New NORDP Board Member Cameo: Becca Latimer

Becca Latimer, NORDP Board Member

Who: Becca Latimer, Research Program Director

Where: University of Virginia Comprehensive Cancer Center

Number of Years Working in RD: Seven Years

Length of NORDP Membership: Seven years

When and how did you enter the field? What kind of research development work do you do?

I fell into RD, as many of us in NORDP do. I had just completed a postdoctoral position in developmental biology, and I knew I wanted to stay in research but I did not want to open a lab. I knew there had to be something else out there that would allow me to utilize the skill sets I had learned at the bench. We had just moved to Virginia when I heard about a position in the office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Virginia – they were starting up a research development team. While I didn’t get the job I had originally applied for, I stayed in touch with the hiring manager and was offered a position to lead a funding discovery project the office was trying to get off the ground. I jumped in and learned quickly, and the rest is history!

As for the work I do now, I’ve recently started in a new position in the University of Virginia Cancer Center. My new role allows me to support many of the key functions that keep the center running. So far, I have taken on projects like putting together new seed grants and revamping and streamlining our processes to make the center function more efficiently. I’ve also been doing a lot of work on our internal metrics. We have more than 200 members so there’s a lot of data to keep up with! So in my time at UVA, I’ve gone from a very central to a very focused role – two totally different beasts, but both important to the whole research enterprise.

What’s your history with NORDP? How have you engaged with the organization (committee work, conferences attended/presented, other roles you’ve held)?

My history with NORDP started when I attended my first NORDP conference and it opened my eyes to the fact that these are my people and this is a really cool organization. I quickly became interested in committee service and decided to join the professional development committee, although it was a tough choice because all of the committees interested me! In 2019, there was an opportunity to step up to serve as a co-chair for the PD Committee, and I decided to say yes because I knew it would give me a chance to be more involved and meet more people and contribute to the projects the committee was trying to move forward.

I’ve also worked with Kimberly Eck on the salary survey committee in 2019, which I found to be very fun and fulfilling. I feel like the salary survey really gives us a good idea of where we stand as professionals and as an organization. And I think it has been a useful tool to our members that they can use to advocate for themselves and their colleagues when it comes to negotiating with their institutions.

Most recently, I became involved with the NORDP Conference Planning Committee. I started right before we put on the 2021 virtual conference, which was our first virtual conference, and served as a co-chair for the 2022 virtual conference. I’m currently serving as a co-chair for our 2023 conference (our first in-person conference in four years), and I also serve on the executive conference committee. I’ve been reflecting on the fact that the last time NORDP held our conference in Crystal City, it was 2018 and I was serving as a conference ambassador, and now we’re back in this venue and I’m serving as a co-chair. It’s kind of wild!

What motivated you to run for the NORDP Board?

I actually decided I wanted to be more involved in NORDP during the pandemic. I saw it as an opportunity, because I was working from home and decided I could use the time I was no longer spending commuting to the office to do more volunteering. So I really just made a conscious decision to really immerse myself more and step up and roll up my sleeves to get the work done. And in doing that, I feel like it’s really fostered a lot of great relationships with my NORDP colleagues. And I realized just how important NORDP has become to me, because of our organization’s vision and mission. I don’t work with any other group or organization that works to be as inclusive and is filled with people that are so thoughtful and united in their desire to push things forward and institute change. I’ve gotten so much out of NORDP and benefitted from the people who have served on the Board before me and put their time and effort into progressing and evolving our organization. I felt like it was time for me to contribute that kind of effort back to our members as well and pay it forward.

What are you most excited about as a new NORDP Board member?

I think one great step our Board has taken previously is to outline some key initiatives and key result areas (KRAs) that we as an organization can focus on. I’m really looking forward to building on those KRAs going forward. I’m also just really excited to work with our Board, because we have an awesome Board! So many of my fellow Board members are trusted colleagues and friends who I’ve built relationships with since joining NORDP and everyone is so supportive. Our Board is really engaged and interactive, and motivated to keep improving our organization.

Tools ‘n Tips: Writing for a Lay Audience – Presented by Susan Elkins

Tuesday, January 10, 2023 @ 12:00pm (Eastern)

Researchers often have a difficult time with writing for a lay audience. This does not mean removing all of the science. It does mean simplifying or clearly defining those technical terms and ideas. It can also be helpful to think about making a connection between the scientific advancement you’re discussing and the potential benefits to the intended audience. Research development professionals can help faculty better address this task.

During the PD Committee’s January Tools ‘n Tips monthly webinar, Susan Elkins shared advice and resources for RD professionals looking to hone their skills when writing for a lay audience. 

Resource 1: Writing for a lay audience (Cancer Research UK) 

  • Keep it simple
  • Keep it short
  • Make it inclusive
  • Back it up
  • Separate your ideas
  • Active voice
  • Avoid turning verbs into nouns
  • Use lists where appropriate
  • Be economical
  • Use analogies and images
  • Use Links

Resource 2: In a nut shell: how to write a lay summary (Christopher Tancock)

  • “So what” – justify your research
  • Contextual background – why are you doing this
  • Follow a logical order
  • Explain the impact
  • Sort sentences – write in plain English
  • Avoid jargon if possible
  • First person active voice
  • Use positive statements instead of negative ones
  • Include images if possible

Resource 3: 3 Questions to ask yourself when writing for lay audiences (AMWA Blog) 

  1. Who is my audience?
  1. What are their needs?
  1. How can I communicate most effectively?
  • Consider structure/content/design
  • Optimize readability
  • Tailor content for specific audience
  • Make it easy to navigate
  • Review your work through from your audience’s perspective

Accessing Previous TNT Recordings:

  • Log into your NORDP account (
  • Look for the “Quick Links” menu (blue) on the right-hand side of the screen
  • Select “NORDP LMS”
  • Make sure you are seeing “All Courses” – scroll down to the bottom of the page and select “SHOW ALL COURSES”
  • Search for “TnT”
  • Select the “TnT (Tools & Tips) Talks”

Do you have a great Tool or Tip you would be willing to share? If so, please contact Dawn McArthur or Emily Devereux. We would love to hear any requests and we’ll see if we can’t find a presenter!

2023 NORDP Awards: Two Weeks Left to Nominate Your Colleagues!

Do you know a colleague or group of members making outstanding contributions to NORDP or the practice/field of research development? Consider nominating them for a 2023 NORDP Award!

NORDP members are invited to submit nominations for the following awards:
• Innovation Award
• Leadership Award
• Mentoring Award
• NORDP Fellow
• Rising Star Award
• Volunteer of the Year Award

Collectively, these NORDP Awards celebrate the distinctive achievements of individuals, collaborative groups or work teams, programs or projects, and organizations. More information about the different award types, including eligibility, and the process for submitting nominations is available on the NORDP website.

The deadline to submit nominations, including self-nominations, for the 2023 NORDP Awards is 8 pm EST on Friday, February 10, 2023. Winners of 2023 NORDP Awards will be recognized during the annual NORDP Research Development Conference May 7 to 10, 2023.

An informational webinar about the 2023 NORDP Awards cycle was held on January 18. During the webinar, NORDP Awards task force members reviewed opportunities for recognition, highlighted changes to the 2023 call for nominations, and addressed participant questions.

Contact Nathan Meier or Petrina Suiter to request a copy of the slides presented during the informational webinar or to ask a question about the nomination process. 

New NSF Support Awarded As Six Additional Members Join the NORDP Consultant Program

The NORDP Consultant Program is dedicated to increasing the diversity of our national research ecosystem by providing research development services to minority-serving and emerging research institutions at no cost to the institution.

With the support of Eric and Wendy Schmidt via recommendation of the Schmidt Futures program, NORDP launched the NORDP Consultant Pilot Program in summer of 2021 to grow research capacity and competitiveness within HBCUs by increasing institutional capacity for research development. Camille Coley, Marta Collier-Youngblood, Jacob Levin, Mike Marcinkowski, LeKita Scott Dawkins, Michael Spires, Peggy Sundermeyer, Barbara Walker, and John Quyen Wickham comprise the group of NORDP Consultants working in the pilot program. 

In December 2022, the NSF Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate awarded NORDP, Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS), and Spelman College resources to support the ideation and proposal development process for the Enabling Partnerships to Increase Innovation Capacity (EPIIC) program. Alongside these partners, NORDP Consultants will provide proposal development support and feedback on proposals being prepared in response to the solicitation.

At the same time, the NORDP Consultant Program added six new members to its ranks:

Michelle Collins

Michelle Collins: As the Director of Grant Process Operations for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Michelle oversees the proposal submission and review processes for the Center’s grant programs and provides pre-award support to the applicant community. She has nearly 15 years of experience in research development, grant administration, and program management, including positions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as the Research Administrator for the Department of Surgery and the Managing Director for the UNC Nutrition Obesity Research Center. Michelle is also certified as a Research Administrator (CRA) and Pre-Award Research Administrator (CPRA) by the Research Administrators Certification Council.

Holly Hapke

Holly Hapke: Holly is a geographer and broadly trained interdisciplinary social scientist with over 25 years of experience in academic research, teaching, program and curriculum development, grants and research development, and higher education administration. She served as a tenured faculty member and Associate Dean at East Carolina University, and as Program Director at the NSF, where she co-managed multiple programs and worked on diversity initiatives. Currently, she is the inaugural Director of Research Development at the University of California Irvine, where she has supported the development and submission of over $100 million in grant proposals. She co-leads the NSF-funded California Alliance for Hispanic-Serving Social Science Advancement (CAHSSA) and is a founding member of INSciTS and NSF’s Growing Convergence Research College of Reviewers.

Dorota Huizinga

Dorota Huizinga: Dorota has over 14 years of experience in research administration and currently serves as the Associate Provost for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB). She is also a Principal Investigator on an NIH research capacity building grant (SPAD) awarded to CSUSB to help streamline the university’s sponsored programs infrastructure, support the Office of Research Development (ORD), and increase the diversity of faculty and students engaged in research. In her administrative positions, Dorota secured over $4.5M in capacity-building grants to support faculty and student success and various DEI initiatives. She has also established a new ORD and hired its first faculty director at multiple campuses and developed successful programs and supports to increase the number of faculty engaged in grant-seeking and the volume of sponsored programs.

Sobha Jaishankar

Sobha Jaishankar: Sobha has over 14 years of experience in research administration and currently oversees the functions of the Research Development division within UF Research. She established guidelines and SOPs for the different programs under the broad research development umbrella, including internal seed funding, limited submissions, faculty honorifics, large proposal development, faculty coaching, and the evaluation of centers and institutes. Sobha is also responsible for managing the Florida Space Institute’s Space Research Initiative at the University of Florida and the UF portion of the Florida High Tech Corridor Matching Grants Program. From FY 2014-FY 21, Research Development, under Sobha’s leadership, has assisted UF faculty in obtaining $142M in federal funding and provided assistance for another $529M in budget requests on unfunded proposals.

Don Takehara

Donald Takehara: Don is the Director for Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Grainger College of Engineering, where he supports faculty in establishing funded research and partnerships with government agencies, foundations, and corporations. He is also responsible for Faculty Development and is a certified coach assisting faculty in career and leadership development. Previously, Don was the Director of the Center for Research & Innovation and Associate Professor at Taylor University for 9 years, where he had responsibility for research development, sponsored programs, tech transfer, business incubation, and corporate sponsored research. He has a background in chemical reaction engineering and catalysis and has led the evaluation and development of process and product technology in silicone technology, biotechnology, and electronics. Don has a PhD and MS in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University and a BS in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University.

Jana Watson-Capps

Jana Watson-Capps: Jana is an independent consultant who helps companies, universities, and non-profits with research development, strategic planning, and coalition building within the interdisciplinary life sciences. She has experience and strengths in research development, process development, interdisciplinary science and education, academic-industry partnerships, strategic planning, large-team management, multi-stakeholder project leadership, communicating science, grant writing, grants coaching, fundraising, and building research communities. Jana has been working full-time as an independent consultant for the past four years, and previously spent over seven years at the University of Colorado BioFrontiers Institute as Associate Director, Chief of Staff, and Head of Strategy. She received her Ph.D. in Biology from Georgetown University and her B.S. in Biological Sciences from Stanford University.

“I am excited to welcome our new NORDP Consultants and thrilled to be able to expand the NORDP Consultant Program with support from NSF,” said Dr. Kimberly Eck, NORDP Consultant Program Director, former NORDP President, and Associate Vice President at Emory University, “NORDP’s collaborations with the NSF TIP Directorate, ARIS, Spelman College, and Know Innovation on the EPIIC program is a new, experimental approach that has the potential to catalyze a paradigm shift in how institutions obtain federal funding.”

It’s Almost time for the First McHuddles of the 2022-2023 Mentoring Program Year!

By Brooke Gowl, Research Development Associate, Duke University

NORDP Members, come join in the fun of the McHuddles! There are McHuddles for Mentees and Mentors, and you are welcome to sign up for one or both.

McHuddle with Mentees will be held on November 9th at 1:00pm Eastern: Register now.

McHuddle with Mentors will be held on November 9th at 2:00pm Eastern: Register now.

McHuddles, informal gatherings hosted by the NORDP Mentoring Committee, are an opportunity to share ideas, ask questions, and collectively learn from other mentees/mentors and are led by the Facilitator Team. While the expectation is that McHuddles will serve as support for current and former NORDP Mentoring Program participants, all are welcome!

During each McHuddle, there will be breakout sessions led by NORDP Mentoring Program Facilitators. I have attended these sessions in the past as a mentor and a mentee and enjoyed talking with other mentors and mentees in a safe, fun, supportive, and informal atmosphere. A McHuddle is also a nice break in your busy day. During the session, participants introduce themselves and often give some insights into their personalities by answering a fun question, such as, “If you had a superpower, what would it be?” or “What is one of the most interesting places you have visited?” We laugh and enjoy the group camaraderie, and of course, discuss mentoring and how our mentoring relationships are developing. We also talk about additional resources we could use or are using that can be shared. McHuddles are a wonderful reminder of the terrific, supportive community of RD professionals that comprises NORDP.

During the McHuddle you will meet our team of Facilitators. Facilitators serve as a resource and point of contact with the mentoring committee. You can contact a Facilitator if you have any concerns about your match, have any difficulties connecting with your mentee/mentor, or have any questions in general about the program.  These conversations are confidential and meant to support your experience with the program. You can find the list of the Facilitators on your WisdomShare Dashboard at

NEW Coaching & RD Peer Mentoring Group (PMG) Forming

PMG Organizers: Don Takehara, Jet LeBlanc, Joanna Downer, Paula Carney, & M. S. (Peg) AtKisson.

The 2022 NORDP Conference included multiple sessions that addressed the discipline of coaching and how it can be used in research development (RD), including faculty research career development, research leadership development, and research team engagement.

The Coaching & RD Peer Mentoring Group (PMG) is now being launched to provide a vehicle for supporting NORDP members interested in coaching.

Coaching fits a broader collection of skills in the RD skillset to further faculty research career development and reflects the dynamic nature of the RD profession. Coaching is a powerful process that encompasses a distinct set of competencies. The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity, and leadership. Trained coaches can engage individual faculty to address research career and research leadership development, facilitate research team engagement, and promote development of research leaders. 

Using the peer mentoring model, the Coaching & RD PMG’s goals are to: 

  • Enable members to explore coaching as part of the RD skillset 
  • Develop programs to offer coaching as an RD service at the institutional level
  • Assess coaching as a contributor to faculty and organizational research attainment
  • Provide a setting for accountability and continuous improvement for RDs interested in coaching in research development

The Coaching & RD PMG is for NORDP members who may be curious about becoming a coach to add to their RD skillset, interested in adding coaching to an institution’s faculty research career, research leadership development, or research team engagement programs, as well as other opportunities for RD professionals that may benefit from inclusion of coaching.

NORDP Members can view and join PMGs via the WisdomShare Platform.

NORDP members interested in learning more about all eight active PMGs can do so at the 2023 Peer Mentoring Group (PMG) Orientation on Wednesday, October 26, 2022, noon-1:30 pm Eastern.  

Register Here

2022-2023 PMGs:

  1. Career & Professional Development: exploring how to become more efficient and effective in our roles
  2. Coaching & RD: developing and implementing coaching as part of the research development (RD) skillset
  3. Communication: promoting awareness of RD opportunities and publicizing research
  4. Collaboration and Team Science: building collaborations and interdisciplinary research programs
  5. Leadership & Management: leading in both official and unofficial capacities
  6. Mentorship Training: discussing and supporting mentoring best practices for mentors and mentees
  7. Proposal Development: supporting faculty grant seeking and increasing extramural funding
  8. Strategic Planning & Advancement: guiding policy and planning for enhanced research and scholarship

Announcing the NORD/InfoReady 2022 Cycle II Grant Awardees

The New Opportunities for Research Development (NORD) Committee is excited to announce the NORD / InfoReady Grant Cycle II 2022 Awardees, sponsored by InfoReady and NORDP.

NORD/InfoReady Grant Awardee Sanjukta Choudhury

Sanjukta Choudhury, from the University of Saskatchewan, was awarded $4,714.18 for the project, “Identifying Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Gaps in Faculty Research to Inform Research Development Practices: The Case of a Canadian Research-Intensive University” 

This project aims to advance Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in faculty research through identifying barriers that researchers face in academia for meaningful EDI integration in research, and by gathering inputs on possible actions to address those barriers. The proposal addresses a pressing question in the disciplinary field of Research Development (RD) and proposes a three-step plan: a) developing a better understanding of the details of the problem picture that our researchers are facing to generate and nurture an inclusive research environment, b) discussing/consulting the identified problems with RD professionals for possible solutions, and c) communicating the findings with the broader research community internationally. Choudhury anticipates that the findings will impact the perspectives and understanding of both the researchers and research administration leadership/ professionals, resulting in an expansion of the resource allocation and improved training / services around adopting a more inclusive research guidance and practices. The research will influence enhanced EDI skills for RD professionals and larger scale research and collaboration among RD professionals internationally, broadening the recognition that is necessary to sustain a deep and lasting change in RD.

NORD/InfoReady Grant Awardee Kathryn Duvall

Kathryn Duvall, from East Tennessee University, was awarded $5,000 for the project “Developing strategies to improve and facilitate collaborative research” 

Through a collaboration with an university institute and a regional committee on research and academics, Duvall’s project seeks to better understand the barriers, opportunities, and facilitators to fostering and enhancing interdisciplinary research around a central focus area (child and family health) with administrators, faculty, staff, trainees, and community organization representatives in a regional sample of south central Appalachian institutions for higher education. Duvall will develop a data dashboard around a central research focus (child and family health) within the region to provide information that will improve communication about work being conducted in the region, and foster collaborative teams which include more clinical faculty. 

NORD/InfoReady Grant Awardee, Pammala Petrucka

The Nursing Unit for Research & Scholarship Excellence (NURSE) led by Dr. Pammla Petrucka, from the University of Saskatchewan, was awarded $5,000 for the project “Exploring the role of research development in building a strong culture of research: Co-creating with researchers and research development professionals through participatory diagramming”

This study seeks to better understand how the professionals that support and strengthen the research process can build a positive research culture for faculty and institutions, and ultimately enhance research development as a profession. Petrucka and participants will create a research development cycle diagram to illustrate (i) how decentralized and targeted research development supports activities that can build research culture within the College of Nursing and beyond and (ii) identify lessons learned, best practices, tools, and resources to advance the profession within North America. The results of this study will provide insights into the role research development plays in creating a strong culture of research within an academic unit from the perspectives of researchers and research development professionals. By examining the beliefs, values, knowledge, and actions that build culture, research institutions will be better positioned to continue to create a permanent culture shift that builds an environment for research success.

Congratulations, Sanjukta, Kathryn, and Pammla!

Collaboration and Team Science Peer Mentoring Group:  What Does it Take to Foster Strong, Impactful Collaborations?

By Jeremy Steinbacher (Syracuse University) and Leah Gorman (Oregon State University)

We are seeing new opportunities for transdisciplinary teams to develop proposals that cross disciplinary boundaries to increase the societal impact of research. Our institutions are excited by these opportunities, thinking creatively about how they might nurture environments that foster transdisciplinary work, and looking to research development (RD) professionals to help spark and facilitate these collaborations. For many members of the NORDP Collaboration and Team Science Peer Mentoring Group (CTS PMG), the skill set needed to do this work has not traditionally been a central part of our professional training. In addition, our institutions may not be familiar with how other institutions are approaching this work. Combined, the lack of both training and institutional knowledge leaves many RD professionals with the feeling that we are constantly  reinventing the wheel when facilitating team science. The CTS PMG seeks to address this challenge by offering an opportunity for RD professionals to share best practices and develop strategies toward creating working knowledge of team science at our institutions. 

Below, we address some common questions about the CTS PMG and the work we have engaged in over the last year.

How is a peer mentoring group different from other types of professional development environments you might use to build skills for fostering collaboration and team science?

All of us have access to a variety of professional development opportunities through our employers, professional societies, and educational institutions. Many of these are highly-structured workshops and classes with a designated leader/instructor and, for the most part, strangers as co-participants. On the other hand, the PMG environment offers several characteristics that provide a distinct learning experience. 

First, the PMGs do not have a single, defined topic at the outset; rather, the material is flexible to the needs, experience, and interests of group members. Though the CTS PMG set a schedule of topics for monthly meetings early in the year, we remained flexible to accommodate new topics as the group evolved. 

Additionally, unlike a workshop, class, or a traditional dyadic mentoring relationship, a PMG benefits from a range of perspectives, rather than training on a single approach. Every facilitator brings a different style and the open nature of discussions encourages input from all participants regardless of experience level. Importantly, the setting of ground rules by the group itself early in the meeting cycle helps create a psychologically safe environment where it is ok to be vulnerable. This helps members recognize and express the limits of their knowledge, knowing that the other participants are there to support each other’s growth. 

PMGs also offer the chance to build relationships with other NORDP members beyond the annual conference experiences and the more structured learning opportunities.

What did we learn about collaboration and team science this year? 

The CTS PMG discussed a wide variety of topics over the last year! 

Sharon Pound (University of Tennessee) led a discussion about the relationship aspects of teams, including how to deal with common barriers in communication and expectations, and also the benefits of long-term team building. 

Laura Heinse (University of Idaho) presented strategies for after-action review, such as post-submission debriefs with a team to determine course corrections and evaluate lessons learned. 

Chris Erlien (Duke University School of Medicine) and Eva Allen (Indiana University)  gave an overview of the many issues unique to developing center proposals with large teams, both practical impacts like project management and strategic issues surrounding group ideation and leadership. 

Melanie Bauer (Nova Southeastern University) shared a range of strategies that she has employed to facilitate faculty networking within her institution and with other institutions in her state. 

Leah Gorman and Sarah Polasky (University of Missouri-Columbia) led a discussion about collaboration across disciplines and the strategies we employ when team members working in very different disciplinary cultures. 

Finally, guest speakers Kristine Glauber and Christine Hendron of Intereach introduced us to their community of “boundary spanners” working across disciplines. Chris Erlien provided a nice description of their talk in a recent blog post.

How can NORDP members get involved in a PMG?

The NORDP PMGs are open to all members. We encourage experienced practitioners to participate in these groups as a way to build community and share best practices (#payitforward). To see the available PMGs, visit your dashboard on the WisdomShare platform and scroll down until you see the list of Peer Mentoring Groups, where you can click to join. Our PMG group will kick off again in September, and everyone who has joined will get the notification message.  If you have already joined a PMG or a few, we hope that you continue participating in the same or new PMGs this upcoming year. If you have not yet tried a PMG, we strongly encourage you to attend this year! To all, bring your curiosity, a willingness to share your experiences, and lots of questions. 

The NORDP Mentoring Committee is planning a PMG Orientation in October. Keep an eye out for the event announcement and we welcome everyone to participate!

Fireside Chats: Stories of How Colleagues have Kindled a Career in RD

Submitted by Gagan Bajaj, Chetna Chianese, and Jan Abramson

How did you end up in Research Development? You may have had a circuitous path to this rewarding career. Many of us did.

Are you curious about how others within NORDP have grown their careers in RD? Did you know there is a large collection of 30-minute videos available to NORDP members, sharing the career stories of RD professionals? It’s true!

The NORDP Fireside Chats conversation series highlights the professional trajectories of NORDP members working in a wide variety of roles and showcases the many paths available for career growth and advancement within the field. Each conversation is 30-minute listen-and-learn session, with time provided for participant questions. 

Previous Fireside Chats guests have included:

  • Karen Fletcher, Director of Grants Resources & Service, Appalachian State University
  • Susan Carter, Director of Research Development, Santa Fe Institute
  • Mark Milutinovich, Director, Large Center Development, University of New Hampshire
  • Samarpita Sengupta, Director of Research, Assistant Professor, UT Southwestern Medical Center
  • Daniel Arriaga, Assistant Director for Research Engagement, UT Austin
  • Kelly Rose, Chief Scientific Officer, American Society of Hematology
  • Rebekah Hersch, Associate Vice President for Research and Innovation, George Mason University
  • Peg AtKisson, Founder and President, Atkisson Training Group
  • Quyen Wickham, Senior Proposal Manager, Arizona State University
  • Etta Ward, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Development, IUPUI

…and many more!

These recordings are available to NORDP members, via the NORDP LMS. To access them, first log in to the LMS using your NORDP credentials, then select the course named NORDP LEAD presents: Fireside Chats where you’ll find all of the previously recorded conversations. You can search for the course using the search bar or by selecting from the Course Categories tab (at the top of the screen) > Career and Personal Development.

You can watch any (or all) of the videos at your leisure.


2022 Volunteer of the Year Award: Katie Shoaf

First awarded in 2022, this award recognizes an individual NORDP member’s unique ability to provide an engaging, supportive, and inclusive environment for professional and/or personal growth through mentorship in the research development community. This award is bestowed with the acknowledgement that effective mentoring occurs through formal and informal channels and may vary in style and substance.

2022 Volunteer of the Year, Katie Shoaf

Who: Katie Shoaf, Director of Grants Resources & Services

Where: Office of Research, Appalachian State University

Number of years in research development: 7

Length of NORDP membership: 5 years

What has your experience being a NORDP volunteer looked like so far?

When I first joined NORDP in 2017 my boss, Karen Fletcher, was really involved in the organization and really encouraged me to also get involved. The first conference I attended was the 2017 NORDP Conference in Washington D.C., and at that conference I went to all the committee meetings to check them out and see what committee work might interest me. 

After shopping around, I ended up joining two committees right away: the Professional Development Committee and the Mentoring Committee. Each committee functions very differently, so they provided unique ways for me to provide support to the organization, and within both committees I was able to jump right in and start helping with things. For example, within the Mentoring Committee, I joined the MESHH subgroup and we built a lot of the tools that NORDP mentoring pairs use today, which was a really fun experience.

One of the next big initiatives I became involved with as NORDP volunteer was the RD101 course offered to new research development professionals. I had known Kari Whittenberger-Keith from the Professional Development Committee and knew that she was pulling together a group of volunteers to begin to build a curriculum of sorts for folks who had recently matriculated into the field. The RD101 course had been piloted at a previous NORDP conference, but there were a lot of changes that needed to be made, and there was demand to offer the course virtually. Because Kari knew my reputation as a hard worker and that I would follow through with things, she generously gave me the opportunity to be involved in updating the RD101 course and offering it virtually in 2020. And I feel like that has happened to me a lot within NORDP. I would not be where I am in the organization today without people saying, “Hey, I’ve been really impressed with you and your work, and I think you have a lot of potential. I think you can do this thing, do you want to do it?” Being able to say yes to those opportunities and have the support for that from my fellow NORDP volunteers has been so important.

My most recent NORDP volunteer role has been serving as the National Conference Co-Chair in 2021 and 2022. I had actually run for the NORDP Board before I was asked to be conference co-chair. And while my run for the Board was unsuccessful, I think it put me on people’s radar, and it was a great learning experience for me and opened up my volunteer time to get involved in NORDP in other ways. Serving as a conference co-chair has been a very time-intensive experience, one I undertook while also working full-time and working toward my PhD, so it has been so important for me to be able to set boundaries around my volunteering in order to take care of my own health. And I think that one of the best things about volunteering within NORDP – there is space for you to step back when needed to take care of yourself, and there’s room for you to jump back in whenever you feel you’re ready.

What was the first volunteer position you held within NORDP, and what led you to say yes to subsequent opportunities to volunteer within the organization?

As I mentioned previously, I first became involved as a NORDP volunteer through the Mentoring and Professional Development committees. In addition to working on the MESHH subgroup of the Mentoring Committee, I quickly got involved in the webinar planning and production working group within the PD committee, learning how to host webinars on Zoom (this was years before we were all forced into a virtual work environment, so it turns out my experience learning how to host webinars for the PD committee came in handy in 2020)! I really enjoyed the different sets of responsibilities and tasks that came with volunteering on these two different committees.

As for what led me to say yes to subsequent opportunities within NORDP, part of it is my personality. I’ve always been the kind of person who says “yes” to things, and as a young professional I’ve viewed volunteering as a way to both prove myself and get better at my job and learn new things. I also genuinely wanted to say yes because of the incredible people that I was working with – through my committee service I’ve gotten to know so many people from very eclectic and diverse backgrounds and built so many meaningful relationships, so signing up to spend more time working alongside my fellow volunteers was an easy call. I do think one thing I have learned with experience is when to say “yes” to a new opportunity and when I need to hold off on taking on something new so I can have balance, which I think is an important lesson to learn (and one that most people learn the hard way by perhaps saying “yes” to too many things).

As you’ve gotten more involved in NORDP and taken on multiple volunteer roles, which experiences stand out to you?

I think volunteering with NORDP has been a great way to build confidence, not only in myself, but in my ability to do my job. It has been very reinforcing to know that I do know things about the field of RD. I’ve learned a lot about this organization and have seen the value that it adds to people’s lives and careers. And so I think that the experiences that stand out to me are the ones where I’ve seen my fellow volunteers grow and lift each other up. There are so many members I have worked with who are so quick to say kind things and build each other up. More than once people have come up to me and commended me on presentations I’ve given or committee tasks I’ve taken on, and that’s not an experience that’s unique to me, it speaks to the broader volunteer culture within NORDP where volunteers are so quick to show gratitude, compassion, kindness, and genuine care for each other.

What do you see as the biggest rewards, and challenges, of being a NORDP volunteer?

I think the biggest rewards of being a NORDP volunteer are the professional growth opportunities that come with stepping up and volunteering. You can be a NORDP member and attend webinars and conferences and learn a lot, but I’d say volunteering adds an additional level of professional growth and more opportunities to step into leadership positions. The other huge reward is the relationships you build with other volunteers. The NORDP community is made up of so many genuinely wonderful humans and I’ve made so many lasting and meaningful friendships. And I don’t think I would have gotten that without getting involved in the organization. You don’t just get that from attending a webinar, or attending a conference once a year, you get that reward from engaging meaningfully with other people around a shared goal of supporting an organization that we all care about. 

Among the biggest challenges are finding balance and preventing burnout. It’s hard! You want to say yes to all the things when you love something, and sometimes you’ll end up saying yes to too many things. I wish there was infinite time and energy and the ability to say yes to everything, but there’s not. And I think we in NORDP are working to shift the culture of volunteering to make it more acceptable for people to have boundaries, which is so important. We ask a lot of our volunteers and we need to make sure that we’re building a culture that supports and shows gratitude to them, and welcomes in new volunteers so that we can spread the work around and ensure that nobody feels overwhelmed. There are so many reasons people may already be tapped out and burnt out right now that it can be hard  to ask someone to give another hour of their month away to volunteer, so volunteer recruitment is an ongoing challenge. But at the same time, the rewards of being a NORDP volunteer make those challenges worth it. And the upside is that these challenges are to some extent self-correcting. If we can show folks the rewards of being a volunteer, more people will seek out those volunteer opportunities and we’ll be able to distribute the work across a wide volunteer base, lessening the time burden on everyone (or at least that’s how I like to think about it)!

Are there particular volunteer opportunities (within or outside of NORDP) you’re looking forward to pursuing next?

I think at some point in the future, maybe in the next couple of years, I will run for the NORDP Board (probably once I’m closer to being finished with my PhD)! I also do a lot of local volunteering in my community that I really enjoy.

What advice do you have for NORDP members who aspire to be highly involved volunteers?

Go for it! Find things that are meaningful to you so that you don’t feel like volunteering is a chore – you want it to be something you look forward to. For me, the people within NORDP have provided that meaning, and that has made it very easy to enjoy the things that I’ve done. I also think that it’s good to have boundaries – you don’t need to volunteer for every single thing, just show up and volunteer for the thing that really compels you. And once you do get involved, take an active role in building a positive volunteer culture. Lift others up with you and give them a chance to succeed!