by Claire Miller
As the associate director of the College of Education’s Educational Research Bureau, Alison Norsworthy has a front row seat to the college’s grant work. She is instrumental in helping faculty and staff navigate the sometimes complicated process of taking an idea for a project and seeing it through the grant process to completion.
Norsworthy recently sat down to discuss her role in the ERB, the college's external funding advances and what she enjoys most about come to work every day.
Q: In your own words, what is the mission of the Educational Research Bureau?
A: We’re here to make life easier for faculty researchers and principal investigators. What we try to do is allow faculty members to really focus on their research and make the grant process as smooth as possible for them by taking care of the required paperwork and tedious items that are required for every proposal. We help them find funding, develop a timeline to get them on track, create the budget and put the whole electronic package together, which frees them up to really focus on writing their research narrative, which is the most important piece when applying for a grant. But we don’t stop there – we provide assistance once they receive the grant and assist the project investigators from start to finish. Our faculty can come to the ERB with any questions they have. It’s a one-stop shop.
Q: The ERB supports faculty and staff applying for grants from start to finish. Can you explain what the typical process is like?
A: Oftentimes, we will send e-mails to faculty to let them know about grant opportunities we’ve heard about or they’ve found a grant they’re interested in, and they’ll come to see us. I’ll look over the grant application and then we’ll set up a meeting to talk about their project to make sure it matches what the grant agencies are looking for. We then set up a timeline to lay out what all the pieces to the puzzle are and when things need to get done.
Another integral part of this process is determining grant partners, if needed. For example, if a faculty member wants or needs to team up with a school system or another university, we’ll work with Gwen Benson, COE associate dean for school and community partnerships, to make those connections. We want to make sure that we have all the players together early in the process.
We help them every step of the way. And once we finish putting the application package together, we send it to the university’s central office for the final OK and submission.
Q: Last year, the COE received $13.3 million in external funding – the highest amount in its 43-year history. How has this increase in research and instructional funding helped the college?
A: It has helped drastically. I’ve seen people who were part of larger grants that the college received, such as the $6.1 million Professional Development School Partnerships Deliver Success grant, now successfully have their own grants funded. These are people who were investigators in larger grants who now, two or three years later, feel confident enough to submit their own grants. There’s a domino effect. We also get to help plug people into existing grants who want to be a part of something but maybe don’t necessarily have the background to be a lead investigator.
Q: The ERB sponsors the college’s Research Wednesdays Speaker Series. How do you feel faculty, staff and students have benefitted from this?
A: Susan Ogletree, director of the ERB, and Dean Randy Kamphaus have brought in experts in a variety of areas related to education and it has been very beneficial for everyone here because they see what’s currently going on in the field and can make connections with people who they may never have met otherwise. They get to see these speakers who have had successful careers and find out how they started and what research they’re conducting right now. It also helps for potential partnerships with other universities.
Q: Are there any other groups or organizations you’re involved with in your spare time?
A: One organization I’m involved with is the National Council on University Research Administration (NCURA), which is made up of my peers across the country. We have an annual meeting in Washington D.C. and regional meetings during the year. It’s a great connection because I get to meet my colleagues at different institutions and bounce ideas off of them. I’ve learned a lot from them and it’s helped me to step it up and improve what we do here. I haven’t yet run for office in this organization but it’s something that I hope to do in the future.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job as associate director for the COE Educational Research Bureau?
A: With this job, there’s something new every day. I get to peer into the window of all these different research projects that our faculty are taking on and I get to work with different people every day. It’s exciting to hear what they want to accomplish and see their enthusiasm, and in turn, I want to find a grant opportunity to match their excitement. I feel like I’m helping and the faculty are truly appreciative of what we do.
For more information about the COE’s Educational Research Bureau, visit http://education.gsu.edu/main/4301.html.