Jan Abramson, MS
Sponsored Project Officer, University of Utah
Member, NORDP Mentoring Committee
How did you get involved with NRMN?
In summer 2017, my peer mentor, Etta Ward and I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Kola Okuyemi to discuss the National Research Mentoring Network and our vision for how the curriculum could support research development professionals, who, amongst many other things, mentor staff and faculty.
Thanks to some networking and lobbying, Etta and I attended Facilitator Training in spring 2018. As members of the NORDP Mentoring Committee, we could see the practical applicability for the growing profession of research development (RD). Our participation in Facilitator Training was supported by NORDP (National Organization of Research Development Professionals) and our own institutions.
Which of NRMN’s program(s) have you participated in?
I have been trained as an Entering Mentoring facilitator and have the opportunity to facilitate the curriculum several times a year at the University of Utah. As much as I enjoy presenting and contributing to a cadre of invested mentors, I am currently excited about and invested in adapting the Entering Mentoring curriculum for professional staff who support the research enterprise.
After conversations with Dr. Chris Pfund, I and a core group of the NORDP Mentoring Committee entered into larger discussions with Dr. Pfund and others at CIMER to obtain permission to adapt the curriculum for professional staff mentors and mentees. A team from the Mentoring Committee has been working together to create case studies that parallel the ones in Entering Mentoring. It is a great group of dedicated research development professionals; we have been meeting every other Friday morning for the past two years. We have had the opportunity to beta test case studies at NORDP annual conferences, on our campuses, and with the full Mentoring Committee.
In early 2019, a conversation with colleagues at the University of Utah helped me realize the need for more formal mentoring education in research administration. Building off the work NORDP is doing, a small team adapted the case studies to be applicable to research administration staff who support the research enterprise.
By the end of this endeavor, we will have separate Entering Mentoring curriculums for research development and research administration professionals. Those curriculums will be available on the CIMER website.
Describe your role as a facilitator and tell us a little about your experience in that role.
My role in the work we are doing is to dream big, ask questions, and lead from behind. We are close to finalizing the curriculum and will have a “program” for professional staff ready to be beta tested in the next six months. I tend to have a natural enthusiasm for projects and programs I believe in – and I leverage my enthusiasm to get others excited about, and invested in, mentoring success. I make space for others to take the lead, wherever their skills are, and am always ready to work on whatever task is needed to move the project forward.
It is so rewarding to work with professionals who are committed to, and excited about mentoring. I once had a mentor ask me: “What’s your big deal? What do you want to leave behind when you retire?” We worked with that question over two months, and I finally had my short answer: I want to leave a legacy – not in a named building, or a scholarship, or any of the other ways one can leave a visible legacy – the legacy I want to leave is embedding a culture of mentoring within NORDP and for professional staff.
If someone called you and asked, “Why should I become involved with NRMN?” how would you respond?
Becoming involved with NRMN will provide professional development, sharpen your skills, and help you to develop a network of support that is invested in your success. Whatever level you are in your career, NRMN can help prepare you to reach the next step.
Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
Most people don’t grow up saying, ‘gee, I want to be professional staff who supports the research enterprise.’ And I surely didn’t. A varied career path has prepared me to work in both research development and research administration. For a number of years, I would have said working with the Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies in Salt Lake City as part of the production team was an accomplishment that was most significant. It was the culmination of a childhood dream.
Now, though, the most significant accomplishment-in-progress is the work I am doing around mentorship. It will be the work that carries me through to retirement, and when I look back and see evidence of mentoring embedded in the culture of the profession, I will know I have left a legacy I can be proud of.
What motivates you (daily and/or long-term)?
There is a quote I love: “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” And although a shorter version of this is attributed to John Quincy Adams, further exploration reveals it was actually first used by Dolly Parton in 1997. It’s woven throughout my life, and I use it as a touchstone when I need a positive boost, and I kind of like the humor in the attribution.
Each morning, what do you look most forward to in the day?
What is your current position and what is your favorite aspect of it?
I am a Sponsored Projects Officer at the University of Utah. Favorite aspects include working with junior faculty and postdocs as they prepare NIH Loan Repayment applications, supporting faculty researchers, and having the opportunity to mentor others in research development and research administration roles.
Anything else that you would like to share?
When a door opens through your involvement with NRMN, walk through it! Whatever lies on the other side likely will lead to great things.