Thursday, August 6, 2015

BETWEEN TWO FILES with Mike Ludwick and Elizabeth Adams

Hello everyone. Welcome to this edition of BETWEEN TWO FILES. My name is Mike Ludwick. I’m the Associate Director for Grants and Contracts in the Office of Sponsored Programs and today I’m here with Elizabeth Adams, who has just finished up her time at Northwestern University as the Executive Director of the Office for Sponsored Research. However, on August 10th she will be joining us here at the University of Virginia to serve as the new Assistant Vice President for Research Administration directing OSP. Welcome Elizabeth and thanks for speaking with me today.

So let’s start off with an important question about your past performance. How good a soccer player were you when you were an undergraduate at Emory University? You racked up some impressive scoring records coming in at #8 for all-time scoring for an individual season with 12 goals, 6 assists;  #6 for points per game 1.76; and #4 for all-time career scoring, 31 goals, 17 assists. 
Good job Googling! I haven’t seen those figures in some time. I loved playing soccer at Emory. I learned a lot of things on the soccer field that serve me every day in business.

How do you think your experience in athletics influenced your management style?
In soccer, I tried to develop and use as many skills as I could to help the team score. I think similarly, I enjoy bringing a resourceful, problem-solving approach to a team. I try to understand the strengths of my teammates and colleagues, and use those to the advantage of the team. Of course, persistence and resilience are also important, both on the field and in the office.  

Few people say to themselves, “When I grow up I want to be a research administrator?” And yet here we are. Tell us how you got into this profession and walk us through your career to this point.

Like many, I discovered it unexpectedly. My first job in higher education was administering a graduate program in genetics at the University of Chicago. An NIH T32 funded many of the students in that program, so that was my first direct experience with grants. I then joined the administrative team of a professor who had been recruited to the University of Chicago to build a new microbiology program. In that position I provided pre-award and post-award support to the individuals in his laboratory, as well as faculty in the new microbiology program, eventually managing a multiyear ~$50M NIH U54 award focused on biodefense and emergency response over a six-state region. I find the business of research very interesting. Of course, university research administration is a form of nonprofit management. I’m a very mission-driven person and I love to learn. A university is a good place for me.

I see you have given presentations at professional organization conferences like the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA). Is professional development a priority for you and do you consider it a priority for OSP staff to be able to participate in similar activities?
Definitely. We also want to make sure we have mechanisms to continuously learn from each other in OSP and get better at what we do.

A few years ago you were President of the Association of Northwestern University Women. Can you tell us about your experience with that organization and what that group was able to accomplish?
The Association of Northwestern University Women (ANUW) was established to encourage broadly the professional development of women staff at the University. We hosted speakers monthly to share their stories of successes and challenges in their careers, and sometimes speakers on a specific topic of interest to the membership (such as managing good meetings). The Northwestern women’s lacrosse coach was my favorite speaker. Being the president gave me the opportunity to hone my leadership skills and meet a variety of Northwestern staff members outside of research administration. This helped me get to know the University in a more well-rounded way, and understand better what a multi-faceted and dynamic place it is.

At Northwestern, you were involved in an initiative that evaluated the way in which the University engaged corporate research partners, and examined policy, processes and organizational structure. Talk to us about that experience, conclusions you came to, and any changes that came out of that initiative.
As federal budgets for research stay flat and become more uncertain, universities must develop ways to diversify their sponsored project portfolios and fuel the academic careers of investigators on campus. I wanted the Office for Sponsored Research to help lead efforts to do this at Northwestern. This included evaluating how better to track agreements in the office and how better to work with the technology transfer office in the management of intellectual property in sponsored research agreements. It also included working with the office of corporate relations strategically to pursue master agreements with corporate partners attractive to our faculty and staff. 

As you know, OSP is moving headlong into a technological initiative: ResearchUVA. What do you think about ResearchUVA from what you have seen thus far?
I like it. We need to significantly focus on systems supporting research administration at UVA. Systems will help our human resources go further.

What technology did you use at Northwestern to keep track of proposals and awards, submit proposals, and manage other research administration processes? 
InfoEd. In particular, we were pleased to have migrated a few years ago to system-to-system proposal submission functionality. We also developed many business intelligence reports leveraging InfoEd data. These reports helped us make better decisions and grow as an organization. At the same time, all organizations have to work to continuously improve their systems and reporting. That’s never really “done”.

Even before you have officially started here, you’ve spoken to many people here and are already quite engaged from what I understand. What is your overall impression of UVA in general and of OSP in particular?
I am impressed with the skill sets and dedication of OSP staff. I’m intrigued by UVA. I love its ambition, its prominent place among public (and private) research universities and its historical significance. I am enjoying getting to know its research focuses, as well as the organization of its research administration—OSP and beyond.

Have you identified any specific areas you would like to examine more closely? 
Systems will be a focus for me, as well as ensuring that standard business processes are in place to make work more predictable and efficient. Organizational Excellence will be (and has already been) a great partner for us in these areas. I think we also need to look closely at how to support the development and submission of large-scale, interdisciplinary proposals, and the related execution of major, cross-sector agreements.

Are there any particular initiatives coming from Pat Hogan or Melody Bianchetto that you will be implementing?
Universities are increasingly considering how to measure research and the impact of research, partly in response to public and congressional interest. In that realm we’re considering joining the UMETRICS initiative (

How do you plan to communicate with OSP staff about any plans or initiatives?
I will want to give OSP staff a good sense for my priorities for the office, as well as collect feedback on where they see the challenges and opportunities. I find regular staff meetings are an efficient and effective way for individuals and teams to keep each other updated, and thereby maintain relationships.

Lastly, we’ll go back to where we started. How excited were you to see the USA Women’s Soccer Team win the World Cup?
I thought it was an astounding demonstration of teamwork--individuals coming together to be more than the sum of their parts.


Thank you so much for your time Elizabeth and we look forward to you joining us officially on August 10th.

And thank you for watching.  If you ever need assistance with your sponsored programs and aren’t sure who to contact, feel free to send an email to and someone will get right back to you. From all of us here at BETWEEN TWO FILES, I’m Mike Ludwick, have a great day…and remember, dona nobis pecuniam.

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