In May, 2018 the Office of Research and Creative Activity welcomed Christi McGeorge, NDSU human development and family science professor, as a faculty fellow. Since then, Christi has worked directly with the RCA research development team in creating programs specific to early faculty researchers. Her time with RCA ends at the end of May, 2020.
The Faculty Fellow program was started by the Provost’s office via a generous grant from a donor and Christi was in the very first cohort in 2018. Participants were given the choice of the group in which they wanted to work and Christi chose RCA given her background as a social scientist and her love of research. “There’s nothing about the research process that doesn’t delight me,” she commented. “And when I had the opportunity to put my experiences to work to help mentor and support others, I jumped at the chance.” Christi’s application to become a faculty fellow coincided perfectly with a need on campus to help new faculty members assimilate as researchers into the NDSU culture.
A faculty member at NDSU since 2003, Christi 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, Christi 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 every bit as valid and valuable as other types of research. “One benefit of the program is its flexibility,” she notes “There isn’t really a right way to be a faculty fellow, you just have to go with what you know.”
Christi’s application to become a faculty fellow was the perfect match of abilities and needs as under her 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. These monthly learning opportunities are designed to help new researchers become successful while balancing the instructional requirements of their jobs.
Utilizing her connections with senior faculty across the campus, Christi first conducted a series of interviews across all colleges at NDSU to discern challenging areas where new researchers tend to struggle. These conversations were not only targeted at defining subjects for the faculty programs, but they also provided Christi with the subject matter experts she would eventually invite to present during the sessions. This connection to senior faculty is a key component of the sessions and Christi sees it an important method to help form potential mentoring relationships, diminish the isolation experienced by many researchers in their first years, and to build community among faculty.
Assistant professor of health, nutrition and exercise Ryan McGrath participated in many of the sessions. He noted, “As an early career faculty coming to a new university, I was eager to participate in professional development opportunities. 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 2018-19 academic year. Based on its success and the positive feedback of the program, the RCA team decided to run it again in 2019-20 and created a second year program to continue exploring additional subjects. The Proposal Development program ran during the 2019-20 year.
“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,” commented Sheri Anderson, associate vice president of research development in RCA.
The first year sessions ranged from overall concepts like time management, finding funding, and proposal and grant lifecycle to more specific topics such as 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.
“I found great value in the topics and made it a point to attend frequently,” added Ryan. “Some of the sessions I attended were probably among the best professional development workshops that I have ever experienced. These sessions helped in my professional growth and allowed me to springboard into continued research activities post-programming.”
During Year 2 sessions, attendees brought their own experiences to the group. Attendees also have the opportunity to become future presenters and mentors. Ryan noted that when he has the opportunity to mentor new faculty in the future, he will recommend that they attend New Faculty sessions.
Another contribution Christi made during her time with RCA was the development of the RCA Researcher of the Month recognition. This program identifies a researcher each month and celebrates them in a story about their work. Each recipient is surprised with a presentation ceremony in front of their colleagues and students when they receive a certificate and cupcake. “The cupcake is so important,” notes Christi. “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. Together with the recognition, this approach is what matters to people -- I like to think of these small recognitions as truly meaningful moments in our faculty members’ days.”
RCA continues to fund faculty fellowships from internal sources and plans to continue doing so 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,” commented 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.”
“The research development group is grateful to Christi for the leadership she has provided in developing new initiatives that have brought new programming opportunities for early career faculty and proposal development mentoring,” sums up Sheri Anderson. “Christi’s NDSU experience and expertise have been invaluable to not only the implementation of new programs but also in providing input and ideas to various facets of research development activities.”