Who: Kim Patten, Assistant Vice President for Research Development
Where: University of Arizona
Number of Years Working in RD: 15 years
Length of NORDP Membership: Nine years
When and how did you enter the field? What kind of research development work do you do?
My first position was working for a science-informed nonprofit started by a bunch of astronomers and engineers. I worked on the issue of light pollution, and one of my first assignments was to build a coalition of researchers, nonprofits, and governmental entities. Working with my director at the time, we received NSF funding for a workshop (my first NSF grant!). With preliminary data based on connections made at that workshop, an instrument that was designed and funded by NSF. And that was my introduction to RD, forming teams, getting funding, and sponsoring research (and I was hooked).
I went to graduate school, but stopped at my masters, and then joined the Arizona Geological Survey, running a large Department of Energy center that was nationwide, therefore, logging some frequent flyer miles in the process. I enjoyed working with these teams, providing dedicated support throughout the lifecycle of the research process. With just under a year left on the project, a friend told me the University of Arizona was starting a new department within the research office and encouraged me to apply. And I made the leap. There were better benefits at the university than in my other state job, including parental leave benefits, and better work-life-balance. In all honesty, I’m really happy I made that leap. The transition was difficult as I really loved what I was doing at the Survey, and the people, but here I am!
Today, I engage in a lot of strategic initiatives. I’m one of the primary liaisons for the research office with our federal relations arm. So, I have moved (and this is a Jennifer Lyon Gardener and Jeff Agnoli term) further “left of proposal” in my current efforts than in my previous positions. A lot of what I’m doing these days is leveraging federal relations activities for and toward appropriations and authorizations requests. We’re trying to get ahead of the major research activities authorized in the CHIPS+ Ac and Inflation Reduction Act. My work has transition to more of a strategic direction while others on our team focus on relationship development and proposal development.
What’s your history with NORDP? How have you engaged with the organization (committee work, conferences attended/presented)?
I’ve been a NORDP member since 2014, first presenting at the annual conference in 2015. I missed 2016 because of the birth of my kiddo, but I’ve been to every one since then. I’ve participated in numerous committees, including the Nominating Committee (NomCom), and the Strategic Alliances Committee (SAC). I’ve also been working to help and support both my institution and NORDP with professional career lines and career development activities. If you look back at some of my conference presentations, you’ll see how I worked with HR to get six lines of professional contributor and five lines of management for my RD team. Now, I’m trying to implement those, which is much easier said than done.
I joined the NomCom in 2015 and served as its chair through the pandemic. I was drawn to serve on SAC because of its focus on partnerships and engaged research. Partnership development, especially at the organizational level, was of particular interest to me, as I was transitioning part of my team into more partnership development, including supporting my leadership as they stood up a societal impacts unit. I was really interested in learning from the organization called Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS) about that potential, and that’s how I got recruited to be a NORDP liaison to ARIS. We do now have an Office of Societal Impact at the University of Arizona. It does not report to me, but it’s a parallel office to mine, and we report up to the same VP, which is nice. And we collaborate significantly. All to say, I appreciate NORDP for the personal and professional growth as well as lessons learned from across the organization and with/from other organizations. We are a community of lifelong learners, and it shows.
What motivated you to run for the NORDP Board?
I’ve had my eye on the board for a little while; that’s part of why I wanted to be on NomCom, to see what the process was like. I was serving on another board through 2021, so I felt that I could not feasibly add the commitment, especially one with such a high volunteer load. To serve well takes a significant commitment, and hopefully a commitment that is supported by your employer (mine has been wonderful in supporting me).
My previous board service gave me experience with organizational development and growth, and I can to bring that to NORDP. From a bylaws overhaul to an investment policy, that board work took on a “cleanup” of the organization’s systems and support infrastructure, and I felt that experience would help the NORDP board and NORDP as an organization. That service also provided me with insights into staffing and outsourcing of a small, but mighty, non-profit. I’d argue that NORDP is at a transition point in its growth, and I’m excited to be part of the board that helps us reach the next level of infrastructure and support for our phenomenal community of contributors.
While I hope that my previous board experiences will help, I also hope that my experience in running and leading a comprehensive RD shop is also relevant. One of my goals for my own team is to encompass the four core areas of RD, as defined by NORDP: (1) strategic research advancement, (2) communication of research and research opportunities, (3) enhancement of collaboration/team science, and (4) proposal support functions.
What are you most excited about as a new NORDP Board member?
I am most excited about the fact that we are primed for success. I think the previous boards and the membership have done a great job of building a fantastic community and making sure that RD is a recognized field. I think that we are at that make-or-break moment, and I’m looking forward to helping make it happen. I think that the existing board members are phenomenal and talented individuals. They have been welcoming and have treated me warmly. I also have a board mentor, so that’s fantastic. I’m really looking forward to supporting NORDP to provide the infrastructure that’s needed for future success. I’m a big fan of collective impact and thinking about backbone organizations. Excited to make that happen for NORDP.