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.


NORDP LEAD: Developing Leadership Pathways Within the Field of Research Development

Applications for the second cohort of NORDP Leadership, Engagement and Development (LEAD) are being accepted through 11:59pm EDT on Monday, August 22, 2022.

NORDP LEAD is focused on creating pathways for member engagement, service, and leadership across all levels of NORDP and within the research development profession. The program initially grew out of a need to develop strong leadership pathways within NORDP and has expanded to help prepare members to become committee chairs, working group leads, or Board Members within NORDP, as well as to step into leadership roles within their home organizations.

Lisa Lopez, 2022-2023 LEAD Cohort Leader

Lisa Lopez, a Senior Research Development Officer in the College of Health and Human Development at Cal State Fullerton, participated in the first LEAD cohort and is looking forward to working with the second LEAD cohort this fall. “What we want to do this year is build on the strong foundation of the first LEAD cohort and bring in elements that will give participants the tools to help them grow within the field and at their home institutions,” said Lopez. “Ultimately, we want participants to leave the program with a better understanding of where they want to take their next level of commitment to this work.”

Participants in the 2022-2023 LEAD cohort will gain an understanding of different leadership strengths and styles; planning for professional growth; and opportunities for advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in research development. They also will learn about NORDP’s operations and structure, what it looks like to serve on the NORDP or other non-profit boards, and opportunities for service throughout the organization.

The upcoming LEAD cohort will be limited to 12 individuals to maximize opportunities for learning, community building, and professional networking. The cohort will meet on the third Thursday monthly from September 2022 to April 2023. Nathan Meier, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and one of the LEAD program co-leaders believes the small cohort size will provide an even better experience for participants. “We want to spend quality time together as a group, and this cohort size will allow for deeper opportunities for more intimate connections among participants,” noted Meier. 

When asked what an ideal candidate for the LEAD program would look like, Lopez and Meier emphasized that they view LEAD as a program for NORDP members at all levels, not just long-time NORDP members. “There’s no requirement to have been working in RD for a long time,” pointed out Lopez. “We’re just looking for folks who have been in RD long enough to know that this is what they want to do.” Added Meier, “An ideal applicant is someone who’s at a place in their NORDP membership or RD career where they feel at home and want to put down roots. Someone who is ready to spend some time thinking about where they want to go within the organization and the profession and is interested in receiving support as they move along that path.”

Jessica Moon, previous LEAD Cohort Member

Jessica Moon, the Executive Director of the Stanford Aging and Ethnogeriatrics Research Center and member of the first LEAD Cohort, says that participating in LEAD has paved the way for subsequent opportunities and positions within NORDP, and she continues to apply the lessons learned from LEAD. “I learned a lot about NORDP as a nonprofit organization, which I think makes LEAD unique from other opportunities within NORDP. Many of the topics we discussed focused on growing as a professional, not just as a leader within NORDP, and I have applied those lessons broadly to my professional life,” said Moon. “I had a lot of feelings of imposter syndrome, but LEAD gave me the confidence I needed to (successfully!) run for the Board this year.”

Participants in the 2022-2023 LEAD cohort will create a professional growth plan as part of their capstone project for the program, which they’ll be able to put into practice within NORDP and at their home institutions. This element of the program is what Lopez is most excited about. “Developing leadership and growth plans and engaging in strength finding are going to provide tremendous opportunities for LEAD participants to learn about themselves and connect with others around shared professional goals,” said Lopez. “It’s so important to have these kinds of intentional spaces to engage in this important reflection and development.”

Nathan Meier, 2022-2023 LEAD Cohort Leader

Meier added, “The benefit of participating in LEAD is that participants will get to focus on their growth in a way that’s proactive. Oftentimes in our RD jobs, we’re reacting to things and solving problems for others. Folks in the program will get to take some time for themselves once a month to reflect on and dream about what they want out of their careers. They’ll get to know themselves better as an RD professional and as a member of the NORDP community.”

Moon encourages all NORDP members to consider applying for LEAD. “Taking a page from Nike—Just Do It! Even if you don’t want to run for the Board right now, the professional networks, leadership training, and better understanding of NORDP as a nonprofit organization are highly valuable.”

Cohort 2 applications should be submitted via InfoReady by 11:59pm. EDT on Monday, August 22, 2022. Applicants must submit their contact information; a short statement of interest and readiness; and a copy of their curriculum vitae or résumé. All NORDP members in good standing are eligible to apply.

For additional information or questions about NORDP LEAD – Cohort 2, contact Lisa Lopez or Nathan Meier.

Call for Volunteers: NORDP LEAD Fireside Chats: Career Stories

Are you looking for a way to become more involved with NORDP?

Do you like the spotlight, enjoy talking with people, and have the ability to think on your feet?*

Or, are you detail-oriented, with good follow through?*

         (*oh, wait, we are research development professionals….we have the skills)

The NORDP LEAD workgroup is actively seeking volunteers to contribute time and talent to the popular Fireside Chats: Career Stories. This is a great opportunity to refine some skills (or try something new), work with fun people, and contribute to the NORDP community. And a bonus: this volunteer opportunity will only take about 2 hours per month.

What we are looking for:

Facilitators/Interviewers for Fireside Chats. Fireside Chats are 30 minutes – responsibilities include talking with the presenter beforehand, finalizing interview questions, and conducting the interviews. Prior Fireside Chats, and the upcoming presenters, can be found here.

Program Coordinator(s) for Fireside Chats. Responsibilities would include arranging speakers, working with First Point Management Resources (FPMR) to schedule, and promoting the event to NORDP members. This role may also include finding members to serve as Tech Hosts or being the Tech Host in an emergency.

Thinking about volunteering? It’s a team effort! You will be mentored by the NORDP LEAD members who have been coordinating the Fireside Chats. You will have support, guidance, and an opportunity to put your personal touches on a well-received NORDP member benefit.

Intrigued? Or know someone who might be great in this volunteer opportunity? Please reach out to Jan Abramson ( We’d love to have YOU as part of this team!

Upcoming Career Stories: Fireside Chats

You are invited to attend the next Career Stories: Fireside Chats, a collaboration of NORDP LEAD, and the Professional Development and Member Services Committees on Thursday, February 18 at 1:00 pm EST / 10 am PST.

This conversational series, developed in response to member requests, will highlight the professional trajectories of NORDP members. The series will showcase the multiple ways NORDP members ended up in research development and the many paths available for career growth and advancement.

The February speaker will be Susan Carter, Research Development Director at Santa Fe Institute (New Mexico). Susan is a founding board member of NORDP and has over 20 years’ experience in research and faculty development, diversity and team science, and as a research funding program officer and administrator. Susan will share her journey in research development, and the ways in which involvement in NORDP has supported her professional development. 

Register for the Thursday, February 18 conversation HERE.

Mark your calendar for next month’s Fireside Chat. Mark Milutinovich, Director of Large Center Development at the University of New Hampshire will be sharing his research development pathway on Wednesday, March 10 at 2:00 pm EST / 11:00 am PST.

You can register for Mark’s conversation HERE.

Career Stories: Fireside Chats are designed to be 30-minute listen and learn sessions, with time for follow-up questions. The sessions are being archived and made available for later viewing via the NORDP LMS. If you are interested in sharing YOUR RD story, please contact Jan Abramson.

NORDP LEAD Kickoff September 29

Wondering how to make the most of your NORDP membership? Interested in enhancing your leadership capacity and professional network? Curious about what it takes to land an advanced role in research development?

If so, join the kickoff conversation to learn about NORDP Leadership, Engagement and Development (NORDP LEAD) scheduled for 2 p.m. EDT/10 a.m. PDT on Tuesday, September 29.

NORDP LEAD is being established to help create pathways for member engagement, service and leadership across all levels of NORDP and the research development profession. The program is intentionally designed for all NORDP members to participate. 

The program will launch with the Sept. 29 kickoff conversation. Following a program overview, a moderated panel featuring four NORDP members will discuss the opportunities for and personal benefits of committee service and leadership, board of directors service and institutional leadership. Panelists include:

  • Jeff Agnoli, Ohio State University
  • Vanity Campbell, University of California
  • Kimberly Eck, Emory University
  • Samarpita Sengupta, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

There also will be an opportunity for participants to network and engage with colleagues in Zoom breakout rooms. Join in the conversation, make new connections and gain additional information or perspective. Please click here to register for the NORDP LEAD kickoff.

Beyond the initial discussion on Sept. 29, NORDP LEAD will engage and support participants using the peer mentor group (PMG) model. PMGs connect NORDP members at many levels of professional development to share resources, provide feedback and act as accountability partners in skill building and professional development related to increasing engagement, service and leadership potential.

Please contact with questions.