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.

Enjoy!

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!

Liaison News Roundup

The resources and opportunities below are presented on behalf of NORDP’s Strategic Alliances Committee (SAC).


Overseas Research Centers’ Faculty Development Seminars: The Council of American Overseas Research Centers’ upcoming faculty development seminars to India, Mexico, and Senegal are now accepting applications. Note that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the seminars to India and Senegal were postponed and will now take place in winter, while the seminar to Mexico will take place in Spring 2023.  CAORC offers fully funded overseas seminars that help faculty and administrators at US community colleges and minority-serving institutions gain international experience with the aim of developing and improving international courses, curricula, and teaching materials at their home institutions. To learn more, visit their website.


Team Science Resources: The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) has an online set of resources that will be of value to many NORDP members.  Dr. Margaret Palmer, director of SESYNC, was a keynote speaker at the SciTS 2022 conference (https://www.inscits.org/2022-keynote-speakers), where she shared the important collaborative and interdisciplinary research they’ve been doing.  This set of resources is part of SESYNC’s new website (www.sesync.org) that contains a vast collection of lessons and learning materials for the classroom, videos, case studies, data lessons and guides, explainer articles, and more. The materials cover a range of unique and innovative topics, including the science of team science.  They will continue to add to this collection to help those at all career stages to engage in socio-environmental and interdisciplinary research.


Expert Finder Systems Sets April 2023 Forum Date: On April 5 and 6, 2023, at the University of Miami Expo Center in Coral Gables, Florida, this Expert Finder Systems in-person event will bring together the research information management system community — practitioners, open-source tools, vendors, and researchers — to advance this rapidly evolving field. NORDP’s own Jeff Agnoli, Senior Liaison Strategic Partnerships at The Ohio State University, is helping plan the forum as a member of the Steering Committee. He says the great weather, gorgeous venue, and vibrant community make this event worth adding to your calendar! Registration and hotel details will be coming soon.

2022 Rising Star Award: Kim Patten

Kim Patten, Rising Star Awardee

Who: Kimberly Patten, Assistant Vice President for Research Development; NORDP Board of Directors, Designated MSI Seat

Where: University of Arizona

Number of years in research development: 17 years total: 8 years in academic research; 4 years in science research management; 5 years in nonprofit research management

Length of NORDP membership: 8 years


What initiative are you the most proud of in your role as a NORDP volunteer?

As a NORDP volunteer the thing I am most proud of is spending time with the Strategic Alliances Committee and working with them to formalize our relationships with sister organizations. From a professional perspective I think the thing I have done and willingly shared in service to both my institution and the profession is trying to help think through career progression in research development and developing these lines of progression. The structure I have developed at the University of Arizona is six different levels within research development, plus an additional five levels of management lines. There are eleven different career progression steps that you could be involved in research development. I’ll admit that implementing these lines is more difficult than creating them, but just having them is a start.


How has your service to NORDP enhanced your career?

How has it not? The best thing about NORDP is the community and sharing, willingness of individuals to share best practices. I’m reluctant to say that I have come up with anything originally. Instead, it’s a culmination of best practices, digging in deep and talking to people. Then taking the pieces that would fit at my institution. People are so willing to give, share and provide support within this community. That willingness to share has enabled me to think about implementing infrastructure within my institution and how we fit into the larger research development picture.


How did you hear about NORDP and what made you join initially?

I started at the University of Arizona in 2014. The grant funding I had was coming to a close and a friend sent me this job opportunity.

I came into the position under a former NORDP board member, Anne McGuigan, who provided phenomenal mentorship and that connection to NORDP. I became a member of NORDP almost from day one of joining the University of Arizona and attended my first conference in 2015, where like many before me have said, I found my people.


What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP (new colleagues, connections to institutions where you previously had no point of contact)?

I serve in the mentoring program as both a mentor and a mentee.  I have been paired frequently with people at less resourced institutions and it’s just incredible to me what they can accomplish as a one-person shop. I have also grown an informal mentor network through committee connections. And then there’s the listserv postings; I’ve reached out on more than one occasion based on someone’s job posting or guidance on the listserv. People at NORDP are so kind and willing to help. As a hiring manager, bringing on new talent is one area that I have relied on help through the NORDP network. For example, engaging with postdocs and through the national postdoc association group or looking at faculty spousal hires. These are a couple of the ideas that have come up through NORDP.


Describe how NORDP has changed from when you initially joined

NORDP has certainly grown. It is constantly improving processes and remaining flexible. NORDP is still in a discovery mode. It is still an incredibly welcoming organization and the work done by committees like the Committee on Inclusive Excellence and Member Services is making it an even more welcoming organization. We are at a tipping point for thinking through what services we can provide as an organization for our growing membership. Really there is nowhere to go but up. The bigger and broader the network, the better informed we all are and the more ideas to harness.


What recommendations do you have for members to get more involved with NORDP?

My first recommendation is to sign up for mentorship. One of the most important things that a research development professional and NORDP member can do is expand your network – find someone outside your institution you can throw ideas around with, learn from and grow with. The next one is to think about your strengths and whether you want to continue building and growing them or try something new. It’s not a bad thing to try something new, especially if you’re brand-new to RD. We all fall back on our comfort zone. New experiences can help you network and build collaborations (and this is coming from someone that finds networking incredibly uncomfortable). Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself because NORDP is such a welcoming and open community that you will find a way to contribute regardless of what you decide to do.

I am incredibly humbled at the nomination and to actually receive the award I find it hard to put into words how I feel. I sincerely appreciate this organization and what it has done for me, professionally and personally. I hope I have given back even a percentage of what I have received. To be in the cohort that was selected – these are some of the people that I also look up to, is humbling.

2022 Rising Star Award: Joshua Roney

The NORDP Rising Star Award recognizes individuals for their outstanding, early volunteer contributions to NORDP and strong potential for future contributions to the organization and the profession or the field. 

Joshua Roney, Rising Star Awardee

Who: Joshua Roney, PhD, Associate Director, Research Development, Office of Research

Where: University of Central Florida

Number of years in research development: 11 ½ years

Length of NORDP membership: 9 years


What initiative are you the most proud of in your role as a NORDP volunteer?

I started with the Professional Development (PD) Committee who were looking to transition to a new platform for webinars and other online events. We helped the transition to Zoom to be successful and developed procedures for running web-based events that continue to be utilized and updated as needed. Another initiative I am proud of is the Tools and Tips (“TNT”) talks launched last year – this was a collaborative effort to capture a more informal way to briefly share helpful resources with NORDP members. This has been well received and is now a regular offering through the year.


How has your service to NORDP enhanced your career?

It has made me more confident as an RD professional and has given me experience in specific areas like planning and delivering engaging workshops. Serving has also allowed me to gain insights and training on some areas that have evolved and grown in our profession (Competitive Intelligence, for example). Being mindful of changing opportunities for RD support and being proactive at my institution with regard to them has helped me to advance in my career and be successful.


How did you hear about NORDP and what made you join initially?

My manager, Jo Smith, encouraged me to join and participate in NORDP. She was passionate about research development and helped to continually strengthen the Research Development office at UCF. She passed that along to me – the philosophy that NORDP is the authority in RD information and a valuable community to be involved in. She wanted me to be an actively involved NORDP member, and I trusted her advice. It has been a rewarding experience.


What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP?

I have friends that I have now worked with for years through serving on the PD Committee and connecting and presenting at conferences. I have also been able to collaborate with some of them outside of NORDP through scholarship and grant activities. Connecting with people in PD Committee has been great for me because people join for different reasons. I initially joined PD Committee because I wanted to get promoted from GRA to a full-time employee, which meant for me the start of my career. Others may have joined because they wanted to advance their skillset, expand their office, or strengthen the depth and range of resources available. Because we’re coming from different places, we’re bringing different energy and experience to our group. Working in RD, there may be only a small number of RD professionals at that institution, and I think that may be part of why NORDP is so collaborative. I’ve found that members are extremely willing to share information, resources, advice, and assistance. That spirit is baked into NORDP.


Describe how NORDP has changed from when you initially joined

When I first started in NORDP, everything felt brand new. I’m so glad that the sense of finding new opportunities ahead has been a continual experience while being an involved member. I’ve been happy to see trends in RD workshops and discussions continue to evolve over time, and the growth of the organization has continued to bring more voices into the mix. I’ve also seen exciting developments in RD growing in the production of scholarly works, and it’s nice to see new vision elements periodically noted by NORDP leadership.


What recommendations do you have for members to get more involved with NORDP?

Don’t feel like you have to wait for a good fit opportunity to appear before getting involved. If you have ideas for things, you will likely find people or initiatives that can align with that good idea. Don’t wait to give things a try. If you do that with the intention of connecting with the people you will be working with, then I think you won’t be disappointed.

I’m so grateful to NORDP and the experience of being involved. Where I am in my institution and professionally is intertwined with my positive experience as a member of this organization. My original plan was to get my graduate degree then become a teacher, but I changed plans because I found RD to be a better fit for me. I still have opportunities to teach through things like workshops and mentoring, and there are always new things up ahead to learn and adapt for my institution.

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.

2022 Rising Star Award: Kelsey Hassevoort

The NORDP Rising Star Award recognizes individuals for their outstanding, early volunteer contributions to NORDP and strong potential for future contributions to the organization and the profession or the field. 

Kelsey Hassevoort, Rising Star Awardee

Who: Kelsey Hassevoort, Research Development Manager

Where: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Number of years in research development: 4

Length of NORDP membership: 3 years


What initiative are you the most proud of in your role as a NORDP volunteer?

I have been involved with both the Professional Development (PD) Committee and Committee on Inclusive Excellence (CIE) during my time with NORDP. I am particularly excited about the success of the TnT (Tools & Tips) talks that have grown out of PD. These are monthly informal events that bring members together without having the high bar of a formal presentation. TnT talks have become a space for people to give advice and share strategies and tools that they use in their day-to-day work, and I think they’ve come to serve as a virtual water cooler of sorts for NORDP members.  It has been gratifying to see the TnT concept evolve from a PD committee idea to actual events for NORDP members. I hosted one this spring and it felt like I was talking to forty of my closest friends!  NORDP members can join these sessions live or watch recordings in the LMS.


How has your service to NORDP enhanced your career?

My work with NORDP has not only broadened my professional network, but it has also provided me with a deeper understanding of what a career in RD can look like. I have been fortunate to be able to do a lot of job crafting throughout my (relatively short) career in RD, which has allowed me to create a perfect blend of responsibilities in my current role as a Research Development Manager focused on community engagement. I wasn’t quite sure if there was anyone else in NORDP thinking about the same kinds of issues, but that concern was quickly put to rest when I posted to the NORDP conference idea board about leading a conference session about research impact or community engagement and immediately heard from multiple NORDP colleagues interested in teaming up! I have learned so much from the other members of the NORDP community, from strategies and approaches that I have brought back to my home institution to ideas about the directions in which I’d like to guide my career in the future.


How did you hear about NORDP and what made you join initially?

When I joined the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute at the University of Illinois, my fellow RD colleagues were all already NORDP members. My boss immediately encouraged me to join and I’m fortunate to work at an Institute that financially supports staff professional development, so joining NORDP was an easy call. The first (and so far, only) in-person NORDP event I’ve attended was the fall 2019 Great Lakes regional meeting at the University of Michigan, and the first person I remember meeting there was Jill Jividen, who was incredibly welcoming. I know many of my fellow NORDP members have said this, but after spending that meeting in a room full of brilliant RD professionals, hearing them share their philosophy about their work, I had that moment of realization that, “these are my kind of people.” RD folks are smart, organized, and love to think about big questions.  I went to the sessions and remember thinking that it was so cool that there are so many people whose job it is to think about these things.


What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP?

My first connections were primarily within the Great Lakes region with people I met at that first regional meeting. But my committee work over the past year or two has expanded that network significantly.  I have also participated in the mentoring program as a mentee for the last two years, and am embarking upon my first year as a NORDP mentor after serving as a Career Navigator last year. As I’ve become more involved in presenting at the NORDP conference, I’ve made connections with my co-presenters who are each doing incredible work at their institutions when it comes to research impact. These relationships clearly take many forms, but they have all furthered my understanding and made me more excited to expand my involvement in NORDP. The relationships I’ve built and the diverse perspectives my NORDP colleagues have generously shared have certainly given me a better perspective to bring back to my own RD work at the University of Illinois. 


Describe how NORDP has changed from when you initially joined

I have been really pleased about how innovative NORDP members and leadership have been in the face of the pandemic that forced us to change how we gather at the regional and national level. Virtual retreats and conferences have offered new ways to engage with each other, and our conference committees have figured out how to make them energizing and fun! There is so much value in coming together and I’m glad that we have been able to continue to do so throughout the pandemic. It has also been heartening to see the increased focus and conversations on DEIB and accessibility issues, and I hope that each of us will continue to advance the progress that has been made so far within NORDP and will push for change at our home institutions.


What recommendations do you have for members to get more involved with NORDP?

I would recommend picking a committee or a program that sounds interesting and try it out by showing up for a committee meeting or event! When I was exploring where I could volunteer within NORDP, I looked at each of the committees and talked to other NORDP members to get a sense of how each committee functions. The NORDP committees I’ve served on so far have been full of welcoming members who are happy to help new members get their bearings and encourage others to step up and lead initiatives without putting too much pressure on them. That is one of the best things about NORDP as a volunteer organization – people are willing to let you serve at your own pace and find the thing that is exciting to you!

Stepping into a leadership position within the Communication Working Group has also been a true growth opportunity for me, and I would strongly encourage my fellow NORDP members to take on a leadership role within the organization where they can, whether it is as a mentor, a committee chair or working group lead, or the host of a virtual event! Serving in a leadership role can help you recognize talents you didn’t realize you had and find ways to build skills and stretch yourself in ways that you may not be able to at your home institution.

At its core, service to NORDP offers a chance to meet a lot of great people, further your own development, and help create value for an organization doing amazing work. So try it out!

Last Call for ARIS/NORDP Senior Fellow Program!

ARIS (Advancing Research Impact on Society) is inviting nominations for four Senior Fellow positions. Nominations are due August 5, 2022. The application process can be accessed here.

Senior Fellows will serve as co-chairs in one of two priority areas:

  1. Preparing the next generation of researchers for impact. This group will synthesize the best available evidence, practical knowledge and tools to effectively support graduate engagement and education to advance research impacts. Selected Fellows are likely to have experience developing graduate curricula, innovating graduate programming or mentoring, supporting graduate student grantsmanship, and/or engaging graduate students through professional societies and organizations.
  2. Spotlight on minority-serving institutions. This group will use a journalistic approach to identify, investigate, and broadly share stories of broader impacts leadership from faculty, students, and staff at MSIs. They will interrogate the individual and institutional mechanisms of success and explore the promise of future broader impacts leadership at MSIs. This priority area is funded and designed in partnership with the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP).

Nominees for these leadership roles should have a deep knowledge of the current conditions, practices, and policies shaping graduate education or the research enterprise at MSIs. In addition to a CV, nominees will be asked to provide a brief statement (no more than 400 words) describing their:

  • interest in and experience related to the priority area; and
  • initial thinking on how they would lead a team of Fellows to pursue the project.

Senior Fellows will also participate in recruiting, reviewing, and selecting Fellows who will be invited to work on a collaborative team (September – November 2022). The program will run through the 2023 calendar year. Senior Fellows will be supported by the ARIS team throughout the process and expected to co-chair monthly team meetings and work sessions and provide guidance and mentorship to Fellows as they work to deliver a high-quality resource to the research community. Senior Fellows will also represent the team and the ARIS Fellows program at national meetings such as the Annual ARIS Summit or NORDP Annual Conference.

2022 Innovation Award: Karen Walker

The NORDP Innovation Award recognizes individuals, groups, or teams; functional units; or organizations who leverage unique skills or resources to kick-start innovation in research development and advance the profession or the field in ways that generate evidence of promise or demonstrable results. Innovators leverage partnerships, experiment with tools and techniques, or generate and share knowledge to advance NORDP and the work of its members.

Karen Walker

Who: Karen Walker, Associate Director of Research Development

Where: Arizona State University

Number of years in research development: 12

Length of NORDP membership: 10 years


Karen Walker was awarded the 2022 NORDP Innovation Award for her contributions to establishing academic competitive intelligence as a field within research development. She founded the function at ASU and has given numerous national and international presentations on the topic. She also founded the Competitive Intelligence Working Group, a national group of professionals that meets monthly to share insights and best practices within the world of competitive intelligence.


What is competitive intelligence and how did you first become interested in establishing CI as a component of research development?

Competitive intelligence is the ethical collection and analysis of information, which informs decision making. We’re taking both quantitative and qualitative information, and we’re putting it into context in order to arrive at actionable insights for our stakeholders. So in an academic setting, CI is an approach that provides a better understanding of the funding landscape, allowing our faculty to submit more competitive proposals. At ASU, we also use it to help our leadership gain a better understanding of how our university is positioned in various research areas, which allows them to make more informed decisions. Competitive Intelligence has been around in industry and government for many years, and I first became interested in applying CI practices to work practices in the research office at ASU around 2012. I was trying to get a better understanding of sponsors and other universities, and figure out how we could help faculty develop more targeted strategies for seeking funding, and CI seemed to be a useful tool for doing that.


What was the process of building out competitive intelligence, both at ASU and at the national level, and how did your membership in NORDP play a role in your efforts?

For the first four years that I was doing CI, I was working on my own. At that time, I was also running our limited submissions process, so it was a bit of a challenge trying to get CI off the ground here. But I was fortunate in that there were a number of people at ASU who saw the value in what I was trying to do, not the least of which was Faye Farmer our Executive Director of Research Development at ASU. In fact, Faye was the one who encouraged me to submit an abstract to NORDP for a presentation at the 2016 conference, and that got accepted. I didn’t expect much response, but I presented to a packed room, and I think so many people were interested in learning more about CI because it was such a new thing. 

After that presentation, I had a number of people come up to me and I was able to connect with them and begin to form a network of people interested in CI. We have a CI working group (founded in 2017), which is a national group that meets and puts on presentations, about six times a year. Our goal is to build best practices and increase our exposure to different CI techniques. And the formation of that group is all due to those NORDP connections

Meanwhile, back at ASU, we were getting more and more requests from the leadership for projects. And so the team started to grow. We have a team of three amazing analysts now! It has been wonderful to see institutional investment in CI grow over the years, not only here at ASU, but also at other universities. I have talked to a number of colleagues at other universities who are either getting practices off the ground, or actually building out full-time positions within their offices, which is something I never would have imagined when I first started working on CI and has been incredibly rewarding to see.


What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP, and how have these relationships influenced your work?

The relationships I’ve built through NORDP have been really amazing. I have made some good friends, and the people I’ve met have exposed me to things I never would have thought of. Ryan Champagne, from University of Pittsburgh was one of the first people who reached out to me after that presentation. Ryan is not only a fantastic person, but he was the first person who exposed me to the whole world of Library Science and he brought that to our whole CI working group. Alba Clivati McIntyre and Matthieu Karamoko at The Ohio State University have also become close colleagues for our team at ASU. Alba is an incredible source of knowledge. And there are so many other people who have joined the CI working group or who have contacted me because they’ve heard, through NORDP, about CI and they’re interested in learning about it or building CI out at their institutions. It has been wonderful to have an extensive network to draw on, and people are extremely generous with their ideas and their time.

I was honestly shocked to have received this award and I am so grateful to my colleagues for nominating me. I feel immensely rewarded that competitive intelligence has been taken up so much by the NORDP community.


What other innovations have you observed within NORDP (or the field of research development) since you first joined?

After working in research development for more than ten years, one thing I’ve noticed many of us in the field collectively doing is trying to shift our faculty and leadership away from being so reactive, and toward being more proactive or more strategic. It seems like there has always been that mindset of “What’s the latest funding opportunity that has come out? What can I apply to right now?” But what we want our leaders and faculty thinking about is how to plan years out into the future. I think adopting a strategic mindset is so much more at the forefront now than it was years ago, and I think that is a really great place for those of us in RD to be — supporting our leadership and helping shift into that proactive mindset.


What advice do you have for NORDP members leading their own innovative initiatives within the field of RD?

One thing I have learned throughout this process is that nobody is an island. You can’t do it alone. You can have the idea and the vision and believe in it passionately, and that’s great, but you need to find others who will understand what you’re trying to do and support you and want to be part of that journey. I have been thrilled to see people incorporating CI into their office — that is something I never would have imagined when I first started doing CI. And the process of growing CI as a priority within RD wasn’t always easy, but luckily I had people who supported me and who could see the value of what I was doing. So my advice would be to find your vision, but also find your people. Cultivating a network is key to reaching those lofty goals and it’s also really rewarding to see people appreciate and see the value in what you’re doing. It can feel hard at times to let others in on something you may feel ownership of, but I also believe people will recognize you for what you do, so be generous and let people in.

2022 Mentoring Award: Jan Abramson

First awarded in 2022, the NORDP Mentoring 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.

Jan Abramson

Who: Jan Abramson, Principal Consultant

Where: Penultimate Advantage

Number of years in research development: 17

Length of NORDP membership: 11 years


What has your mentoring journey within NORDP looked like?

In 2011, on the advice of a colleague, I joined NORDP shortly after taking a new position at the University of Utah. Like many, I ‘found my people’ when I joined NORDP. I applied for the mentoring program – and was not matched my first year. It was a disappointment, but I’m pretty tenacious – I found other ways to get involved as a NORDP volunteer, including expressing an interest to volunteer for the mentoring committee. Within a year, I was on the committee, and matched with a mentor, too.

Since then, I have remained involved with the Mentoring Committee, served as a mentor, and have benefited from being a mentee. It’s been exciting and rewarding to watch the mentoring program grow as NORDP has increased membership, and to have been a part of the committee that has focused on supporting mentors, mentees and members, providing new programs and services, and adapting to the needs of NORDP members. It pleases me that the Mentoring Committee works hard to make sure everyone who wants to be a part of the mentoring program, can, indeed participate. AND that the Mentoring Committee is an open, welcoming, awesome group, so come join us!.

One fun story about how the mentor-mentee process has evolved over the years: in the early days, matching took place manually (this was when NORDP was a smaller organization). As the number of people interested in mentoring grew, the first step toward an automated matching process was that someone wrote  R code to do the matching. So we would  receive applications, run the code,  go back in and tweak the matches, then recruit more mentors to ensure that everyone could be matched. Now, as you know, the committee uses WisdomShare, which has been a real help as the number of NORDP members interested in participating in the mentoring program continues to grow!


What initially drew you to mentoring?

I think, because early in my professional journey, I didn’t really have mentors, I had an ‘unnamed need.’ My first work in higher ed was in student development, student leadership, and orientation, and I soon recognized the power of mentoring to help students tap into their potential. From there, my commitment and passion grew, and I began to seek out mentors, and mentor others. I have been able to immerse myself in the world of mentoring, seek formal training, and really start to bring together the elements of mentoring that had always been in the orbit of my career. I found it so rewarding to be able to give, share and support others, that mentoring is woven into the fabric of my professional and volunteer work.


What does being a good mentor mean to you?

My mentoring philosophy is my foundation: I mentor to #PayItForward, to help colleagues see and become their best selves. Being a good mentor does not mean having all the answers, being perfect, or having to fix things. Being a good mentor is being human, learning along the way (the easy lessons, and the hard ones), and at the end of the day, honestly believing you did the best you could. (and being willing to learn and grow)! I have also found that good mentoring is oftentimes just attentive listening, and then being willing to reflect on what you’ve heard. It’s really important to build a relationship with your mentee so that when you listen attentively and offer your perspective, you can say the things that will help the mentee, especially the hard things.

And if you’re nervous about making that transition from a mentee to a mentor, it’s really important to remember that the Mentoring Committee has put together tools and resources and help and stop gaps and checks. Nobody becomes a mentor in NORDP on their own, all you need to do is reach out to somebody on the mentoring committee and ask for support. The Mentoring Committee has put together a solid support system in order to help anyone who’s ready to step into the role of mentor!


What do you wish you had known when you began your mentoring journey?

As a mentee, I wish I had not been so worried about imposing on my mentors’ time, and hadn’t spent time feeling intimidated by my mentors. As I became a mentor, it became clear to me that a person who volunteers to be a mentor is doing it from a place of wanting to be a mentor. Sometimes life gets in the way (see my earlier point about mentors being human), but mentors really do take on that role because they want to be involved in those relationships.

And as a mentor, I wish I would have been more aware of the many resources available to those looking to hone their mentoring skills. Looking back, I wish I had started that deliberate learning around mentorship skills earlier. I also wish I had known how much I would learn, grow and benefit from being a mentor. I wish I had known how much joy mentoring would bring, and how my personal and professional networks would expand exponentially!

It can be intimidating to become a mentor — yet, we all have something to give, share, and so many ways to #PayItForward. And always remember, the Mentoring Committee is ready to help you in your mentoring journey. Being a mentor is an opportunity to keep learning, expanding networks, and enjoying colleagues.


What have you found most rewarding, and most challenging, about being a mentor?

The most rewarding part of being a mentor is all of the great people that have become a part of my life. It has been the human-to-human connections that have turned into heart-to-heart connections –– and the connections that continue through career and life changes. It’s the reconnecting, and picking up where we left off. I recently ran into a student that I mentored more than 20 years ago and whom I hadn’t  seen in 10 years. And as we struck up a conversation, we both had that immediate recognition of connecting at a heartfelt level. It is an amazing feeling. 

The most challenging times, as a mentor, is when the relationship seemingly goes off the rails. When, for whatever reason, the space for grace is gone. Those times, albeit, very rare, are for me, times of pain and sorrow. But they have propelled me to new insight about myself, my mentoring style, and what is really most important for me.


What advice do you have for others within NORDP who wish to follow in your footsteps?

My advice for my fellow NORDP members: get involved. Wherever, however, and whenever you can. Find the place where you can make a difference. I’ve served on committees, co-chaired a NORDP conference and served on the NORDP board. I have valued each of these experiences, and through them learned that it’s committee work where I feel I have made the most lasting contributions.

And there’s no need to follow in my footsteps! Forge a new path. It’s so exciting to see all of the growth and changes taking place in NORDP, under the leadership and guidance of the next generations of RD professionals. Be true to your own path, build on the connections you make along the way, and pay it forward!