Re: How to become a Director of a research office? -Reply Jennifer Morgan 17 Jun 1998 14:35 EST

Last October at the SRA Meeting in Atlanta, Paula Tolbert and I presented
a concurrent session entitled "So You Want the be the Director of a
Sponsored Programs Office?"  The tapes are still available.  If anyone is
interested, call Sound of Knowledge at 619-483-4300 and ask for tape
T62.  That may prove helpful.  (No I don't get a kickback... that's SRA's
contractor for taping the conference.)

Here are my responses to the questions that the poor unsuspecting
individual asked while I was away on a long weekend.  I fully understand
the person's reluctance to give their name and hope they aren't ready to
just throw in the towel as a result of the tongue-lashing they got for
using an alias.

1) Does a degree help?  What degree was your campus administration
looking for when they interviewed you?  What degree do you have? (this
is my main question as I consider getting additional training/education)

I would advise you to pursue at least a Master's Degree if you hope to be
a Director of Sponsored Programs.  Considering the educational level of
our clientele, the credibility afforded by education is helpful.   I am
currently working on a combined M.H.A/Ph.D. in Health Administration.
My B.A. was in English with a concentration in 18th Century British
Literature.  (Just what you would expect, right?)  Public Administration or
Business would also be logical degree areas.  Columbia Southern
University is talking about offering a Master's program in Research
Administration through distance learning.  (They are on the web.)

2) What kind of experience was your campus administration looking for
when they interviewed you for the job?  What kind of experience did
you have at that time?

I had both central administration and departmental administration
experience.  I think my best assets were extensive NIH grant and
contract experience and experience in training.  I can't imagine anyone
jumping into this job without prior experience in Research Administration.
I think the best experience is working in the departments, so that you
understand the obstacles they face in getting materials ready for review
by our office.

3) Did networking help?  did they already know you, or know of you?

Networking is crucial.  I ended up with my job thanks to someone I met at
an SRA meeting.

4) Was it a big "jump?"  that is, were you working at a position that
was a step or so down from being the boss?  And how about
geographically? did you travel far to get the job?

I had been "the boss" before at the Center and Department level.  Then
moved into central administration for a short period of time before
becoming a Director.

I did move 800 miles for my job.  A willingness to relocate is helpful
unless your present Director is close to retirement or death (hopefully not
the latter!)

5) Did certification help? If so what kind.

I do not have certification.  As I have interviewed others for hiring of my
own staff, I count certification as a plus, but it is not weighed as heavily
as experience, attitude, references, education, and willingness to serve
the research community.  Certification does, however,  show that you
are serious about your profession.  It also gives you a goal to work
toward in your own professional development.

.....ANY other advice would be appreciated.  I really value all the
terrific feedback that folks provide on this serv!  I've worked in
research administration for about 15 years, the promotions have been
hard to come by, but I am starting to think that two things would
help:  a) advice from this group and b)further education...(but what

Any experience you have will be helpful to you.  We have such a wide
variety of responsibilities, it is hard to imagine any experience that would
not be helpful.  Characteristics that would also be helpful would be an
eye for detail, a good memory, a helpful attitude, a back like a duck that
will let some things roll off when tensions are high around deadline days,
and most importantly a strong sense of humor.

Hope this is helpful.

Jennifer Morgan
Director of Sponsored Programs
Office of Grants & Contracts
Allegheny Campus
Allegheny Univ. of the Health Sciences
One Allegheny Center, Suite 880
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania  15212
412-359-1523 (voice)
412-359-1556 (fax)