Sharing Lessons Learned from University-Led Grand Challenges with other universities at NORDP

May 10, 2018
Grand Challenges were of great interest to the NORDP attendees and, given UCLA’s role as the first university to initiate a Grand Challenge program, the team was in demand – participating in four sessions. Pictured above is the Ideas Lab Workshop that occurred on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 titled, “Starting a Grand Challenge Initiative & Picking/Proposing a Grand Challenge Topic: Issues and Decisions from the University and the Research Teams Perspectives.”
Photo by:

10th Annual NORDP Research Development Conference

The 10th annual meeting for the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP) occurred on May 7 through May 9, 2018 in Arlington, VA. The conference, themed “Resilience in a Shifting Research Landscape”, gathered representatives from campuses across the country to exchange best practices in fostering research. Grand Challenges were of great interest to the attendees and, given UCLA’s role as the first university to initiate a Grand Challenge program, its team was in demand – participating in four sessions.

Pre-Conference Workshop

The first session was an all-day, invite-only workshop for research development leaders from universities across the country. The session focused on creating a partnership mindset to stimulate research and innovation. Michelle Popowitz (UCLA Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research & Executive Director for UCLA Grand Challenges) was one of the organizers.

Session Focused on Creating a Grand Challenge Program

Designed for campuses exploring whether and how to start a program, one session was organized as a workshop to help participants think through key considerations when establishing and implementing a grand challenge program, such as the drivers for starting a program, “goal” versus “theme”, approaches, funding mechanisms, ideation strategies, and more. Overall, the session was a mix of reflections, brainstorming and report outs, with Community of Practice for University-Led Grand Challenges (COP-UGC) members sharing their experiences.

Co-Organizers for these activities were:

– Eva Allen (Indiana University)

– Sarah Archibald (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

– Jennifer Lyon Gardner (The University of Texas at Austin)

– Michelle Popowitz (UCLA)

– Sarah Rovito (Association of Public and Land-grant Universities)

– Amy Spellacy (The Ohio State University)

Session Focused on Running a Grand Challenge Program

Another session at NORDP was reserved for attendees to engage in Q&A with COP-UGC members regarding issues that arise with grand challenge programs. Workshop organizers fielded questions from the audience and addressed topics including issues and decisions that may arise once a program is live, moving from a goal to a measureable action, fostering a team, maintaining buy-in from leaders, and when to seek help.

Attendees at all sessions were encouraged to consult the Report on University-Led Grand Challenges and join the Community of Practice Google Group at!forum/universitygcs.

This session was co-organized by the team referenced above.

Networking Dinner

A networking dinner was organized for those participants interested in further discussions on Grand Challenges in a more casual setting. About 17 individuals joined for more intimate conversation with the COP-UGC members and sharing of experiences.

Networking dinner organized on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 organized for participants interested in further discussions on Grand Challenges.
Photo courtesy of Lee Moradi, PhD (Director of Engineering at University of Alabama at Birmingham)

Read more about NORDP. Links to the session PowerPoints coming soon.


For more information about Grand Challenges at NORDP, see our previous posts:

Sharing Lessons Learned from UCLA Grand Challenges with Other Universities at NORDP 09 May, 2017, UCLA Grand Challenges Happenings

Michelle Popowitz, Casandra Rauser and Marjorie Duske present at NORDP 01 May 2015, UCLA Grand Challenges Happenings

Cristin Dorgelo, Michelle Popowitz, Stacy Esposito, and Amy Hawkins present at the 2014 NORDP Conference 20 May 2014, UCLA Grand Challenges Happenings