Research administrators quite often are isolated from faculty. We spend a great deal of time in our offices formulating budgets, filling out forms, and making sure that all proposals are submitted on time. We usually are located in an administrative building, protected by office staff. Typically, faculty come to us when they need help; we rarely leave the office to help faculty. For many of us, the objective has become proposal processing rather than faculty development.
In my experience, proposal processing and faculty development need not be mutually exclusive objectives. Research administrators can achieve both objectives simultaneously by working with faculty to develop an understanding of each faculty member's professional goals. Proposal submissions will increase as faculty recognize that the research administrator is an ally and begin to discuss ideas that might result in future proposal submissions.
While the ideas presented in this Insight article are based on my experiences at a predominantly undergraduate institution, I believe many of the techniques I describe would be equally effective at other types of colleges and universities, as well as in other research settings. In this time of reengineering, it would prudent for university and college research administrators to find ways of providing better services to our clients, the faculty. The following article describes how the personal touch can play a part in this process.
Six Ways to Personalize Your Faculty Development Program
1. Hold an open house at the beginning of the year. Invite both new and experienced faculty. Encourage experienced faculty to bring new faculty members from their departments. Entice people to come by offering snacks, desserts, and beverages. While an open house is primarily a social event, work-related objectives also can be achieved. At my institution, we display funding source books and newsletters for guests to peruse. We also use this opportunity to demonstrate SPIN; we will do a modified search for interested faculty during the open house. While faculty explore the grants office, we don't miss the opportunity to talk about the services that the grants office can provide to faculty.
An open house gives new faculty a chance to learn where the sponsored projects office is located, what types of services are provided by such an office, and to whom they can turn for help with a proposal. We have found that inviting experienced faculty to our open house allows new faculty to learn about the grants office from their peers. New faculty discover that we are a service-oriented office, that we have helped others, and that we are available to help them. Many of our new faculty have told me that they would not have ever requested our assistance if they had not first attended our open house.
2. Meet with new faculty individually or in small groups. Visit with faculty in their offices for about 30 minutes. Forget grants. Talk about where they are from, what their interests are, what they like about being at your institution, and what adjustment problems they are encountering. Spend the last 5 minutes of the meeting explaining the services of your office.
I have found this to be a very successful technique for establishing rapport with new faculty. Established faculty have told me how pleased they were that I took the time to come to their office to talk about their interests during their 1st year at the university. Of course, the information gathered at this initial meeting allows my office to immediately begin sending the new faculty member customized information about funding opportunities.
3. Manage by walking about. …