It is with great humility that I accept the esteemed title of Distinguished Faculty from the Society of Research Administrators International (SRAI). This recognition is also a reflection of the collective efforts we invest in advancing our profession. At its core, the role of Distinguished Faculty symbolizes a commitment to the cultivation and progression of the research administration profession. This honour recognises not only individual achievement but also the dedication to collective advancement that resonates within the SRAI community. To me, this award signifies a shared aspiration to elevate research administrators worldwide, fostering an environment where research and innovation can thrive.
Having been a member of my local research management network for a while, my first encounter with SRAI took place at the International Network of Research Management Society (INORMS) Congress in Cape Town in 2010. At that time, I had just started an exciting journey establishing the research office at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), a newly founded university in Saudi Arabia. The international perspective and network that SRAI offered have been invaluable in succeeding in this role. I would like to acknowledge the many colleagues who have been so generous with sharing their experiences with me over the years, which is something I am hoping to give back to the community and individuals within.
As a relatively new profession, research management has evolved organically through the contributions of countless individuals who have shaped its role and function over the years, striving to establish global best practice standards while recognising the need for local solutions. SRAI, as one of the leading research management societies, has and is providing an invaluable platform for the development of the profession, one that I have benefitted from significantly throughout my career.
The SRAI's mission, encapsulated by the Distinguished Faculty programme, resonates deeply with my own beliefs. It underscores the vital importance of education and collaboration as catalysts for development. By facilitating the sharing of best practices, nurturing professional relationships, and debating changes our sector might need, we create the foundations upon which the research endeavour stands. I am committed to sharing my experiences and continuing to contribute to the development of the profession, empowering research administrators, and fostering their growth as leaders, problem solvers, and champions of progress.
As a member of the Distinguished Faculty, I embrace the role of a "thought leader" with immense enthusiasm. It gives me an opportunity to contribute to the shaping of educational initiatives that remain agile in the face of evolving trends, complex challenges, and significant global events. It also enables me to work towards a more interconnected future for research administrators and the broader research community. For me, this award also is a recognition of the power of collaboration, mentorship, and continuous learning. It is a call to action, inviting me to channel my experiences, insights, and passion to invigorate the research administration landscape.
In conclusion, winning the Distinguished Faculty Award from SRAI is a profound milestone in my professional journey. It reaffirms my dedication to the values that underpin research administration - knowledge sharing, international collaboration, and bridging divides. I look forward to embarking on this new chapter. Together, as Distinguished Faculty, we can inspire innovation and shape a future where research administrators continue to be the driving force behind cutting-edge research.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? After more than two decades in research management, identifying a single accomplishment becomes a challenging endeavour. However, when pressed to choose, I found my thoughts inevitably gravitating toward my time at KAUST, a newly founded university in Saudi Arabia, where I embarked on a transformative journey in early 2010 to establish a research office.
Transitioning from well-established institutions to the uncharted territory of building a governance framework, policies, and processes from scratch was a unique privilege, enabling us to build on lessons learned from other places.
Two guiding principles stand out for me from this time. First, the importance of finding the right individuals for specific tasks. It was not just about competence within their domains but also their capacity to flourish within an unparalleled, rapidly evolving landscape – a landscape often starkly distinct from their prior roles. Second, I recognized the criticality of instituting policies and processes that enabled and governed our activities.
I recalled a former colleague's wistful remark, citing my apparent freedom from bureaucracy and convoluted processes. Ironically, our situation underscored that operational freedom cannot thrive without foundational policies. Transitioning from well-established institutions to the uncharted territory of building a governance framework, policies, and processes from scratch was a unique privilege. This endeavour allowed us to leverage insights gained from diverse experiences, creating a blueprint rooted in collective wisdom based on best practices but adjusted to our unique local context. For me, those three years were a masterclass in continuous learning, largely propelled by the synergy of an extraordinary team.
Conceiving the office with a self-sustainability focus was pivotal. Rather than creating dependency on any single individual, including myself, the emphasis was on developing an ecosystem where innovation and leadership could flourish. A colleague once questioned, "Why make yourself redundant?". Reflecting on this, I realised it was not about redundancy but about creating the space to lead authentically and be innovative – unhindered by frantic efforts to keep things afloat or fix whatever goes wrong. The objective was not self-indispensability; it was about creating a structure that is sustainable in itself and provides career opportunities for the people within.
If I look back to KAUST now, what makes me most proud is that, fundamentally, the principles we established more than ten years ago are carrying out today's operations. Our principles have endured, supporting the institution's growth, adaptability, and lasting impact.
Reflecting on this journey reinforces my belief in the timeless value of purposeful team building, balanced policies, and sustainable structures. My experience at KAUST might show a path toward resilient and enduring change management, one that shapes the present and influences the future, something I am quite proud of.