The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.
Since July 2021, I have had the pleasure of serving as Interim Vice Provost for Research at ETSU. Excitingly, I entered this role during a period of significant transition (e.g., new Provost started the same day I started) and visioning (e.g., strong Board of Trustees appetite for research growth, institutional strategic planning underway) at ETSU.
Like many regional comprehensive institutions, ETSU wrestles with how best to meet its mission through teaching, research, and service activities. The aforementioned transitions presented a unique opportunity for the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) to challenge the status quo from a research perspective. Succinctly, the institution’s current resource allocation model is best described as fostering research maintenance rather than research investment and growth. Three overarching systems impact the funding model:
Central administration support
- Approximately 3% of state-allocated dollars fund research infrastructure.
- The OVPR budget is pieced together with nine different funding sources.
Indirect cost recovery allocation
- When considering EAB’s continuum of indirect cost recovery allocation options, ETSU’s approach historically has been to maximize reach by allocating to multiple entities (e.g., central administration, OVPR, deans, graduate school, libraries).
- The current organizational structure does not provide a communication mechanism or reporting structure to the president.
- The institution has not named its research strengths and prioritized investments accordingly.
- Research investments are typically new faculty hires within one college: thus, interdisciplinary collaborations and/or synergies are coincidental at best.
- Indirect cost recovery is the primary lever for research investments. However, these dollars fluctuate, comprise a relatively small pool of dollars, and thus hinder long-term research investment planning.
My capstone project focused on developing a menu of solutions to promote research growth. While the solution is multifaceted and some aspects are still under construction, this period of transition has resulted in a renewed sense of movement and excitement at the institution.
Central administrative support is increasing, and the status quo in the OVPR is being challenged from a budgetary perspective. The organizational structure is changing, and at the conclusion of the strategic planning process, we will name our research investment priorities for the next few years.
ETSU is a unique regional comprehensive institution in that it has significant academic health science center infrastructure, including a college of medicine. With an institutional vision of improving the quality of life of the people of the Appalachian Highlands region, research is missional.
The EAB Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship experience was a timely springboard for proposing solutions. The resources available in the University Research Forum and Business Affairs Forum were highly valued, as were discussions with the EAB Fellowship Team, Jon Barnhart, Kimpton Farren, and Scott Winslow.
Special thanks to President Brian Noland, Provost Kimberly McCorkle, Chief of Staff Adam Green, Provost Emeritus Wilsie Bishop, and the OVPR team for their support. With a spirit of shared governance front and center, I look forward to implementing solutions to raise the research bar at ETSU.
See the fellows' blogs from the capstone projects
Nick Hagemeier and others participated in EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship in fall 2021