View from the Top | Transparency, Inclusion, and Engagement

By SRAI News posted 11-13-2020 09:14 AM


View from the Top | Transparency, Inclusion, and Engagement

I have been an SRAI member since 2003. My first annual meeting was in Pittsburgh that year, one year and one month after I became a research administrator. I have said it often, but it bears repeating here in print – I truly owe my career success to SRAI. I was a fine arts major in college and prior to becoming a research administrator, I worked as a needlecraft salesperson and designer, greeting card artist, calligraphy instructor, local newspaper art director, and a conflict resolution specialist in the NYC public schools. I had no medical or scientific training at all. Everything I now know I learned through on the job training and professional development. The knowledge I have gained, in addition to the networking experiences I have been afforded over the last 18 years, have had a huge positive impact on my career trajectory.

Fast forward to October 2020. On October 20 at approximately 5 PM I officially became the SRAI President. I will say that it was most definitely on my bucket list of achievements and I am honored and humbled to be fulfilling this role. I have worn many SRAI hats over the years, so I see this as a culmination of all my past SRAI experiences. There are many people to thank who helped me to get here – too numerous to mention, but you know who you are…

People keep asking, now that you are President, what do you want to be remembered for – what will be your vision? I can sum that up in three words: Transparency, Inclusion, and Engagement!

This is not MY organization – it is OUR organization. As dues paying members, we all have the right to know and understand how the Society operates and makes decisions. Our previous five-year strategic plan is ending in 2021. Therefore, it is the time to reassess and plan for OUR future. Given this past year of chaos – pandemic, social unrest, and climate catastrophes, we will need to make some hard decisions. A new five-year plan is probably not practical, given all the uncertainty that still lies ahead. We will be convening a new strategic planning group comprised of representatives from each of our major committees: Membership, Governance, Education and Professional Development, and Communications. Watch this column for monthly updates on the committee’s progress.

SRAI is not an elite clique. There is a role for anyone who wants to participate, regardless of job status or years of experience or where in the world you are located. We are a volunteer organization in the truest sense – we all have “day jobs” but giving back to OUR professional society is a privilege that we do not take likely. So, if you would like to become more involved, please reach out to me and I know we can find a place suited to your interests.

Engagement comes in several forms. We need our members to keep on supporting us by renewing their memberships each year, attending our events, allowing their staff to participate, volunteering to be speakers, room monitors, and ambassadors, creating content and new programs, contributing to our body of knowledge through our LevelUP platform and CONNECT communities and discussions, interacting with our sponsors, and recommending us to new colleagues and peers. Whether on a chapter, section, or annual meeting level, there are so many roles and participation opportunities. Our scope is global. We have members all over the world and together we put true meaning into the “I” of SRAI.

Looking ahead, I am confident that it will be an amazing journey. I look forward to working with Kim Carter, Immediate Past-President and our dedicated Board of Directors and Committee Chairs. Kudos to our exceptional CEO, Evan Roberts and COO, Ellen Quinn and their headquarters staff for weathering the 2020 storm and helping to bring us amazing virtual educational training experiences. We don’t know yet for sure when we will be able to gather again in person – but rest assured that no matter the venue, we will continue to give our members superior educational and networking experiences.

This is where I take a deep breath and say, I hope to see you all in October 2021 in New Orleans! But before we get there, we already have fabulous programming in place starting this month with a new virtual training program for Departmental Administrators and the Senior Executive Institute (SEI). Check the website for details and see which programs are being offered in January and details about the upcoming spring Section Meetings.

As I write this on the last day of our iSRAI month long festival of research administration, I give one last shout out to our 2020 annual meeting co-chairs Vivian Holmes, Denise Clark, and Lorna Colquhoun and all those who contributed by planning, speaking, or moderating. It was a great experience!

Wishing all our readers a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday!

Always looking to continue the conversation…


Authored by Debra Schaller-Demers, Senior Director, Research Outreach and Compliance
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
SRAI President

1 comment



11-13-2020 03:37 PM

Looking forward to New Orleans as well...whether in person or virtual; I am confident that it will be a great program as we have come to expect!