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

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!

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!

Career and Professional Development Peer Mentoring Group (CPD PMG):  Reflecting on this Year and Looking Forward

Phew! It is June already.  Where has the time gone?

In the NORDP Career and Professional Development Peer Mentoring Group (CPD PMG), we began the year by coming together, introducing ourselves, and determining what we’d like to do by collecting jam board entries and prioritizing them using a survey. After discussing the survey, we decided to begin by sharing about ourselves — how we got into Research Development (RD), how our careers have progressed, and the structure of our offices.  We moved on to reviewing fireside chats for lessons that we could apply to our careers and professional development, learning from presenters: Kelly Rose, Daniel Arriaga, David Widmer, Peg Atkisson, Rebekah Hersch, Samar Sengupta, Mark Milutinovich, Karen Fletcher, and Susan Carter.

What did we learn from our NORDP colleagues sharing their journeys?

Networking and connecting with others: Networking is important!

  • Get to know people, even if you are an introvert, e.g., set a goal to meet and learn about a targeted number of people at a conference.
  • Reach out to colleagues at your organization and get involved with NORDP. Getting involved with NORDP can simultaneously help you get to know others and what they are doing to further the goals of their organizations, while providing thoughts for how what you learn can be applied at your own organization.
  • Getting to know your faculty and building trust with them will benefit your work.

Professional Development: Believe in yourself — “own your own value”! 

  • Make professional development a priority. Identify a niche area that can pay off for your own growth. You may find that what you learn and how you grow not only allows for your own advancement, but for that of the RD profession as well.
  • Upskilling to learn additional skills is important.  
  • Doing a skills assessment can help identify your strengths and areas where you could grow. See NORDP Mentoring’s self-assessment tool.
  • Mentoring, both providing and receiving, is an important piece of career and professional development. Get mentoring from a number of people (see NORDP Mentoring’s MESHH Network tool for assistance in identifying a mentoring network).
  • Look at new opportunities as learning experiences.

Career Development: Remain open to change!

  • Sometimes serendipity helps us land in a new position; other times a career move is purposeful and may arise out of doing a skills assessment. Putting in the [sometimes hard] work, persevering, and engaging with others at your organization and within NORDP can lay the foundation for future opportunities.  
  • Be willing to get out of your comfort zone and ask for informational interviews.
  • If a position meets your interests/desires, be willing to try for it.

Our professional development discussion led to sharing thoughts on potential connections to other relevant professional organizations. Examples included the International Network for the Science of Team Science (many NORDP members subscribe to the INSciTS listserv) and Intereach — a community of practice whose stated purpose is “to articulate and promote the need for a dedicated career path around interdisciplinary research expertise, and to improve practitioners’ tools, best practices, success metrics, and career trajectories.”

If Intereach sounds interesting, note that Christine Hendren, Intereach co-Chair, presented to the Collaboration and Team Science PMG on May 17, 2022. Dr. Hendren founded Intereach in 2015 “to connect research professionals with expertise in synthesizing and communicating integrated science across disciplinary and organizational boundaries to effectively address wicked problems.” The CPD PMG hopes to learn how RD professionals can contribute to solving issues as one of the many diverse perspectives needed to tackle challenges, potential professional development opportunities within Intereach, and related careers that utilize RD skills. A transcript of this conversation can be found here.

Where will the 2022 NORDP Conference and the rest of the year take us?

The time we’ve spent together talking about goals and strategies on professional development prepared us well for the annual NORDP Conference, which provides a meaningful occasion to gather new ideas to implement on the job, to connect and reconnect with colleagues, to further develop professional networks, and to find new ways to become actively involved with NORDP. 

For the remainder of the year, we plan to focus on discussions that will help position us for the next career move with topics such as articulating RD professional impact, obtaining management experience without formal direct reports, or engaging in RD research and publications. We will push ourselves out of our comfort zones and help increase marketability for the next career opportunity!

Compiled by Christine Erlien (Duke University School of Medicine Office of Research), Deborah Lundin (East Carolina University Office of Research Administration), and Danielle Matsushima (Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons).

Transitioning from Mentee to Mentor

A mentoring reflection from Melissa Li, a Research Manager at the University of Michigan.

Melissa Li

As the 2021 – 2022 NORDP Mentoring Program is coming to the end, I have officially been a mentor for one year at NORDP. Looking back at my journey of becoming a mentor, I’d like to share a few reflections with the NORDP community.

Why be a mentor?

Being a mentor requires time, energy and commitment. What motivates mentors to be willing to make investments in others? Generally speaking, mentors are at a career stage where they have been in a mentoring relationship as mentees formally or informally. They have benefited in their career growth from others’ time and investment. One of mentoring’s positive impacts is to inspire former mentees to help others who may be in similar situations or face similar challenges by  paying it forward. Also, being an effective mentor requires a skill set that is gained through training, practice and constant refinement. Mentors, particularly new mentors, have unique opportunities to hone their skills that may not be developed in a regular work environment. Another benefit of being a mentor is that mentors get to know more people and expand their own networks. Last but not least, learning is not one-way. Everyone has strengths and unique experiences. Mentors can learn new perspectives, new knowledge and new tools from their mentees. 

When to be a mentor?

For those who are considering becoming a mentor, one of the biggest questions probably is “Am I ready?” This was the question that I asked myself before I decided to become a mentor. There are a few factors that can be taken into account. The first is experience. Mentors often share insights based on empirical evidence which requires first-hand experience. So mentors usually have been in their fields for some years. However, the experience is not exclusively about professional experience; experience gained in one’s personal life is often transformable in professional contexts. A mentor’s experience is viewed as a holistic whole. Second, a mentor comes with a genuine willingness to engage in the mentoring relationship. To me, becoming a mentor was a calling. The idea of being able to help others gives me joy. There are at least two-fold meanings of willingness. One is about being willing to share knowledge and experience; and the other is about being willing to discuss one’s own lessons learned, including success as well as regrets and mistakes. Then, I asked myself, “Am I qualified to be a mentor?” This is about the next factor – confidence, which is the certainty one feels about the mentor role. A great way to seek validation is to ask those who you trust. For example, I asked two of my mentors, both of whom are senior leaders in my institution. Both fully supported my decision of becoming a NORDP mentor. Hearing them say “Melissa, you’re ready” gave me reassurance and confidence. Another important factor is commitment. As I mentioned earlier, mentoring requires time and energy. One should evaluate their bandwidth and make sure promised time is honored consistently. If you just changed your job recently or you are starting a major renovation project in your newly purchased house, it’s probably a good idea to delay starting the mentor role.

How to be a supportive mentor?

In my experience, the most fundamental and universal skill is active listening. Active listening enables us to gather information and recognize others’ perspectives and feelings. Remember, listening is to understand, not necessarily to respond. Via effective listening, mentors understand mentees’ questions, needs, challenges and so on. Demonstrating compassion without being judgmental helps develop trust in the mentoring relationship, so that mentees feel comfortable sharing “difficult things”. By effective listening, mentors also can understand what mentees want, including career goals and expectations during the committed mentoring period. Mentees usually are the drivers of the mentoring relationship. The job of the mentor is to align mentoring efforts to help mentees achieve their goals. 

Another way to develop trust and create a safe space is to show vulnerability, which takes courage. This also circles back to the willingness that I mentioned earlier. Being willing to share not only successes but also “detours” along our career journeys will make mentees’ experiences richer so that they become conscious to avoid similar mistakes and they fully trust mentors by telling their struggles. In some cases, mentors don’t know some subject matters, simply acknowledging not knowing the answers is completely fine and normal. Using myself as an example, I asked one of my mentors “What do I do if I can’t answer my mentee’s questions?” My mentor said “You can just say ‘I don’t know.’” I have said “I don’t know” from time to time while trying to find answers by connecting them with others who are subject matter experts.

In addition, it takes a bit of project management skills for logistics. If I promise to follow up with my mentees on resources/information, I either do it right after the meeting or write a reminder on my calendar so that I don’t forget. Also, I take notes during meetings and review the notes 5 – 10 minutes before each meeting to be prepared.

Becoming  a mentor provides a rich and rewarding learning experience!  There are numerous mentor training opportunities and I have benefited through two programs. First, I participated in NORDP’s mentor training program organized by the Mentoring Committee. During the training, I learned that the facilitators were all trained by CIMER, the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research. I was inspired by my CIMER-trained peers and have since become a trained CIMER facilitator too. The training prepared me well as a mentor. I know this is just the beginning of my mentor journey. I look forward to many years ahead being a mentor. 

2022 NORDP Mentoring Days Celebration

Alt text: Image of six humans interacting and supporting each other, juxtaposed with large block letters spelling MENTORING. Image Source: Adobe stock #296042991.

Registration is now live!

The NORDP Mentoring Committee presents the 2022 Celebrating Mentoring Days on Wednesday, June 29 and Thursday, June 30. All NORDP members are invited to attend! 

What: 2022 Celebrating Mentoring Days to kick off the NORDP mentoring activities!

When: Wednesday, June 29, 1pm – 3:15pm EDT and Thursday, June 30, 12:30pm – 3:15pm EDT. Registration will open soon!

Who: NORDP members who are excited about Mentoring

Dr. Mica Estrada, UCSF

We have the great pleasure of having Dr. Mica Estrada back to talk about strategies for cultivating kind and inclusive mentoring relationships. Dr. Estrada is the Associate Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California at San Francisco’s School of Nursing. We will hold a watch party of her 2022 NORDP Conference Plenary on “Why Kindness Is Important When Mentoring in an Interconnected World”. Dr. Estrada will then join us in a follow-up discussion and Q&A as we dig deeper into how to incorporate strategies for inclusive and kind mentoring in our relationships.

We will kick off with a welcome and cohort activities involving pair orientation for participants in the 2022 – 2023 Mentoring Program. We aim to collectively learn from former, current, and aspiring mentees and mentors in the popular McHuddle format that includes multiple engaging activities and discussions on mentoring. For those looking to get more involved with the Mentoring Program, information will be presented on Peer Mentoring Groups or PMGs. We currently have seven PMGs with various thematic focuses which are open to new members all year. You can easily sign up using the Wisdom Share platform by a simple click! 

We look forward to seeing you at the upcoming Celebrating Mentoring Days!

Mentoring Takeaways from NORDP 2022

A reflection from Jessica Brassard, Mentoring Committee

Kindness. Vulnerability. Knowing ourselves deeply. Giving space to others. Invitation. There wasn’t an official theme to the NORDP 2022 Conference, but these threads of humanity wove through every session I attended. Being honest with our humanity and interconnectedness draws us to mentoring. I’ll take this opportunity to pull out sparks from under a mentoring lens in the keynote and three plenary sessions. 

Keynote (Monday) – Broader Impacts: A Strategy for Research Development – Susan Renoe

Dr. Susan Renoe, our esteemed keynote speaker and the recipient of this year’s Research Development Champion Award, opened the conference on Monday with Broader Impact (BI) advice. She balanced the broad strokes of BI with the nitty gritty of agency expectations. We often find ourselves in mentoring and matchmaking positions with researchers—helping faculty connect with the assets around them on campus, in community, and across a national network of practitioners. Whether trained in mentorship or not; whether part of a formal program or in a moment of serendipity; whether in NSF-defined BI or by doing things we love — we mentor to help the people around us realize their impact in the world. For additional background, read the pre-conference blog post about Dr. Susan Renoe here

Plenary (Tuesday) – Minority Researchers and Equity in the STEM Field – Dyhia Belhabib

In her talk, Dr. Dyhia Belhabib exposed culturally ingrained behaviors. Some behaviors we might recognize in people we work with everyday, while other behaviors might have been surprising to find in ourselves. Either way, Belhabib’s own stories, research, and vulnerability created a pathway for us to think about our own environments and behaviors within existing social frameworks. In mentoring, we must recognize in ourselves these potentially harmful behaviors and actively mitigate their impact to others. This holds true for mentors and mentees. A mentoring relationship is a safe place to be able to hold up a mirror together and think through our perceptions and how we might want to change our behaviors and reactions. One of the key takeaways, especially for our mentoring relationships, is to ask members of minoritized groups how they want to be represented and involved. Ask your mentee next time you speak with them — “How would you like me to represent you when speaking about or involving you with others?”

Plenary (Wednesday) – Examining barriers and identifying solutions towards achieving equity in STEM – Sherilynn Black

Dr. Sherilynn Black’s plenary talk highlighted that, very often, our DEI programming is structured so that we don’t actually jump into the discomfort of change, and thus change is slow or nil. Individuals within a space who want to change culture and climate often come with ideas and resources from a limited source (e.g. reading one book or paper does not make an expert!).  Mentoring is all about change. We enter mentoring relationships to find support for the change we want to make — whether in ourselves, in our professional definitions, or in the programs and systems we execute. While we talk about using the NORDP mentoring resources á la carte, perhaps this is a good reminder that we should come to our mentoring conversations fully prepared to do the hard work that is necessary to make meaningful change. Let’s push ourselves to use the self-assessment every year, update our MESHH network regularly, and consider diving into the Mentor Training program if we haven’t already. For additional background, read the pre-conference blog post about Dr. Sherilynn Black here

Plenary (Thursday) – Why Kindness is Important when Mentoring in an Interconnected World – Mica Estrada

Dr. Mica Estrada was invited to speak at #NORDP2022 by members of the Mentoring Committee specifically because of their connection to her at the 14th Annual Mentoring Conference organized by the UNM Mentoring Institute in October 2021. For NORDP, Dr. Estrada wove together stories of humanity with rigorous research on the effects of mentorship in STEM environments. She led us through thought exercises to feel the residuals of a moment of kindness. She spoke about the multi-faceted care required to live as a whole person. And for those of us who are moved by evidence, her research data speaks volumes for the life-changing benefits of access to mentoring programs. Our NORDP mentors and mentees believe in this work. With each dyad conversation that happens throughout the year and with each Peer Mentoring Group (PMG) meeting, we feel the effects of this work. Those of us who know the benefits need no further convincing, but it is amazing to see it at work in other institutions, with different people, and in other stories. For additional background, read the pre-conference blog about Dr. Mica Estrada here

As members of NORDP, and with access to our phenomenal NORDP Mentoring Program, we are swimming in a wealth of knowledge, evidence-based structure and resources, and — most importantly of all — people who care deeply about the success of each and every one of us.

All In On Mentoring

A mentoring reflection from Marie Teemant, Associate, Research Development Services, Research, Innovation & Impact (RII), University of Arizona.

Marie Teemant

I have thought a lot about mentorship in the last few years. I am a Ph.D. candidate in Art History at the University of Arizona. My personal experience and my observations of others’ in this realm appears to be uneven, to say the least. I hear from various colleagues of their own levels of satisfaction or want in terms of the levels of support, engagement, openness, and feedback they receive from their mentors (often an advisor or committee member). Of course, this type of mentorship also appears to serve as an often-singular pipeline of student to academic.

My experience as a new research development professional has significantly opened my eyes to the amount of discovery that can be found within a well-considered and planned mentorship program. I am quite new to this field, having found this path as a graduate fellow in my department at the University of Arizona, assisting in the communications of development opportunities, before moving into my current full-time position supporting faculty in external Honors & Awards. The structure within my department has been open in terms of sharing experiences to support one another as we build campus networks and improve our methods of faculty support. If the learning curve is steep stepping into a research development role, I have always felt like those ahead of me have built in markers and hand holds to follow while working through this learning. 

It has been the NORDP mentorship program, however, that has helped me identify growth areas, connected me with extensive resources, assisted in the beginnings of my research development network, and has anchored me in my own professional development. Recently, my NORDP mentor, Samarpita Sengupta, invited and encouraged me to seriously consider being a mentor myself next year. On the face of it, my limited experience and green-ness made me immediately enumerate what I lack in terms of my ability to help someone else. However, as I discussed the idea with Samar and thought about how mentorship has nurtured me over the last year, I have come around to a new way of thinking about what someone as new as myself might offer. 

To that end, I would like to elaborate on three key ways I have benefited from my participation in the mentorship program: building skills with my mentor, centering professional development in my career life, and identifying gaps in my knowledge.

Building Skills with my Mentor

My art history professors never explained how hydrophobic cells interact with various medications, the terms of details of the gut microbiome, or novel methods for measuring antibodies. Like many other research development professionals, my academic career does not always align with the disciplines of faculty I support on nominations or proposals. On particularly challenging nominations, the organization may ask for a robust explanation of the science, which, at times, I found myself at a loss for how to best direct and support the faculty. While co-workers with such expertise were always willing to look over the technical jargon and support the faculty as well, I looked to my mentor to learn to read scientific literature more competently and improve my editing skills on this front.

Samar was more than willing to look over an anonymized, past nomination with me. She broke down the process of understanding enough to get past the area-specific language and ask questions that would improve the proposal. She introduced me to the structure and types of writings within medical sciences, for one, which could help me gain a quick grasp on some of the basics to make the topics less intimidating. Most importantly, she was a person I could turn to without judgement and with the background knowledge to help me see what I could not before. 

Since this early conversation, these skills have provided me with confidence to move forward advising on narratives, proposals, and other materials that may require deeper knowledge in areas outside my training background.

Centering Professional Development in my Career Life

Even with the mentorship program, it is easy for my personal growth to take a back seat to the myriad of deadlines, last-minute requests, and meetings that occur in my day-to-day. I will confess to not always being the most diligent mentee in making consistent times for robust professional development activities, but simply having monthly check-ins with my mentor keeps what I want in my professional life in the forefront (… okay, maybe middle front, some weeks). 

Months where I have more time to dedicate to specific activities and bring the results back to my mentor have often been the ones with the most growth attached to them. Afterall, a mentor cannot give to you what you have not prepared to receive. However, even during the months when I had a smaller capacity for my own professional development, the regular meetings have allowed me to check in with myself and not let a significant amount of time pass between revisiting my own goals for building my knowledge and career.

Identifying Knowledge Gaps

There’s a challenging time in the early stages of learning that I consider the “you don’t know what you don’t know” phase. Whether it’s terminology, processes, systems, or organizations, there is plenty to learn and sometimes the only real barrier is not knowing the questions to ask or resources to seek out.

In addition to having a built-in guide to the world of research development in my mentor, the structured program itself has provided a roadmap to think through where I am, where I’m headed, and where I see myself long term. The à la carte approach to these materials has been helpful in the early stages to familiarize myself with the overall field. I have made a more concerted effort as I approached and passed my first anniversary as a research development professional to take time with these workshops and reflect on where I have come from as well as where I would like to go. 

Going all in

I look forward to the upcoming year as part of the mentorship program. As I have considered the invitation to step into the role as a mentor, I reflect on the real basis and need for mentorship. While this can include deep skills and knowledge of the profession, some of the best mentorship I have received is simply having someone whose expertise, involvement, network, viewpoint, and pathway has been different from mine. We are also in a unique position as professionals where our numbers are consistently and robustly growing, creating a need for our peer mentorship in the process. 

So next year I look forward to expanding my participation in the mentorship program as both mentor and mentee. On the one hand, I hope to continue inscribing my path on my RD roadmap, while also helping someone else consider theirs.

The 2022-23 NORDP Mentoring Program is now open for applications! Current users of Wisdom Share have the ability to change their profile to make themselves available for being a mentor, mentee or both. For first time users, a registration step is required. We highly encourage everyone to sign up to be a mentor! Application period closes by May 16th.

NORDP Mentoring Reflection: Erica Severan-Webb and Erin Meyer

As the 2021-22 Mentoring year draws to a close, the mentoring committee caught up with another dyad pair. Erica Severan-Webb, who serves as the Director of Diversity Programs and Initiatives within the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center in New Orleans mentored Erin Meyer, who serves the University of Utah College of Nursing as a Research Associate. 

Bios:

Erica Severan-Webb is an experienced leader in both the education and non-profit sectors who has conceptualized, designed, and implemented inclusive programming and initiatives to achieve institutional transformation.  She co-authored and served as Co-PI on XULA STRIDES, a NSF ADVANCE grant designed to increase retention of African American STEM faculty at an HBCU.  Her passion for organizational diversity, equity, and accessibility is demonstrated through her work with colleagues, students, and community partners and her continuous engagement and empowerment of individuals and organizations in transformative change models.   

Erin Meyer

Erin Meyer earned a PhD in pharmacology from Georgetown University. She has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She completed a six year postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience and genetics at the University of Utah and she was a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Utah. She is currently a Research Administrator at the University of Utah, College of Nursing. Erin is also a yoga therapist and she is interested in DEIA and disability studies. 

What influenced you to apply to be a mentor and a mentee for the 2020-21 NORDP Mentoring Program?

Erica: I have had incredible mentors who have encouraged my development and challenged my thinking and leadership practice.  My mentoring relationships have contributed to my career progression and have made me a better RD professional and leader.  I was excited to serve as a mentor to be able to provide that opportunity for a colleague.  

Erin: I have had many great mentors in the past. When I started this program, it had been a long time since I worked with a mentor. I was at a place in my career where I wanted a mentor and I was at a loss about where to find one. I felt stuck without options to advance my career or to change career paths, and I wanted some advice. I am glad NORDP has a program.

What was your favorite part about your relationship? 

Erica: I am always so passionate about learning about individuals and organizations through mentoring relationships.  Erin was such an amazing colleague to discuss how Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) principles and RD intersect, as well as how institutions and professionals can leverage both their expertise and skillsets as RD professionals to advocate for a more inclusive culture within their institution as well as more broadly throughout academia.   

Erin: I specifically requested a mentor from a diverse community. I am from a diverse community, and I have never had a mentor who understood DEI challenges in RD, and in the broader context, DEI challenges in academia. I learned so much from my mentor in these areas. I am now empowered to make a difference in DEI, no matter where I am working.

How has participation in the Mentoring Program helped broaden your horizons about Research Development in general and/or affected your daily work in particular? 

Erica: Erin and I had great conversations and discussions about how DEI and RD intersect.  I always look forward to our chats and treat our discussions as a priority where I disconnect and am fully engaged to provide substantive feedback and strategies that have been beneficial to me in my own development.

Erin: I always look forward to my calls with Erica. I learned from Erica the differences in RD career trajectories and career limitations among large public academic institutions, smaller private academic institutions, and companies in the private sector. In addition, Erica took the time to reach out to someone who knows people at my current institution and through this contact, I have expanded my network. I now have some plans of how to move my career forward. I do not want my relationship with Erica to end.

What surprised you about being a mentor or a mentee?  

Erica: While not surprised, I am always humbled by the incredible talent and expertise that exists within the NORDP community.  So many colleagues sustain institutional initiatives and programming that are innovative while also maintaining service commitments within their institutions and other national organizations.  Erin is no exception as she has been a DEI champion on her campus – this is truly inspiring to my own work and practice.  

Erin: I was not surprised that I learned a lot about RD and DEI. I knew that I was lacking in my knowledge in how these areas intersect. I was surprised to learn that feeling stuck in my career has a lot to do with where I work—the type of institution. I learned from Erica how to navigate this institution.

Any words of wisdom or encouragement for those wanting to apply next year? Any other thoughts you would like to share?  

Erica: Participation in the program always serves to motivate me to continue to look for opportunities to cultivate meaningful mentoring relationships where I can serve as a resource to mentees and foster support as they navigate through specific projects or career transitions points. 

Erin: I went for a long time without a mentor. I will never do that again. I realize how important it is to have a mentor, so I plan to always have at least one. I am also willing to be a mentor.

Erica: Please sign up to be a mentor for the NORDP mentoring program! It is phenomenal in its ability to foster mentoring relationships that facilitate incredible learning opportunities for both mentees and mentors.     

The 2022-23 NORDP Mentoring Program is now open for applications! Current users of Wisdom Share have the ability to change their profile to make themselves available for being a mentor, mentee or both. For first time users, a registration step is required. We highly encourage everyone to sign up to be a mentor! Application period closes by May 16th.

Compiled by Samarpita Sengupta, Mentoring Committee

NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.