RCA Welcomes Two New Faculty Fellows

The RCA office is pleased to welcome NDSU faculty members Rajani Ganesh-Pillai and Sam Markell as fellows for the 2020/2021 programming year. Rajani will concentrate on programs for new faculty members and Sam will work with researchers at the associate point of their careers.

Rajani is an associate professor of marketing at NDSU. Her research is interdisciplinary in nature and includes consumer judgment and decision-making; consumer well-being; marketing of innovations; and the interface of STEM disciplines and marketing. As fellow at the Challey Institute, she investigates how sustainable product design impacts a firm's marketing and economic performance; the adoption of innovations in food and agriculture and how this may be influenced by innovation resistance of adopters; and how institutions of higher learning influence cluster performance and economic development. Rajani has worked to understand how message strategies influence perceived risk and acceptance of nanotechnology as a member of the NDSU Center for Engineered Cancer Test Beds.

Rajani places a high value on the mentoring she received when she started at NDSU and noted that as she progressed in her career, she found herself in the role of mentor for new faculty members. As these relationships have been critical to her development as an effective researcher and faculty member, she hopes to help provide spaces for new faculty members to form these types of bonds and to come together to solve problems from the perspective of many different disciplines.

“When researchers get the support, network, and resources to help achieve their research careers, they are more likely to choose to stay at NDSU,” Rajani said. “My main goal is to help NDSU and the RCA office retain talented researchers by facilitating programs that support researchers across campus. Of specific interest to me is programming to foster interdisciplinary research and the capability of NDSU to solve big problems using interdisciplinary knowledge and teams. Working alongside Sam and the RCA office, I hope to help new faculty members at NDSU find opportunities to form collaborations and develop tools to navigate and manage interdisciplinary projects in the changing research landscape."

Sam is an Extension plant pathologist and professor at NDSU. As a researcher, Sam works to develop solutions to the economically important problems that farmers face. Staying true to the land grant university mission, Sam works with interdisciplinary teams to package these solutions into programs delivered to farmers and the agricultural community in North Dakota. “We don’t want to just develop a solution, we want that solution to make an impact on the people we serve,” Sam says.

Sam leads the multimillion-dollar SCN Coalition partnership of private sector, soybean checkoff organizations, and university partners who are working on mitigating economic losses caused by the soybean cyst nematode. He also leads the international sunflower pathology working group, has organized two national American Phytopathological Society (APS) conferences, and has served on many faculty senate and campus committees.

As a faculty fellow, he looks forward to helping faculty members navigate the massive changes that occur during the associate to full professor stage of their careers.

“Associate professors are in an excellent position to identify and address the biggest challenges impacting science and society,” Sam added. “But the skills to do that change. Successfully tackling large and complex problems is often more dependent on a researcher’s ability to maximize the diverse talents within a team, rather than on their technical skills. My goal is to work with the RCA office and Rajani to facilitate the development of skills that position our faculty for success as they reach beyond their disciplines to provide solutions that address the needs of our state, country and global communities.

RCA associate vice president for research development Sheri Anderson commented, “The faculty fellow program has been instrumental to the enhancement of programs we offer. We are excited to begin work with Rajani and Sam to further develop and expand programming and support for early career and associate professors as well as interdisciplinary opportunities.”

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