The Secret Life of a Research Administrator | How Workload, Stipend, and Overhead Changed to Bouillabaisse, Béarnaise, and Pâte à Choux

By SRAI News posted 11-13-2019 11:20


The Secret Life of a Research Administrator | How Workload, Stipend, and Overhead Changed to Bouillabaisse, Béarnaise, and Pâte à Choux

“The Secret Life of a Research Administrator” column is meant to facilitate more personal connections between SRAI members through the Catalyst newsletter. If you would like to share with the community or know of someone who will, please submit your article here.  
When I decided to semi-retire back in 2017, I had an inkling of what I wanted to do with myself but I didn’t know where to start.  I wanted to become a trained chef, but most programs were either expensive or required full-time attendance (or both).  Then I found that our local community college offered an excellent hospitality management program.  I was in!

I remember waking up the morning of my first class with those familiar stomach butterflies we sometimes feel when speaking in public.  It was daunting for me to be in the kitchen with students fresh out of high school.  Could I keep up?  Would I fit in?  My enthusiasm was high but my confidence was low.

We often hear that with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible.  I can tell you firsthand that this was certainly my experience in the training kitchen.  I had to work just as hard (and sometimes harder) than the other, younger students.   There were also the realities of preparing food to think about. Who sets up the kitchen for class?  Who pulls out and puts away the meat, produce, spices, pots, pans, and utensils?  Best yet, who cleans the endless pile of dirty dishes that stack up after twenty students make three batches each of eggs benedict with hollandaise sauce?  The answer?  We, the students, do.  I did keep up and I did fit in but it wasn’t easy.  After many bottles of Advil, I’ll graduate next year with my personal chef certificate.  

The parallels between being a research administrator and a culinary student are not lost on me.  Both careers require an inquiring mind and a level of creativity and problem-solving.  (Too much cayenne in the sauce?  No problem, temper it with sour cream!  Tough negotiations with a sponsor?  No problem, let’s sit down and work it out!). Both careers also require one to operationalize and build upon the knowledge learned.   As time went by, the terms “soup, sauce, and dough,” became “bouillabaisse, béarnaise, and pâte à choux.”  I liken it to my early days as a research administrator learning the terms “workload, stipend, and overhead.”  

The culinary arts is an exciting field to explore as either a hobby or as a professional.  I don’t know what my secret life will bring in the future, but I know that the ride has been phenomenal.

Authored by Katie Watkins, CRA, CFRA
Associate Director

The University of Akron




11-27-2019 10:38

Great article, thank you, this is seasoned with joy and easily relatable -- thank you for sharing this key ingredient to work/life balance.

11-14-2019 14:55

​​Love everything about this article - kudos to Chef Katie!