The Director of Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) works with the Vice Provost for Research (VP-R) at Vanderbilt University (Vanderbilt or VU) and is a key manager responsible for implementing the vision and advancing the quality of the research enterprise across campus, as well as leading the SPA team and overseeing SPA operations, including the Vanderbilt electronic research administration (VERA) system. This position reports directly to the VP-R, serving as a close advisor and a member of the VP-R leadership team to help manage the short- and long-term critical priorities, initiatives, and activities of SPA. Additionally, the Director maintains strong working relationships with the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization (CTTC), the Office of the General Counsel (OGC), Research Finance, and sponsored programs professionals in the colleges, departments, schools, and centers.
Sponsored Programs Administration supports and advocates the University’s mission through leadership and expertise ensuring compliance with relevant regulations. SPA serves as a central resource providing guidance and stewardship by supporting the entire research community. SPA processes proposals and negotiates grants, contracts and other agreements. SPA values and promotes integrity, innovation, knowledge, collaboration, and effectiveness.
Duties and Responsibilities
- Oversee all pre-award, non-financial post-award, contract and sub-award, and training functions in SPA, including direct supervision of the Assistant Director, the Contracts Manager, and the Policy and Training Manager.
- Serve as a member of the VP-R leadership team and provide advice to the VP-R on complicated, sensitive, and confidential issues. Organize and prioritize critical issues and required information for the VP-R to facilitate effective decision-making.
- Develop and implement a vision and advance goals and objectives for the SPA team. Ensure the most effective operations through program development, process improvement, and coordination/integration with the broader VU research community.
- Oversee the hiring, training, supervision, and retention of SPA staff members, and provide opportunities for professional growth that increase the capacity and stability of the team.
- Foster a cohesive team that works collaboratively to achieve SPA’s goals. Inspire and motivate staff members by fostering a work environment that encourages new ideas and team-based efforts, celebrates achievements, and sets and meets strategic goals. Facilitate excellent working relationships between SPA staff and the VU research community.
- Oversee the Vanderbilt electronic research administration (VERA) system, as well as important Sponsored Programs initiatives, including the development and implementation of campus level policies and business processes related to research administration.
- Serve as the primary SPA Liaison to Research Finance. Coordinate and collaborate closely with Research Finance leadership to solve problems and facilitate information exchange about programs, issues, and process improvements to ensure a seamless pre- and post-award process.
- Maintain current knowledge of federal initiatives, changes to regulations, and evolving national trends that affect research administration. This includes maintaining familiarity and knowledge of external information systems (e.g., NOAA Grants Online, NIH Commons, Research.Gov, and NSF Fastlane) that are relevant to proposal submission and award administration, and independently keeping abreast of changes and updates in federal and state regulations governing sponsored projects.
- Work with the SPA Policy and Training Manager to build and deliver a comprehensive training and outreach program for the VU research community to ensure the requisite level of familiarity with policies, procedures, systems, and the federal regulatory climate.
- Work with the relevant offices within the University regarding general compliance issues (COI, IRB, IACUC, EC).
- Resolve administrative and management issues that may involve a number of central offices, schools, and departments.
- Ensure SPA is providing a high level of customer service support to VU researchers and departmental administrators across campus.
- Work with the VP-R to improve standard operating procedures and workflows for more efficient operations.
- Serve as the primary SPA signatory and as lead SPA administrator.
- Establish excellent working relationships with key stakeholders, including OGC, CTTC, Research Finance, and sponsored programs professionals in the colleges and schools.
- Be a visible leader in national conversations on research administration through interaction with colleagues at the national level via appropriate research administration organizations (e.g., FDP, COGR, NCURA).
- Perform other duties and responsibilities, as assigned.
This position has supervisory responsibility over designated staff. This position reports functionally and administratively to the Vice Provost for Research.
- A Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education is necessary.
- A Master’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education is strongly preferred.
- Certified Research Administrator certification is preferred.
- At least eight years of relevant experience in sponsored research in a higher education environment.
- Deep knowledge of electronic research administration (ERA) systems, preferably Huron’s ERA, and their use in sponsored projects management.
- Demonstrated managerial talent with a proven ability to lead and motivate others and earn the respect of associates at all levels.
- Excellent judgment, interpersonal, and communication skills and the ability to work effectively with a wide range of constituencies in a diverse community.
- Demonstrated success in taking initiative, meeting deadlines, adapting to changing priorities, and managing multiple projects simultaneously.
- Experience working with governmental sponsors, as well as an understanding of the cultures, policies, and practices related to grants and contracts that impact such entities. Familiarity with federal and state regulations governing sponsored projects.
- Demonstrated commitment to continuous process improvement through best practices and innovative approaches to research administration.
- Ability to function effectively in a complex organizational environment demanding high energy, discretion, patience, enthusiasm, and humor.
- Values the importance of equity as an organizational operating principle and is committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion.