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View from the Top | Build Your Foundation of Support

By SRAI News posted 03-10-2021 11:31 AM


View from the Top | Build Your Foundation of Support

Well, it certainly has been an interesting month. Just days before my 65th birthday, as I was anxiously waiting to be able to make a vaccine appointment, I began to feel like I was getting a bad head cold. As you can probably guess, it was not a cold – somehow, unbelievably I had COVID-19.

I have been lucky, my case stayed relatively controlled and I was able, with lots of vitamins and bed rest, to wait it out. All the while I was in the middle of work initiatives both at MSK and CUNY, delivering the Research Leadership Intensive (RLI) with Mark Hochman for SRAI, and running six hours of the Winter 2021 SRAI Board meetings.

I managed as best I could, I canceled some meetings and took lots of naps in between the short bursts of clarity. All the while hoping that the next day, I would wake up feeling better. I realized that nothing in this life can be taken for granted. When we talk about work/life integration there are always choices and sacrifices to be made – but when you physically cannot live up to your own expectations, it is time to reconsider those expectations and priorities.

First and foremost, I cannot continue to help those around me if I am depleted. As a mother, instructor, and a supervisor, I am so used to taking care of everyone else first – it takes inner calm and clarity to put yourself first so that you can heal.

Throughout our RLI sessions we talk about mentoring, developing our staff, and allowing others a chance to lead – it became abundantly clear to me that without an amazing second string behind me, things could have spiraled out of control. I am grateful for their dedication and support always – but in a time of crisis they proved more than worthy.

I share this as a cautionary tale. The last year has taught us that we can never be fully prepared for the unknown. To be able to stay flexible, nimble, and resilient is so important. Look around you, recognize who you have to support and help you. If you do not have that foundation, the time to act to build it, is now.

It’s all about the journey – there are lessons even in the depth of illness and adversity. Listen to your heart, realign, and know that you can deal with whatever comes next.

I want to remind you about some exciting SRAI initiatives: 

  • Future of the Field this is a new program designed to recognize research administrators with 15 years or less experience. Nominees do NOT have to be SRAI members. Deadline to apply is April 15th. See details here. 
  • SRAI Awards season has opened. This is your opportunity to recognize the long-term exemplary contributions your peers have made to the research administration profession and the Society. Self-nominations are also accepted. See details here. The deadline to apply/submit is May 14, 2021. Don’t wait for the last minute – get those nominations in now. Winners will be recognized at the 2021 SRAI Annual Meeting in New Orleans. 
  • iSRA Joint Virtual Section Meeting - where NE meets S meets W meets MW!
    To keep everyone safe (until we can come together in person in NOLA in October 2021) and maximize learning and networking opportunities, the iSRA Joint Virtual Section Meeting will be a presented online, April 26-30, 2021. This week-long virtual conference will include, an amazing slate of workshops, main event activities, educational sessions, and networking opportunities designed to fit your schedule and to amplify and accelerate your professional growth, including two full certificate offerings - National Institutes of Health Grant Fundamentals and Leadership.  
  • SRAI Leadership Portal in Connect
    The Leadership Portal is a private community on SRAI’s Connect forum. SRAI Leadership (National, Section, Chapters, Committee Chairs) can post a message on the Discussion Board and connect with other SRAI leaders. The site also contains resources, including access to SRAI policies and procedures, past board meeting minutes, and helpful references. This site is designed to share SRAI documents, tools, and resources amongst leadership. The Leadership Portal is business sensitive and may contain information not for distribution. It is available online for SRAI Leadership at You can also access it from “My Communities” in Connect. Please login using your email and SRAI password. 

There’s so much happening each month – don’t miss an opportunity to share, learn, engage, and grow.

Hope to see you at one (or more) of our 2021 events! 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



03-15-2021 07:47 AM

Debbie, it was amazing to watch how you managed most of your expectations during this time!  Congratulations my friend!