The Secret Life of a Research Administrator | Finding the Perfect Pattern and Yarn
“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.
Being a research administrator means wearing many hats: detective, policy and procedure interrupter, financial manager, organizer and time management expert—a common denominator in all of the varied roles is being a helper. In our role as research administrators, researchers typically think that we operate in a yes or no world, while in reality, we try to get as close to yes as we can while staying within the rules and regulations that we must follow to be the best stewards of the funding we receive. In my creative life of knitting there are two basic stitches, knit and purl; however, there are many possibilities of stitches that can be made using the basic stitches!
The detective role in research administration can be viewed as "finding funding opportunities" while the detective role in knitting can be viewed as “finding the perfect pattern and yarn” for my next project! Being an interrupter of policy and procedures that must be followed consisting of institutional, federal, and sponsor requirements of funding and explaining those to researchers can be associated with determining the method of making combination stitches such as K2TOG, SSK, and SK2TOGPSSO; when working stitches in the correct order a beautiful pattern emerges. Some stitches and patterns can be a challenge to do and sticking with it provides a learning opportunity that will be very rewarding in the end, much like a funding opportunity can be challenging during pre and post-award with checks and balances, in the end, the research produces outcomes that can affect the public good in very positive ways.
As our researchers go through a rigorous competitive process to receive external funding we help as financial managers, organizers and time management experts to obtain the best possible outcome for the research funding. I have to apply those same principles to my knitting stash! As I attempt to maximize my resources, I work on my budget to allow expenditures for yarn, needles, and patterns. I may or may not have a room in my house dedicated to yarn, of course, organized by type, such as sport, worsted, and chunky yarn. If this room exits, it also may be organized by color in each weight category. As I could easily spend a lot of time on knitting I have to wisely organize my time to get other necessary life components completed, such as being a research administrator and providing customer service and support to the faculty I work with.
I use my knitting as an opportunity to help in my community by unanimously donating knit baby blankets to my local hospital's labor and delivery unit. One of my passions is providing blankets for families of stillborn babies through the organization Forever Warm. An organization that was started after a colleague lost her son; the blankets are meant to provide a small gesture of comfort during such a difficult time for families. Many grieving parents also feel the need to have their baby's life acknowledged. Taking the time to make a blanket to give them shows the parents that we acknowledge that their baby was special and means something to someone other than themselves.
I also share knit items such as headbands, boot cuffs, face cloths and so much more with family, friends, and neighbors. I believe people understand that a handmade gift is made with a lot of caring and effort and those are traits that carry over into our work lives. We genuinely care about the research that is being performed and we put forth the effort to support the researchers by staying current with institution, state, sponsor and federal funding guidelines. Every day –and every pattern—is a learning opportunity and a chance to help others!
Authored by Georgetta Dennis