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Unsung Heroes of KU Research

Behind every successful award are teams of KU research development and administration staff who help investigators identify opportunities, prepare and submit complicated proposals under strict deadlines, and then help manage finances and compliance for funded projects. They are the unsung heroes of KU research, greasing the wheels of innovation and discovery.

In each issue of KU Discoveries, we shine a spotlight on a KU staff member deemed particularly outstanding by colleagues.

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September 2019

Nancy Myers

Development officer catalyzes KU research funding success

Nancy Myers | Research Development Officer | IPSR

Ward Lyles cannot imagine having applied for and received the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award for early-career faculty without the support of Nancy Myers.

“Her expertise, skills, encouragement and full array of talents and personality were invaluable every step of the way,” said Lyles, an associate professor of urban planning who won a five-year, $500,000 NSF CAREER award in 2018. “From the outset, she gave generously of her time and insights to help me craft the proposal.”

Multiply that sentiment over the 800-plus proposals that Myers has coordinated or supervised as grant development officer at the Institute for Policy & Social Research, and the magnitude of her positive impact on the University of Kansas research community starts to become clear.

During 19 years at IPSR, Myers has helped grow the center’s client base from fewer than 10 to more than 150 affiliates in a wide range of disciplines, including business, law, education, journalism and the social sciences. She and her team have helped secure over $40 million in grants and contract funding for KU investigators exploring social problems and policy-relevant questions.

What drives those impressive quantitative results, according to colleagues, is Myers’ qualitative excellence.

“Nancy brings excitement and energy to the workplace, which is undoubtedly a factor in her success and the success of faculty she supports,” a co-worker said. “In a job with tight deadlines and a need for the highest quality work that requires deep collaboration with diverse faculty, she and her team have achieved what is hardest to achieve: calm, high-level performance.”  

Lyles noted that Myers’ professionalism and commitment elevate KU’s reputation beyond campus borders: “Colleagues from other institutions – some with much bigger research infrastructures – have made a point of telling me how impressive IPSR, and Nancy, are.”

July 2019

Joanne Eden

'Go-to' manager leads gracefully under pressure

Joanne Eden | Grant Officer | Post-Award | KU Office of Research

Knowledgeable. Respectful. Helpful. Consistent.

The words Joanne Eden’s colleagues use to describe her read like a hiring manager’s wish list. As a veteran grant officer in the Office of Research Post-Award unit, Eden has been around the University of Kansas long enough (31 years) to recall the origin and evolution of projects and practices.

“She’s just a bank full of knowledge,” said a co-worker. “She remembers details from 10 or 15 years ago. And she truly believes in not just giving you the answer, but also giving you the history to help you connect the dots.”

As the Grant Management Team lead, Eden supervises 10 employees who manage more than 2,600 awards from a diverse range of sponsors. No two awards are exactly alike, and Eden guides her staff through the nuance of budget allocations, cost transfers, revenue balancing, financial reporting and more with a steady hand. Appreciation for her expertise extends beyond the Office of Research.

“She has a great reputation with the different funding agencies,” a colleague said. “She also counsels many of the faculty and program officers on campus. When she has an opportunity to meet with them, it’s always positive.”

Through it all, Eden models calmness, kindness and positivity. She brings flowers to brighten the office at least once a week, and she stocks the freezer with treats. “She understands the stress of the job,” one team member said. “Any time we’re having a hard day, we know we can indulge in an ice cream cone to soothe the beast.”