New Sponsored Research Teams Aim for Superior Service

February 16, 2018

Northwestern’s Office for Sponsored Research has named four new associate directors as part of a reorganization that creates five specialized management teams within the office.

The strategic intent of the changes is to assure excellent customer service; to align policies and business processes that best support Northwestern investigators; to provide stronger lines of accountability; and to further enable the University’s research growth.

The five teams, overseen by Executive Director Lynda Wolter, will handle grants management, awards management and internal training, corporate contracts, subcontracts management, and electronic research administration.

“The enhancements to the Office of Sponsored Research reflect our commitment to providing superior customer service to our investigators,” says Associate Vice President for Research Rex Chisholm. “Based on Sponsored Research user feedback, we determined that organizing the office into collaborative teams that better align with our key functional areas will allow improved accountability, consistency, and user experience. We look forward to user feedback about how this new structure is serving them.”

The new associate directors — together with Kim Griffin, who continues as director of electronic research administration — form the Sponsored Research management team. The new organization of the office reflects the following:

Tyra Darville-Layne, associate director for subcontracts management

Darville-Layne brings to this role 20 years of experience in research administration at Northwestern, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Arkansas. She was previously the senior subcontracts manager for Sponsored Research-Evanston. Darville-Layne is an active member of the Subcontract Work Group of the Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) where she has collaborated to develop agreement templates, subrecipient risk assessment and monitoring tools, and the FDP Expanded Clearinghouse. She also is an active member of the National Council of University Research Administrators where she has presented on various topics related to subcontracting, tools, and compliance.

Michael Ferguson, associate director for awards management 

Ferguson has more than 20 years of research administration experience at Northwestern and was team lead and senior grants officer for Sponsored Research-Chicago. His position will focus on managing the award process and supervising grant assistants. He will be responsible for continued training of grant assistants and grants officers in Sponsored Research to align policy and practice. He also will maintain a grants portfolio.

Sean Perry, associate director for corporate contracts

Perry has nearly 10 years of experience at Sponsored Research-Chicago as a senior contracts officer, team lead. He is co-chair of the Advisory Council for Clinical Research at Northwestern and has been a lecturer in the Northwestern School of Continuing Studies where he co-taught courses on clinical research administration and compliance. Perry has presented at national conferences and locally to the Northwestern Medicine research community on various topics, including negotiation skills, contractual compliance, and managing risk in research contracts.

Andrea Zakrzewski, associate director for grants management

Zakrzewski previously served as the associate director for Sponsored Research-Evanston and has more than 15 years of experience in research administration. Over her career, she has worked at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, and Loyola University Chicago. Her primary responsibilities will include managing the proposal review process across both Northwestern campuses and supervising the grant officers.

Kim Griffin, director of electronic research administration

As Director for Electronic Research Administration, Griffin is responsible for guiding and overseeing the functions of the Sponsored Research Information Team, which manages sponsored research data and analysis, systems support, communications, and campus training. The team develops and distributes reports on sponsored research activity; supports users who need help using various e-systems (e.g. InfoEd and ESPR); develops targeted job aids as well as online and in-person training courses on sponsored research administration; and regularly updates the research community on sponsored research news through  campus meetings, the website, and the listserv.

The Sponsored Research reorganization was accomplished without increasing the size of the office and was done within existing budget parameters.

Together, the new management team will help lead the next phase of the reorganization through a comprehensive business process review focused on each key area under the office’s purview. The office will establish business process workgroups charged with formalizing standard operating procedures. It also will create a cross-functional workflow chart, key performance indicators, and area-specific training plans. In addition, Wolter has convened a cross-campus committee of stakeholders from research-intensive units (Northwestern University Research Administration Leadership) to advise and consult on the reorganization and as a forum to discuss research administration issues. This group now meets monthly.