Alicia Knoedler named Miami’s Vice President for Research & Innovation

Alicia Knoedler

Alicia Knoedler will become Miami University’s vice president for research and innovation (VPRI) on Nov. 1.

She is the former executive associate vice president for research and executive director of the Center for Research Program Development and Enrichment at the University of Oklahoma.

Knoedler will replace Michael Crowder, associate provost and dean of the Graduate School, who is leading the Office of Research and Innovation on an interim basis.

Jason Osborne, Miami’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said Knoedler specializes in crafting, leading and implementing initiatives of strategic value to research across all disciplines and a diverse range of research organizations.

“Dr. Knoedler is a national leader in developing university-based research enterprises and talent. She has had substantial success in helping individuals craft career-long scholarship trajectories, has a strong record of supporting underserved disciplines like the arts and humanities, and has led efforts to diversify research leadership nationally,” Osborne said. “I believe she will quickly empower our faculty, staff and students toward more competitive, successful and impactful research programs, fellowships and awards.”

Prior to her positions at the University of Oklahoma, she served to develop and grow research capacity within various roles at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Notre Dame.

Knoedler wrote in her cover letter for the position that she has cultivated and leveraged nontraditional opportunities in developing her approach to research leadership. She recently served as the director of team innovation within Exaptive, Inc.

“What appeals to me about the VPRI position at Miami University are the needs for a holistic approach to strategically advance research/scholarship/creative activity, innovate in areas of research support and operations, embolden researchers at all levels to pursue research challenges of significant relevance and value across a variety of contexts and stakeholders, and assist in the production of and advocacy for collective research outcomes,” she wrote.

Knoedler earned a bachelor’s degree psychology from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas and a master’s and doctorate in cognitive psychology from Purdue University. Her research interests focus on various memory processes and optimal conditions for remembering as well as dynamic team behaviors and the contributions of team translators as catalysts within research teams.

Osborne noted that over the course of her career, Knoedler has developed a number of programs in support of the development and expansion of research, scholarship and creative activity.

She co-led Oklahoma’s statewide collaborative EPSCoR Track 1 Research Infrastructure Improvement Award, funded by the National Science Foundation, which focused on the socio-ecological approaches to studying climate variability in Oklahoma.

Knoedler also served on the Oklahoma Governor’s Science and Technology Council, which reports to the Oklahoma secretary for science and technology.

In service and leadership to research development at the national level, Knoedler is a founding member, former member of the board of directors and was president and immediate past-president of the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP). She was recently named one of 13 NORDP inaugural fellows.

Knoedler has collaborated with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ (APLU) Council on Research to develop and lead training, professional development and leadership opportunities for senior research leaders and those aspiring to such positions.

She is a member of the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s business and operations advisory committee and vice chair of the NSF-wide committee on equal opportunities in science and engineering, drawing a connection between the NSF’s commitment to broadening participation and the commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging from audiences, institutions and organizations across the nation.


Originally appeared as a “Top Story” on Miami University’s News & Events website.

Jim Oris in his office in Miami University's Roudebush Hall.

VPRI Jim Oris offers farewell to Miami community

I started my career at Miami University in August of 1986, fresh out of a postdoctoral position at my PhD alma mater, Michigan State University. My undergraduate years were spent at a small, undergraduate institution near Dayton, Ohio, and my graduate programs were both at large, Research 1 universities. Both experiences had positive impacts on the view of my future career. I remember telling my PhD advisor and my friends that the perfect place for me was a university that valued undergraduate teaching and research mentoring, but had high expectations for graduate advising, funded research, and scholarship. I also grew up in north central Ohio, and as a young adult had no thought of returning to Ohio, with the exception that I was a huge Cincinnati Reds and Bengals fan as a kid and enjoyed the Southwest Ohio landscape.

Prior to my job interview, my only previous experience in Oxford was as an undergraduate, coming down once or twice to use the library and visit a friend from high school. I never imagined that I would one day be back as a prospective professor. When I drove into Oxford on a spring morning in 1986 to start the interview process, I looked around town and campus and thought, “Wow, what a beautiful place. I could live and raise a family here.”

I was offered the job, and proceeded to spend the next 34 years here. Miami was the only stop along the path of my entire academic career. I developed my teaching and research portfolio, came up through the professorial ranks and served as a faculty member in many service roles, including chair of Zoology graduate programs, chair of IACUC, chair of the University Senate Executive Committee, and president of my national professional society. I had the honor of serving as major advisor of 13 master’s and 14 doctoral students, all of whom went on for further graduate study or directly into careers in academia, government, and industry. I advised over 100 undergraduate researchers in my lab, and was on over 50 graduate committees. In my discipline of eco-toxicology, I grew a respectable funding and publication record (172 publications; $5.1M in funding). I have been honored by my colleagues at the highest level, as a University Distinguished Professor and with the Benjamin Harrison Medallion. These are personal distinctions, but they were made possible by my mentors and colleagues, as well as the atmosphere at Miami that fosters creativity and innovation.

Jim Oris (back row, center) at a society meeting with some of his former students and postdocs and their current students.

I met and worked with many interdisciplinary colleagues here, who have become life-long friends. For example, after a somewhat random introduction and conversation back in 1990, John Bailer and I embarked on an amazing collaboration. He has been one of my closest colleagues, and we now share about 20%-25% of our publications together as co-authors. Together we have created work that has had impact in our fields that neither of us could have done alone. That type of collaboration is part of what makes the Miami Experience so great.

In 2008, I was offered the opportunity to become the Associate Dean for Research in the Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship. Four years later, I was named Associate Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School. I didn’t have experience directing the activities of professional staff, so I turned to what I knew best and adopted the same approach that I used to mentor graduate students: help them grow and when it is time, celebrate their next phase in life. Throughout, I have tried to be transparent, responsive, collegial, and creative in my approach to my relations with faculty, staff, students, and the community in all disciplines and on all campuses. I was always up-front and honest with everyone in all of my interactions. That approach, in my mind, was simply the “Miami Way.”

In 2018/19, Miami embarked on an aggressive strategic planning process that resulted in ambitious goals for graduate programs and research efforts. In recognition of the expanded importance of these operations, this past September the university’s trustees approved a resolution to separate the two positions I have held since 2012. Going forward, the plan was that the Graduate School and the Office of Research & Innovation were to be managed by two separate individuals, the Dean of the Graduate School and the Vice President for Research and Innovation (VPRI). In October, I was appointed as Miami’s inaugural VPRI. I want to thank Provost Osborne for his foresight and leadership as we look toward the future of research, scholarship, and creative activity at the university.

Around the same time, I announced my intention to retire at the end of this school year. Provost Osborne initiated the search for the two positions shortly thereafter. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to complete the search for a new graduate dean. However, the search for the new VPRI had to be postponed. The provost recently announced that Mike Crowder, Chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry department, will be taking the graduate dean position starting July 1st. In addition, he will serve as Interim VPRI until the university is able to reboot the search for my replacement.

I will remain in the role of Vice President until I retire, effective June 30, 2020. As I look back at the many positions I’ve held during my 34-year academic career, I’m proud of my personal and professional achievements and the awards and recognition I’ve received, but my highest sense of accomplishment has been the success of my students and, for the past 12 years, my professional staff and administrative colleagues. Miami has been a special place to work and have a life. And it is even more beautiful than when I drove into town back in 1986.

The place is a key component, but the people are what I will miss the most. Isolated and working from home for the last four months of my career is not what I had planned when I decided to retire. More than anything, I miss walking across campus, seeing the students headed to class, meeting (face to face!) with colleagues, and working closely with my team in Roudebush Hall. What lifts my spirit is that I know I will leave behind a vibrant and growing research and innovation enterprise, and I will look back with pride that I was able to participate in such a wonderful organization. To think that in such a place, I lived such a life.

Love and Honor,
Jim Oris's signature

Mike Crowder in his lab.

Miami University professor Mike Crowder named interim VPRI

Mike Crowder, professor and chair of Miami University’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has been named both Dean of the Graduate School and Interim Vice President of Research & Innovation (VPRI) by Provost Jason Osborne. Both appointments are effective July 1.

Although it had been previously announced that the positions of Dean of the Graduate School and VPRI would be separated, it became necessary to postpone the VPRI search that was underway when, on March 16, President Greg Crawford announced that most Miami personnel would begin working remotely as a measure to help mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. As the search for a new Dean of the Graduate School had been completed by this time, Provost Osborne elected to simultaneously name the Dean and Interim VPRI. The provost intends to resume the search for a permanent VPRI as conditions allow.

Osborne said Crowder’s significant success with external funding, his mentorship of graduate and undergraduate students in his lab and his leadership of a large, research-active department — a role he has held since 2013 — made him a great choice to fill this role on an interim basis. With an active research program focused on metalloenzymes, antibiotic resistance, metal ion homeostasis, and inhibitor design, Crowder has been awarded more than $7 million in external grants.

Crowder will be working closely with current VPRI Jim Oris until Oris’ retirement on June 30.


Photo by Jeff Sabo, Miami University Photo Services.

Jim Oris addresses an audience while Assistant Professor of political science Amanda Gillespie looks on.

Associate Provost for Research offers perspective on leadership: Part III

Paper boats on a solid surface. The boat in the lead is larger and a different color than the following boats.

This is the third in a three-part series on leadership by Miami University’s Associate Provost for Research and Scholarship, Jim Oris. In today’s post, Oris outlines the four elements of his approach to leadership. (Read Part I here. Read Part II here.)


I manage projects and people with attention to teamwork, detail, and collegiality. I am a delegator, and I believe in the power of diverse, interdisciplinary teams and committees. I lead by example and take full responsibility for the results of the activities I direct or delegate. I listen to the opinions of others and seek evaluation and peer-review at all levels. While I often have opinions on the best way to do something, I am always learning and will continue to learn how to better accomplish the goals of a project or task. I am not afraid of peer-review, critique, challenge, or change.

Elements of this approach include the following:

Vision

A leader must set the vision for the operation. I believe in a team-based, forward thinking strategic planning process that consistently updates the plan as time goes by. This includes defining a mission, goals, action steps, challenges, and opportunities.

At Miami University, we use elements of the LEAN approach for strategic planning and process management. This includes a full characterization of the current state, evaluating all elements for their value and necessity, defining an optimal, desired future state, conducting a gap analysis between current and future, and defining actions needed to close the gaps.

Respect

A leader must earn the respect of his or her team. This begins by respecting and valuing the contribution of each member of the team. People model their behavior and work ethic based on what they see in their peers and their supervisors. Everyone, including the leader, needs to work at 100%+. The leader doesn’t need to know the details of every operation in the group, but s/he must understand each process to ensure efficient and effective outcomes. A leader must listen to her or his team, and be ready to make changes in processes or procedures if the person who does the operation all day every day identifies a better method. In my experience, micromanagers are rarely respected by their staff. However, neither are managers who are hands-off, aloof, and uninformed.

Motivation

A leader is only as good as her or his team. If the team is not motivated, no one succeeds. In sponsored research offices, there are often very few pathways to promotion, so it is critical to find ways to allow staff members to grow personally and professionally. At Miami, we created professional pathways for all areas in our pre-award administration group that allows for promotion through the ranks in sponsored programs, proposal development, research communications, technology transfer, and compliance. These pathways allow for expansion of specific areas as needed. In addition, staff are expected to participate in professional development activities and in their respective professional societies. This allows them to grow and become better at their jobs and provides them with professional visibility and networking opportunities. Great staff are hard to find and even harder to keep. A good leader may be disappointed by, but not afraid of, a staff member’s leaving the team when an enhanced professional opportunity arises. My approach on this was derived directly from my experience as a faculty member and how I mentored students: they students were expected to develop into colleagues, complete their projects, and then move on to the next stage of their career.

Team Mentality and Collegiality

It is easy in an administrative office for each person to go to their corner and get their work done, but it is not an effective way to operate a complex unit. We meet formally and informally on a regular basis, sharing daily experiences and how we solved a particular problem or took a different approach. Meetings intentionally include both operational and strategic topics. I use the same, cross-functional team approach with professional staff as I did with students, taking advantage of different personality preferences to build diverse teams.

We have fun at work. I like to have fun and so does most everyone I know, so why should work not be fun? Social time, casual conversations, finding humor in most situations, and being flexible with people’s personal lives are all important to me as a leader to build and boost spirits. Happy people are better workers, are willing to share their opinions about their jobs to make them better, are more efficient and effective, are better customer servants, and leave for different job opportunities less often than those who are not.

Life experiences formulate one’s approach to leading and managing others. In my case, experience has led me to a melding of mentorship styles for both students and staff. Providing Opportunities, and making sure others can be successful, leads to personal satisfaction and success. I wouldn’t change a thing.


Written by Jim Oris, Associate Provost for Research, Miami University.

Photo of Jim Oris by Scott Kissell, Miami University Photo Services. Paper boat photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán via Pexels, used under Creative Commons license.

Jim Oris addresses an audience.

Associate Provost for Research offers perspective on leadership: Part II

An iPad screen with various words displayed. The word "leadership" stands out. Other words are "guides or," "action of," and "capacity."

This is the second in a three-part series on leadership by Miami University’s Associate Provost for Research and Scholarship, Jim Oris. In today’s post, Oris describes how being a faculty mentor prepared him for administrative leadership. (Read Part I here.)


Managing, mentoring, and training students led to the appreciation of different personality types and how each person’s engrained personality preferences need to be mentored in different ways, and my approach with them as individuals was tailored to their specific needs. Whether a student needed more or less direction, was more contemplative and introverted or more impulsive and extroverted, or was more self-insecure versus over-confident needed to be determined before I could be a good mentor. This kind of mentoring does not occur by assigning a postdoctoral fellow or senior graduate student to train new graduate students. It took a significant amount of one-on-one time with each student to be a good major professor. Understanding the strengths of different personality preferences can also be directed toward establishing diverse, cross-functional teams. Each student on a team for our group projects was given a role that they could excel in, but each was expected to learn roles of others on the team that took them out of their comfort zone. In my 28 years as a faculty member, this approach was successful with 14 PhD’s, 13 MS’s, and seven postdoctoral fellows, with nearly $5M in extramural funding, and resulted in over 100 peer-reviewed publications. To this day, all of these individuals remain good friends and colleagues.

In addition to teaching and research, I was very active in university-wide service as a professor, serving among other roles as director of my department’s graduate program for ten years, as chair of the animal care and use committee for eight years, and as a member and then chair of University Senate. I also was extremely active in my professional society, involved at all levels including six years on the Board of Directors and three years in the executive board, which included serving as president.

It was in my service to the professional society, however, that I learned the most about motivating peers and professional staff. I was elected president at a particularly challenging time with regard to finances and management. Instead of focusing on the academic side of the society, I was given the Opportunity to pull a $25M/year society out of a serious financial hole and to transition a 3,000+-member society and its staff of ten from a long-term and deeply entrenched executive director to a new executive director. Needless to say, there was no training in my background as an aquatic toxicologist that prepared me for that, but it was one of the most formative experiences I will ever have.

In 2008, I moved from full-time faculty member to full-time administrator as the associate dean for research. In 2012, I was promoted to be the university’s chief research officer and dean of the graduate school. I lead a professional staff of over 20, nearly half of whom are in the research office. Until 2016, I also maintained my laboratory research program and continued to mentor students. I have one current PhD student conducting field research, who is scheduled to graduate in 2018, and I still work with students and serve as a research consultant on several projects led by colleagues and former students.

After nearly eight years as a research administrator, I look back and see a tremendous amount of overlap between my role as a faculty mentor and my role as an administrator. My approach to mentoring and managing my staff is little different from my approach to mentoring students and managing my research program. I am not “The Boss.” I treat students, faculty, staff, and administrators at all levels with respect and dignity. I am part of the team and we are colleagues. However, I set clear goals and high expectations, and everyone is evaluated on a regular basis to ensure they are performing at a high level.

In Part III, Jim Oris outlines the four elements of his approach to leadership.


Written by Jim Oris, Associate Provost for Research, Miami University.

Photo of Jim Oris by Angelo Gelfuso, Miami University Photo Services. Leadership image by Nick Youngson via The Blue Diamond Gallery, used under Creative Commons license.

 

Jim Oris talks to Associate Dean Ann Frymier.

Associate Provost for Research offers perspective on leadership: Part I

The word Leadership appears to be handwritten by an hand on the backside of a piece of invisible glass. The hand is in the act of underlining the word.

 

This is the first in a three-part series on leadership by Miami University’s Associate Provost for Research and Scholarship, Jim Oris. In today’s post, Oris recounts formative experiences that laid the groundwork for the development of his philosophy of leadership.


When I first started my career in academia, the furthest thing from my mind was becoming a university administrator. All I thought about was my teaching and research programs. The university did not provide opportunities for faculty to learn leadership or administrative skills, and I was never offered the opportunity to explore those options outside of the university. Thus, my approach to leadership and university research administration are the result of integrating my life experiences, modeling best practices based on observations of what I considered effective leaders, and (frankly) trial and error.

I grew up in a household that valued education and how it can empower choice and freedom. My upbringing enforced independence, hard work, and striving to do the very best job one can do on every task one was assigned. My parents believed in providing their children with Opportunity, with a capital “O” – the opportunity to succeed and the opportunity to fail – without judgment. I was drawn to my research discipline (aquatic toxicology) from a very early age after reading newly posted signs at Lake Erie declaring that fish were no longer safe to eat, literally a day after my extended family had a fishing trip and a huge fish fry dinner. I was drawn to teaching through my love of water, liquid and solid, by gaining certification for and teaching swimming lessons and SCUBA diving and by offering snow skiing lessons for over ten years.

In college, I had a professor and advisor who dedicated his life to aquatic research and to the professional development of young scientists and ecologists. At that time, undergraduate research was not as popular or in vogue as it is today, but I sought out the opportunity to do research on the effects of fuel oil on fish eggs. My advisor provided me the Opportunity to do that for two academic years. He helped me identify and gain admission to a top-notch graduate program and major professor.

In graduate school, the focus was on research, and only research. My advisor’s motto was “if you don’t publish your work, it didn’t happen.” He led by example and to this day remains one of the most well-known and prolific researchers in his field. He set high expectations and provided his students with measured mentoring and the Opportunity to define their own projects, to be independent researchers but work within collaborative teams, and to seek ways to fund their research. He also enforced the importance of being active in our professional society – participating in meetings and committees as well as being part of the governance of the society. As important as research productivity was in our lab, in my hopes to become a teacher/scholar I requested and was given the Opportunity to teach a lecture section of an aquatic toxicology class as a senior level graduate student.

These experiences prepared me to be a faculty member, but not a leader. Following best practices I observed in undergraduate and graduate school, I sought to develop students into professional colleagues by the time they graduated. It is through this mentorship and working with a large group of diverse students at different levels of professional development that I began to formulate my own approach to people management and leadership. As a major advisor, my goal was helping students to become practicing professionals in a normative time frame and then helping them find employment where their passions took them. My former students and postdoctoral fellows now work in all sectors of the environmental profession, as professors, government researchers and policy managers, industrial scientists, private consultants, and non-governmental organization scientists and managers. Developing students into high-performing scientists and managers, and seeing them grow in their roles in their jobs and society was the most rewarding part of my job as a faculty member.

In Part II, Jim Oris describes how being a faculty mentor prepared him for administrative leadership.


By Jim Oris, Associate Provost for Research and Scholarship, Miami University.

Photo of Jim Oris by Angelo Gelfuso, Miami University Photo Services. Leadership image by Nick Youngson via Creative Commons Images, used under Creative Commons license.