Sharing our legacy: Reflections from consortium leaders

‘Truly transformational’ — Dorota Huizinga, PhD, talks about how funding can change the grant proposal landscape

By Melissa Simon

October 31, 2023

The process for applying for a research grant can often be tedious for faculty and students. 

Dorota Huizinga, PhD, wanted to make proposal submissions easier and reorganize post-award infrastructure at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB), where she is the Associate Provost for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies.

In the next interview featured in the Diversity Program Consortium (DPC) series, “Sharing our legacy: Reflections from consortium leaders,” Huizinga talks about how funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) helped increase the diversity of faculty and students engaged in research and streamline grant operations at the university. 

Huizinga is the principal investigator for Advancing Sponsored Program Infrastructure for Research Excellence (ASPIRE), a NIH-funded Sponsored Programs Administration Development (SPAD) grant at CSUSB that aims to reorganize grant proposal infrastructure and enhance research development. She’s also an information and decision sciences professor.

Read the Q&A below to see what Huizinga said about her work with the DPC. Watch her full interview, “Truly transformational” on YouTube.

Q: What is the project you work on for the DPC?

A: The title of our SPAD Grant is ASPIRE, which stands for Advancing Sponsored Program Infrastructure for Research Excellence. The program was conceived based on . . . NCURA report. NCURA is the National [Council] of University Research Administrators and they have a program called the peer review. During this program, you can invite professionals from those organizations to come over to your campus and do the assessment of the research infrastructure. That’s what we've done and the report of this organization became an impetus for writing the grant proposal, which had two specific aims. One of them was to reorganize our post-award infrastructure and the other one was to enhance our research development.

Q: What is something positive that's happened as a result of your project?

A: Definitely [an] increase in our grant activity and . . . proposal submissions and even in the awards. The grant . . . started three years ago and we have increased our awards by about 40%, but our proposal submissions increased almost three times. It was really interesting to see how quickly faculty got interested in submitting proposals and once some of them became successful then it became almost contagious [and] others wanted to have funded proposals too. . . . It was just amazing to see how quickly faculty got engaged and sort of responded to the programs that we implemented [and] the success was overwhelming and continues to be overwhelming. 

Q: What is the most meaningful lesson you learned from your project?

A: Many lessons [were] learned from this but I think the big picture is that be prepared to make necessary changes as things happen—as the pandemic happens, as you've got new leadership, as we have new policies . . . and [as you] go forward, adapt to those changes. . . . I was very concerned, obviously, at the beginning [when we got the grant and] I think in some ways the fact that we were the first ones on campus to put together a lot of programs, [it] gave us the advantage because we drew a lot of faculty who wanted this contact. Our workshops [and] our communications helped with that and I think that's what caused this original interest in putting together the proposals and ultimately increased the number of grants. . . . My advice to anybody who has a grant . . . is be prepared for potential changes, modifications and adapt to them and move forward. Don’t be scared.

Q: What do you hope will be the legacy of your work?

A: This grant was truly transformational for us. . . . Right now, we have increased the 

number of proposal submissions, we have also many more faculty submitting proposals [and] the grant-seeking culture and support of sponsored research culture definitely got elevated. I think people feel that we are much more transparent about providing services because we have implemented many new services but we also use the old ones. We are more transparent, more efficient and more effective and they trust us more. Without SPAD . . . I think all those factors, together with the circumstances, are going to help us to continue [and] I already know a lot of things will be done, continued beyond this grant.

Huizinga’s interview is part of the “Sharing our legacy: Reflections from consortium leaders” series that will be released through the spring of 2024.

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The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.

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