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Faculty fellow makes impact on new faculty experiences

Photo of Christi McGeorge

Christi McGeorge

The NDSU Office of Research and Creative Activity welcomed Christi McGeorge, professor of human development and family science, as a faculty fellow in May 2018. Since then, she has worked directly with the RCA research development team to create programs specific to early faculty researchers.

Her time with RCA is completed at the end of May.

The Faculty Fellow program was started by the Provost’s office through a generous grant from a donor, and McGeorge was in the first cohort. Participants were given the choice of the group in which they wanted to work, and McGeorge chose RCA because of her background as a social scientist and her love of research.

“There’s nothing about the research process that doesn’t delight me,” she said. “And when I had the opportunity to put my experiences to work to help mentor and support others, I jumped at the chance.”

McGeorge’s application to become a faculty fellow coincided with a need on campus to help new faculty members assimilate as researchers into the NDSU culture. A faculty member at NDSU since 2003, she is passionate about research and enjoys helping students and other faculty members develop their own excitement and passion for research. Her research interests include the influence of heterosexism, heteronormativity and cissexism on clinical practice and training; the intersection of religion and affirmative therapy with LGBTQ communities; gender equity in therapy; and gender equity in higher education.

At first, McGeorge wasn’t sure how a non-STEM researcher would fare in the RCA environment. Even given her years of work as a noted social scientist, she thought that the team would instead be looking for someone from a more STEM research background. However, she applied for the program to show that social scientists’ work is as valid and valuable as other types of research.

“One benefit of the program is its flexibility,” she said. “There isn’t really a right way to be a faculty fellow, you just have to go with what you know.”

Under McGeorge’s guidance, the RCA research development team implemented and delivered a set of programs specifically targeted at early career researchers. The New Faculty and Proposal Development programs are both aimed at helping faculty members navigate their research paths during their first two years at NDSU.

Monthly learning opportunities are designed to help new researchers become successful while balancing the instructional requirements of their jobs. McGeorge first conducted a series of interviews across the campus to discern challenging areas where new researchers tend to struggle. The conversations were not only defined subjects for the faculty programs, but they also provided McGeorge with the subject matter experts she would eventually invite to present during sessions.

This connection to senior faculty is a key component of the sessions and McGeorge sees it an important method to help form potential mentoring relationships, diminish the isolation experienced by many researchers during their first years and build community among faculty.

“As an early career faculty coming to a new university, I was eager to participate in professional development opportunities,” said Ryan McGrath, assistant professor of health, nutrition and exercise sciences. “The New Faculty program was an excellent experience for me, not only for professional growth as a new faculty member, but also to engage with others at NDSU.”

The RCA New Faculty Research program began in September 2018 and ran monthly through the 2018-2019 academic year. Based on its success and the positive feedback, the RCA team decided to run it again in 2019-2020 and created a second-year program to continue exploring additional subjects. The Proposal Development program ran during 2019-2020.

“Given that we’d created an active cohort of new faculty members, it made sense to continue the sessions for a second year to help promote the connections and learning,” said Sheri Anderson, RCA associate vice president of research development.

First-year session topics ranged from time management, finding funding and proposal and grant lifecycle to publishing research, tips to developing an independent research program and research integrity. During the second year, the subject areas included patenting, mentoring students, communicating science and managing sponsored awards.

“Some of the sessions were probably among the best professional development workshops that I have ever experienced,” McGrath said. “The sessions helped in my professional growth and allowed me to springboard into continued research activities post-programming.”

McGeorge also helped develop the RCA Researcher of the Month recognition, which identifies a researcher and a story spotlights their work. Each recipient is surprised with a certificate and cupcake during a presentation ceremony in front of colleagues and students. “The cupcake is so important,” McGeorge said. “It provides the program with a fun aspect and it’s a way that we can make someone feel good about the work they do.”

RCA continues to fund faculty fellowships from internal sources and plans to continue them in the future.

“Christi’s experience and knowledge provided us with such valuable direction and ideas for our faculty research development offerings that we asked her to stay on a second year,” said Jane Schuh, vice president of research at NDSU. “Christi brought a new and welcome perspective to highlight the needs of our NDSU researchers and we are so very thankful for her many contributions.”

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