In honor of the first annual Research Administrator Day, we interviewed Cayuse staff who have previously worked in Research Administration and asked them about the path that led them into the unique field of work. Many did not set out to be a Research Administrator, in fact, many didn’t know this position even existed. But once immersed in the world of research, they knew it was the right place for them and found great satisfaction in helping researchers change the world. Here are their stories:
Amy Kimble – I think like most people, it kind of happened by accident. I started working at UC Irvine in the Housing Office doing accounts receivables and wanted something a little more challenging and that had me working with people vs. looking at ledgers all day. I applied for and got a job in the Math Department which included helping PIs apply for research grants. This was the part that I actually enjoyed; working with the PIs on their administrative application, creating budgets and then working with the central office (Sponsored Projects), to ensure that the proposal was ready to submit to the sponsor. I did that for a year, until a job in Sponsored Projects opened up. At this point, I was looking for something a little more challenging, so I applied and got the job. It’s funny, when I initially told my boss in the Math Department about my interest, he cautioned that I wouldn’t be happy there. I’m glad I didn’t take his advice. I worked in Sponsored Projects for about 5 years. It was a very challenging and stressful job, but that paled when compared to my daily contributions in helping researchers change the world. What I liked most about that job was the customer service aspect and that nothing was the same day to day.
Anita Mills – I have been in love with research since I taught Montessori school students the LOGO computer language for my first research project over 26 years ago. I have been involved with research throughout my career and have always been interested in how humans interacted with computer systems. During graduate school I worked as a Research Psychologist at the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory and dreamed of training the astronauts. After graduate school, I relocated to Chicago and started working at the University of Illinois at Chicago as a Research Administrator. Over the last 17 years I have gained a broad knowledge of Research Administration through my work at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, University of Pennsylvania, New York University, and the University of the Sciences.
Carrie Yakura – When I graduated from San Francisco State University with my BA in Art Education, I stepped into the world with a paint brush in one hand and an application to Peet’s Coffee and Tea in the other. I wasn’t interested in an office job and steered clear of any signs pointing to a career path. All I knew was that as long as I had food, clothing, shelter, some oil paints and canvas, I was happy. Fast-forward a few years later: I was a stay-at-home mom of four years and found myself in a position where I needed to support my family. A good friend of mine helped me get a job as an administrative assistant at Stanford University’s Office of Sponsored Research, where I learned about what research administration does and why it exists. Prior to this, I had never heard of research administration. After working at Stanford for a while, I got a job at University of California at San Francisco as a Proposal Analyst in the Contracts and Grants office, reviewing and submitting proposals. From there, I became a Pre-Award Analyst in the Department of Neurology and learned how to build proposals and work with PIs. A few years later, UCSF decentralized pre-award operations and created Research Management Services, which combined the departmental pre-award positions with central office positions. Thus, I became a Research Services Coordinator for the Department of Neurology. I have deep respect and admiration for research administration and the dedication that is brought to the work. The human beings who strive to make their institutions better in order to serve other human beings to make them better is what research administration is all about. I am proud to be a part of that.
Kelly Morgan – I never set out to be a research administrator and never even knew it was a career until I fell into it. I worked my last couple years in college as a University Parking Attendant and graduated with a degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Chemical Addictions. I worked as an Addictions Counselor for juvenile offenders for several years before having my son and realizing that I would no longer be an effective counselor now that I was a mom. I went back to the University Parking Office and quickly realized that I needed to use my brain or I would go crazy. The Office of Sponsored Programs was hiring and I thought: “How hard can filling out forms be?” It was a decent-paying job for the best employer in the area I lived in, so I decided to interview for the position. I had no idea what I was in for! I also had no idea how much I could love work like this – I was helping people do amazing things! Now, I get to do the same thing in a slightly different capacity – I help brilliant people do amazing things so that other brilliant people can do amazing things.
Kevin Ferrell – My path into Research Administration was the result of a chance encounter with a vice-president of a management consulting firm. I was completing my MBA and planning to pursue a career in either marketing or sales in the software industry (ironically) when I was presented with the opportunity to be a consultant in higher education. I always loved working on projects that involved trying to develop creative solutions to issues; therefore it sounded like a perfect opportunity. Many of the first projects I worked on focused on trying to figure out how to improve the pre- and post-award processes at universities across the country. I quickly realized that institutions across the country struggled with similar problems; a competitive funding environment, lack of personnel, inadequate administrative systems, and burdensome processes. After a couple years I relocated to Albuquerque and an opportunity presented itself at the University of New Mexico that allowed me to use my consulting experience to help fix similar issues in their Sponsored Projects office. Upon completion with the implementation of Cayuse 424 and Cayuse SP, I was asked to help launch a new IRB office on the main campus; which, with the help of my fantastic staff, we successfully got up and running in only 4 months. I spent several fantastic years at UNM; however with these projects completed I knew I wanted to get back to assisting other institutions with improving their research administration processes. While my path into research administration is far from typical, I’ve enjoyed tremendously working in this field and the impact we have in helping ensure vital research is funded and supported going forward.
Matty Gilreath – I enjoy establishing and/or improving upon business processes. I had previous experience as a Senior Case Administrator for the American Arbitration Association (AAA), in which I also learned the importance of respecting/following proper policies and guidelines. After AAA relocated its operations, and I personally moved elsewhere, I was on the lookout for my next career opportunity. I had to make a decision between two administrative job offers: one at a private wealth management company, and the other in academia. I chose the latter, because it sounded more interesting to me. When I first began working for a Harvard Medical School Professor in 2002, I was new to the world of Research Administration, but I immediately used these skills (and learned new ones!). I still remember my supervisor Rachel showing me how to correctly put together a phonebook-thick paper(!) NIH grant to FedEx it out on time. It was stressful, but I enjoyed coordinating the various aspects of producing the grant; it’s a collaborative effort, and overall I liked to collect them. Over the years I have worked with a wide variety of researchers, faculty, administrators, assistants, accounting/contracts and grants staff at institutions from all over the world. I’ve derived great satisfaction from playing a part in grants being submitted and awarded.
Do any of these stories sound familiar? Join the story telling and let us know how you landed a job in Research Administration.