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First Big Ten summit convenes associate deans for research

Janet Kiplinger Ciccone
June 17, 2019

Dean Don Pope-Davis is taking research collaboration to a new level among similar colleges in the Big Ten Academic Alliance.

On June 6 and 7, the College of Education and Human Ecology hosted the inaugural Big Ten summit, a gathering of associate deans for research at colleges of education and human ecology. It sparked an illuminating exchange of ideas.

“Our purpose was to share strategies for supporting faculty, staff and students in doing the kind of research that responds to communities that want to partner to improve lives,” said Natasha Slesnick, associate dean of the Office of Research, Innovation and Collaboration. “Everyone was so enthusiastic about the benefits of our discussion that we plan to come together yearly, with a different university hosting each time. In essence, we launched a network.”

The 10 associate deans who attended, plus Slesnick and her staff, began the important work of building relationships. They discussed topics ranging from big successes to models for building collaborative relationships with schools and communities.

Understanding effective strategies can make all the difference to success. And they all want to focus on how their combined power can best serve citizens of their cities and states.

Randy Moses, senior associate vice president in Ohio State’s Office of Research, spoke to the assembly about his experience with building a similar network for associate deans for research both for Big Ten colleges of engineering and as part of a national engineering professional society.

“It was great to take part in this Big Ten gathering of associate deans,” he said. “I benefitted so much from my colleagues in similar groups when I was an associate dean, and I am happy to see the EHE associate deans come together to work on their challenges and to share best practices.”

Research lightning rounds

The summit provided an opportunity for Ohio State Education and Human Ecology faculty and staff to share their current research.

“These brief talks were really impactful because they showcased the breadth of our research,” Slesnick said. “Our work spans many different disciplines.”

Claire Kamp Dush, associate professor of human development and family science, described how she and her diverse research team used a innovative approach — crowdsourcing — to help shape their survey for the National Couples’ Health and Time Study, the first population-representative study of same-gender and different-gender couples in the United States.

She received $2.3 million for the study from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development. It will have an oversample of individuals who are racial and ethnic minorities.

She made the case to the funder, using solid data, that lack of diversity in U.S. health research put a single race and gender of people in charge of designing studies and interventions to reduce the nation’s biggest health problems. The risk: Those individuals may not be asking the right questions to solve challenges faced by diverse populations who disproportionately suffer from health problems.

Dr. Kamp Dush said “The resulting data, which will be publicly available to scholars around the world, is a unique and exciting opportunity for researchers who cannot find sufficient samples to test their research questions to discover potential underlying causes for race and sexual and gender minority health disparities in the U.S.”

Frank Symons offered to host the next meeting of the group at the University of Minnesota.
Frank Symons offered to host the next meeting of the group at the University of Minnesota.

Next meeting in Minnesota

Frank Symons, associate dean for research and policy at the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development, feels so strongly about building on what Slesnick and Ohio State started that he offered to host next year’s gathering at the University of Minnesota.

“The benefits of building a network is capitalizing on complementary strengths across our Big Ten colleges,” he said.

“By working together on common goals — on the 'big problems' — we may be able to leverage that strength to make a difference in ways that no one lab, center, department or even college can. So true to the Big 10 academic legacy, we think that we are stronger working together.”