ATLANTA — A first-of-its-kind program to create a career path in the field of research administration and identify strategies to attract talented workers is set to begin this fall at Georgia State University.
The new Access to Careers in Research Administration (ACRA) program will provide a college-to-career pathway for the recruitment of research administrators. Recognizing a need to develop a strong support network, a team of Georgia State research administrators devised the ACRA program and drafted the successful grant proposal to bring the project to life. The awardees are Candice Ferguson, associate director of research training, University Research Services & Administration; Kay Gilstrap, associate director of research support services, University Research Centers; and Kathleen Halley-Octa, director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects in the College of Education & Human Development.
Tim Denning, vice president for research and economic development at Georgia State, said the program is unique because it will offer new career options for students to consider.
“This program is especially valuable because there is a large pool of students who are interested in careers associated with research, but not necessarily in the traditional academic path, so this is a fantastic opportunity for them to get exposure to new opportunities,” Denning said.
The program is the first year-long, intensive, cohort-based internship in research administration in the nation, and the program is led by the first Georgia State research administrative staff to receive funding to conduct research.
“This new program combines two pivotal pieces of the university’s mission — advancing research and discovery, and preparing students for meaningful postgraduate careers,” said Georgia State President M. Brian Blake. “ACRA will address a critical gap in university research and provide a solid trajectory for the next generation of research administrators.”
The new program is being led by the Office of Research & Economic Development and The Graduate School at Georgia State. The research team was awarded an initial $12,000 grant from the National Council of University Research Administrators, a nonprofit organization that provides training and professional development to research administrators. Additional support for the program will be provided by the Office of Research and Economic Development.
“Universities across the country incessantly struggle to hire talented research administrators,” Ferguson said. “This is mostly because there is no clearly defined path from college to career. We are striving to lay a solid foundation for recruiting and training the next generation of the workforce.”
According to a 2019 survey by the International Network of Research Management Societies, more than half of U.S. research administrators are over the age of 45, and over the next 15 years, a majority of workers are expected to retire. This new internship will serve as a pilot program to train graduate students for a career in research administration, creating skilled workers who are ready to fill the gap.
Lisa Armistead, dean of The Graduate School, said the ACRA program benefits prospective workers as well as the research community as a whole.
“We are excited about this cutting-edge program and believe it has great potential to create career opportunities for our graduate students,” Armistead said.
Research administrators facilitate the link between research activities and outcomes and work to increase the effectiveness and productivity of institutional research by promoting the use of best practices in administration.
The program combines formal training with mentored, on-the-job experiences to build the research administration workforce of the future. Interns will engage with faculty, grants and contracts officers and others, and present a final project to complete the program.
The 36-week program will initially support up to four interns. Graduate students from across the university are encouraged to apply. Students will receive a stipend and tuition waiver as part of the program.
The application period runs from July 1 to Aug. 5, and the program begins this fall.