In early August the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) held their 58th Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. Three of our team members, Audrey Wrenn, Andrea Comley and Remy Brown, were able to attend as both exhibitors and session members. The conference provided a variety of opportunities for research administrators and participants, including group trainings, booth meet-ups, and a keynote address by NBC correspondent Kelly O’Donnell. While it is impossible to be everywhere at once, the IT Works team was able to divide and conquer to gain the full experience. Here’s what they had to say when reflecting on some of their most memorable experiences and insights:
Education Sessions for Research Administrators
NCURA provides a variety of trainings and discussion groups that foster professional growth for research administrators and innovation for the field as a whole. While Andrea spent a large part of the conference in the IT Works booth or meeting with conference attendees, she was able to join in a few of the discussion groups, her favorite being “What’s new with Alternatives to Traditional Effort Reporting.” Andrea explained this seminar provided insight into how “the alternatives have been working in real life situations,” and the revelations derived from the corresponding audits. All the conversations underlined how imperative it is to have an efficient and user friendly payroll or effort certification system. The groups who experimented with the alternative reporting methods shared the challenges and successes their institution faced, which allowed for a greater understanding of what research administrators will need moving forward. After hearing about the experience from Andrea, the IT Works team hopes this will continue to be a focus for NCURA’s future annual conferences!
Remy attended several trainings over the course of the conference, but said his favorite was “Why we Matter: Impacts of Research Administrators on the Larger Community.” The education session examined how a project’s positive impact should be quantified, and how institutions’ offices may want to factor this element into their funding plans. Remy, whose background is in grant management software support, said that the training gave him perspective and “connected the dots” as to the large scale influence research administrators hold. He notes that, “[organizations] are getting grants for research that lead directly to legislative changes, breakthroughs and discoveries.” In recounting his time in the session, Remy touched on the complexity of the situation and how often “there is no end result until years later, and even then the results aren’t guaranteed.”
NCURA’s 58th Annual Meeting was the first time Remy served as a booth exhibitor at a conference. The experience was wearing, and he was “impressed with everything that goes into being an effective sales representative.” While on the floor Remy noticed some universities had booths that advertised new degrees designed to streamline students into research administration. He explained that up until now there has not been a direct path for becoming a research administrator, but these programs will provide education in the rules, laws and processes. We will watch for the continued growth and impact of these degrees.
Andrea and Audrey are veterans when it comes to exhibiting at NCURA’s annual meetings. Audrey did not have the opportunity to attend any of the education sessions, but learned quite a bit while on the floor. In talking with NCURA members she heard about the staff’s trip to Cuba that aimed to help research administrators develop and advance their programs. It will be exciting to witness this growing partnership. Andrea also noticed NCURA’s emphasis on international relations and cohesion, as there seemed to be more international attendees at this conference than in previous years.
The NCURA Experience
Of course no NCURA conference would be complete without at least a few fun memories. Andrea said she had the opportunity to see George and Mary Washington. The reenactors- not the ghosts- attended the Sunday preliminary events, and along with a good laugh, reminded everyone of the historical significance of NCURA’s venue. The annual meeting is held at the Washington DC Hilton, and the research administrators even have the opportunity to congregate in the hall where the White House Correspondent’s Dinner takes place each year. In fact, one of Audrey’s favorite events, the keynote address by Kelly O’Donnell, took place in this hall. Remy had a particular interest in the hallway that held pictures of all of the presidents and first ladies.
Whether taking in the historical sights of DC, or meeting and learning with research administrators, the IT Works team had a wonderful time at the 58th Annual Meeting. We cannot wait to return in 2017, but hope in the meantime you will reach out to our team to learn how we can best provide tailored grant management tools for your office.