfoReady Grant program is now an annual competition and the previous grant awardees have been collecting data and generating reports. Our effort is focused on making sure we’re continuing to put those grant dollars to use to advance projects that will benefit RD as a field. The other really exciting project that NORD has been diligently working on is the Research Development Review: The NORDP Journal. I think this is one of the biggest and most exciting things for research development: to have a home for the information and research on research development as a discipline and how it impacts other disciplines. NORDP members are asking when The NORDP Journal will debut because they want to publish there going forward, and the fact that we will soon have a dedicated publishing space for RD is very exciting. I think this is an endeavor that is really going to make a difference for our field. Keep an eye out for NORD’s announcement of the inaugural Editorial Board soon!

What advice do you have for NORDP members who aspire to greater service within NORDP or the field at large?

I would tell members to find that talent or passion that you would like to do more of, and try it out within NORDP! It could be something that you’re passionate about but that you don’t get to do much in your everyday job. Or, if there’s something you’d like to learn how to do that you don’t feel you’re an expert in, NORDP can offer a safe space to learn new skills. Maybe you’d like to learn more about technology and hosting virtual meetings but you don’t get to do that much in your job. You can come to NORDP, join the Professional Development Committee and learn all about hosting webinars and have a ton of support while you learn. I love that within NORDP: we’re all here to help each other and learn together.

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