It is the season of resolutions and renewals. I am most often reminded of resolve as I turn the cranks of my bicycle on any of the many long uphill roads in the region. For me, there is a strange Zen of setting a rhythm—pulsing your body’s force against the mountain over the course of 2-or 3-thousand feet for hours. On my latest climb up and around the Sedona Hills and Carter lake areas, I tried to take my mind off the exertion and long uphill ahead to focus on the views from the moment.
These periods of introspection and the resolve needed to rise to the challenge seem appropriate given the events and activities of our office over the fall period and into the New Year. On my first retreat as VPR about a year ago, we set a course to explore interests in the research enterprise in creating new opportunities against large complex issues. We pledged to step up our efforts to advocate for the research enterprise in new ways. In turn, we established three areas of focus to create cross-campus dialogues with our key constituents, faculty around recognizing and rewarding people, examining processes to seek effectiveness and agility and new programs that promote interdisciplinary teaming. In each of these areas, we have made substantive progress against defined goals.
Recent announcements from our office that are products of that retreat include the Catalyst for Innovative Partnerships and the Interdisciplinary Scholars Awards. Both of these programs are launched as a result of a constructive and transparent process that brought in many from all over campus. The Catalyst program seeks to build new interdisciplinary teams that will pursue complex problems with consortia like proposals to establish large impact research opportunities for CSU. This is a different investment model than our typical seeded research programs, as we seek to support these teams with an OVPR Catalyst team to facilitate success. The Interdisciplinary Scholars award recognized existing success in interdisciplinary research and teaming.
CSU students observing the LSC Research Wall
Our resolve to advocate on behalf of research excellence is best manifested in the opening of the new research wall at the Lory Student Center. The wall project was initiated a year ago when Mike Ellis approached us about supporting a media wall that would allow us to present outstanding achievements from our research and scholarly arts. We commissioned John Gravdahl in our Arts Department to design four panels that capture the imagination and magic of discovery and impact of our research efforts. The work he completed now hangs on the wall and is titled “The Research Method” and is an outstanding artistic legacy John has left for CSU. We held a great unveiling event on January 22. Kudos to Lauren Klamm, Kathy Partin and Ellen Fisher in the OVPR who worked tirelessly to bring the wall to fruition. For me, the event held a personal connection as I learned that John also was commissioned for graphic arts for my uncle who at the time led the Fort Collins Symphony.
The last month we participated in the strategic planning and budget hearings held at this time of resolve. Our presentations represented hours of dialogue with the Council of Research Associate Deans, Council of Deans and Research Strategic Planning Committee on key goals for the research enterprise, metrics as to what we would measure and be held accountable for, and resources needed to meet defined strategic goals and programs. We requested resources to grow the Catalyst program, solidify the implementation of electronic reporting and administrative systems (Digital Measures, Kuali-Coeus) and to add resources to communicate the world class discoveries and impacts accomplished by our outstanding faculty.
Finally, the Provost Office and OVPR launched a new effort to fund faculty in key strategic areas of interest. We received many great cluster hire proposals from across campus in this first round of this new program in exciting areas of potential growth. We are currently evaluating the proposals to explore how to strategically align these investments. I am sure we will apply the same resolve that is a hallmark of CSU to identifying areas for cluster hires, recruitment and selection of great new faculty that can contribute to future land grant missions in exciting new ways.
As I finish reflecting over the last year, my mind returns to my cycling trek. I recognize then that the exertion I was avoiding held a metaphor to the OVPR’s journey. Processing this comparison, I pedal along the uphill path. A marker of my laborious effort remains the rhythmic beat of my own breathing, my own heart thumping and my bicycle’s gears changing, providing cadence to the journey. In this rigorous moment, I remember one of the great motivators is the promise of an easier downhill journey. When it arrives, I rest my legs and, from here, a scenic view serves as a reward for great effort. After only one short year, a year full of uphill strategic planning, determination and implementation, the OVPR’s abundant accomplishments are the scenic views rewarding our hard work. While we allow ourselves to relish in this moment, as any trekker knows, one must prepare for the next journey with great resolve. Heart pumping and cranks turning, we welcome the uphill journey propelling us into the next year.