SAC Spotlights: An Interview with Tisha Gilreath Mullen, SAC liaison to to Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS)

In April, 2023, Elizabeth Festa sat down with Tisha Gilreath Mullen to discuss Tisha’s experience as a SAC Liaison to Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS).

Tisha Gilreath Mullen, SAC Liaison

The Strategic Alliances Committee (SAC)‘s NORDP Liaisons Program is an exciting opportunity for NORDP members to thoroughly advocate for Research Development to external organizations and associations while gaining additional professional experience. While championing NORDP, Liaisons provide an invaluable service to NORDP members by gathering and sharing relevant and useful information as part of a broad and strategic outreach program.

In April, 2023, Elizabeth Festa sat down with Tisha Gilreath Mullen to discuss Tisha’s experience as a SAC Liaison to Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS).

Tell me about your role at University of Nebraska.

I lead the Office of Proposal Development, a five-member team situated within the Office of Research and Economic Development’s research development group at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

What is the mission of your liaison organization, ARIS?

Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS), an NSF-funded initiative that originated as NABI (National Alliance for Broader Impacts) in 2018, brings researchers and engagement practitioners together to build capacity, advance scholarship, grow partnerships, and develop resources to help facilitate and demonstrate the impact of research in communities and society.  

Why did you decide to become a liaison to ARIS?  What benefits has it conferred on your organization and on your own professional development?

My role as a liaison offers me an opportunity to broaden my professional network by meeting and collaborating with colleagues working in the research impact space. It made sense for me to seek out this type of engagement because the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has enjoyed a strong relationship with ARIS from its very beginnings as NABI and the relationship has always been viewed by my leadership as mutually beneficial. Over the years, we have offered ARIS Broader Impacts 101 training for faculty and we were among the pilot participants in the ARIS Program to Enhance Organizational Research Impact Capacity (ORIC). ORIC, in particular, was useful for enhancing the supports and resources we deploy to help our faculty extend the societal impact of their work. We now have a research development position dedicated to research impact and we are involved in piloting the ARIS Toolkit Project in one of our faculty development programs.

What benefits and resources of ARIS would you like NORDP members to know about?

The ARIS Toolkit, a compilation of resources that research development and research impact professionals can use to help faculty think strategically about how to identify and cultivate robust community partnerships, is publicly available. It’s an amazing resource for NORDP members who guide faculty toward understanding what elements are needed to create a robust and mutually beneficial broader impacts plan. Beyond the Toolkit, ARIS offers webinars on topics of interest to both our communities (NSF CAREER proposals, for example) and, of course, there are opportunities for organizations to participate in ORIC. Upon graduation from ORIC, organizations become part of a research impacts community of practice, which helps to sustain momentum gained through the program. It’s also worth noting that NORDP and ARIS have a joint Memorandum of Understanding, which includes discounted registrations for NORDP members to attend the annual ARIS Summit and ARIS members to attend the annual NORDP conference. I encourage anyone interested in learning more about ARIS to attend the Summit. It affords access to colleagues who are doing innovative research impact work, sneak peeks at new tools to facilitate research impacts; and insights into new concepts that are driving innovations in the space. If your experience is like mine, you’ll be challenged by the Summit to think in more expansive, powerful, and inclusive ways about the work you do. 

How were you challenged by this year’s ARIS Summit?

This year’s Summit in Baltimore focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. The speakers and sessions challenged me think more deeply about what we are doing well in the Office of Proposal Development and areas in which we need to improve.  The keynote was delivered by Dr. Natalie Shaheen, Assistant Professor of Special Education at Illinois State University, who is blind.  She talked about access and equity for a blind population and identified different strategies for engagement and disseminating research. For example, when introducing speakers to an audience that includes blind individuals, do we describe the speaker’s appearance? If we are using slides, are they fully accessible? As an audience how do we express engagement with a blind speaker (such as finger snapping or foot stomping, for example)? When we publish research, what considerations are we giving to accessibility (do we translate the work into Braille, for example)? While we are attuned at my institution to the importance of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, we have less often considered how to reach audiences with physical disabilities. These insights will impact how my team coaches on inclusion moving forward.

How does our alliance with ARIS help to promote the professional development of NORDP as an organization?

The NORDP/ARIS alliance is a natural connection that is integral to the work of both organizations and we can accomplish so much more by working together. There is a true synergy to this alliance, where the whole is most definitely greater than the sum of its parts. We can learn from each other at the grassroots level and wield more influence on the national and international stage when we unite for change.

About the Strategic Alliances Committee

The Strategic Alliances Committee focuses on the interactions between NORDP and all external entities, including research funding, government and private agencies, and other professional organizations. Our goal is to become recognized as the “go-to” organization regarding interactions between funding agencies and research performing institutions, and to facilitate communication and collaborations between research institutions themselves. The signature program of the Strategic Alliances Committee is the member-led NORDP Liaison program which utilizes a matrix approach to reach out to over 20 organizations including AAAS, APLU, the National Academies, and the European Commission. Click here for more information and to get involved.