Research institute assistant director leads with diligence

A graphic shows Jena Gunter on the left and reads Unsung Hero, Jena Gunter, Institute for Policy & Social Research

Jena Gunter | IPSR | May 2021

Jena Gunter brings a calm, reassuring presence to her role as assistant director of KU's Institute for Policy & Social Research, where she has earned the trust of the entire staff.

“She is the glue that holds IPSR together,” said Donna Ginther, director of the institute and Dean's Professor of Economics.

Gunter manages more than $11 million in funded research, oversees a staff of 14, interacts with other KU offices, manages daily operations and more. Outside of IPSR, she serves on KU Staff Senate and KU Research committees.

Gunter has an “encyclopedic knowledge” of IPSR’s activities and works tirelessly to find solutions, Ginther said.

Once, a researcher conducting fieldwork abroad needed help compensating research subjects but didn’t have access to electronic payments or other standard protocols. Gunter navigated the process, helping the researcher conduct the work, pay the research subjects and satisfy agency and institutional regulations.

Gunter is detail-oriented and understands the complex operations of IPSR — catching the smallest of mistakes while staying attuned to the big picture. Last year, Gunter took on the responsibility of conceiving and producing the first annual report of IPSR’s activities in 15 years.

“Jena loves her job,” Ginther said, “and everyone who works with her knows that."

Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender and sexuality studies, has worked with Gunter on many research projects. Britton said Gunter is an advocate for researchers' projects, ideas and teams. She thinks ahead to anticipate reporting and assessment needs in all steps of the research process.

“When budgets are tight and the work gets long and difficult, she works countless hours at night and on the weekends to make sure everyone has what they need to keep our research moving,” Britton said.