Beth Koenig and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs help turn intellectual curiosity into groundbreaking research and scholarship.
By Mary Beth Leone-Getten | PHOTO BY BILL KELLEY
A small office in the basement of Derham
Hall is a beehive of scholarly productivity
and collaboration. It is the Office of
Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP), where
faculty and staff members work together to nurture
fledgling ideas into project plans and grant
proposals that, in turn, will yield groundbreaking
research or fund vital initiatives at the University.
In 2002, St. Kate's received a grant from the Eunice
Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and
Human Development to create an office that would support
faculty and staff in seeking, applying for and managing grants
from local, state and federal government funding sources.
Beth Koenig '92 was tapped to be ORSP's founding director.
Koenig, who studied speech communication and music vocal
performance at St. Kate's, had previously worked in
human resources and alumnae affairs. After graduation, she
earned a law degree from Hamline University. With a big
smile and a hearty laugh, Koenig has an enthusiastic presence
on campus and a reputation as a connector — someone who
has the innate ability to make introductions among the right
people in order to move projects along.
She's been called a "driving force" for many St. Catherine
initiatives — including a key role as co-collaborator in the
creation of St. Kate's National Center for STEM Elementary
Education. In May she was nominated for St. Kate's "Staff
of the Year" award.
Since 2008, Koenig has also served as the director of government
relations, keeping St. Kate's visible to government
officials at the local, state and federal level. Through her work
with U.S. Representative Betty McCollum '87, the University
has been awarded an appropriation of $600,000 to create a
nursing technology lab.
An engine for Ideas
In developing and enhancing ORSP, Koenig wanted an
office with a welcoming, collaborative atmosphere, where
faculty would feel supported to launch their ideas.
Kirsten Walters became
the second ORSP professional
staff member. Together the pair created a
that provides leadership,
education and mentoring
to faculty in five interrelated
areas: grant seeking
research design and
ethics; evaluation; and
writing, publication and
In collaboration with
Corporate and Foundation
Relations, ORSP also provides
that focus on grant-writing,
— Psychology Professor Jamie Peterson
of Psychology Jamie Peterson credits Koenig and ORSP with
getting her research on the fast track. She has received two internal
grants (funds awarded by a St. Catherine faculty committee
from the general operating budget, endowments,
corporations or other sources). The grants allowed Peterson
and a student to study perceptions of power in the classroom,
and, with psychology colleagues Gil Clary and Andrea Olson,
she examined behaviors of female students in learning science
in order to develop better STEM curricula.
Since 2002, ORSP has submitted 86 government grant
applications and subcontracts. To date, 46 have been
awarded, totaling $6.3 million, and notice is pending on
15 more grants. The University's average annual funding
rate of 61 percent exceeds the national average.
Some highlights include:
- A five-year grant of $1.5 million to the CATIE Center
from the U.S. Department of Education to create one
of six regional centers working to increase the number
of American Sign Language interpreters available for
vocational rehabilitation and other professional settings.
- A National Science
Foundation (NSF) grant
for $160,000 to buy
equipment that allows
biology faculty to engage
in research critical to the
study of ecosystems.
- ORSP submitted 24 government grants and subcontracts
during this past academic year, doubling the rate of two
years ago. In addition, the office currently has budgetary
oversight for 40 active internal grants and 52 active external
grants, representing nearly $5 million.
The impact on students is significant. In 2008–09, grant
funding allowed 21 students to participate in collaborative
research with faculty members in disciplines ranging from
biology and education to social work and ASL and interpreting.
ORSP's work also helped support academic opportunities
for 75 additional students.
By all measures, academic research at St. Kate's is thriving,
due in no small part to Koenig's laser focus and generous
spirit. "She had such optimism about my projects,"says
Peterson, the psychology professor, who currently is working
on an NSF proposal. "It felt like my dreams and goals
had become hers, too."
Mary Beth Leone-Getten is a Twin Cities–based freelance writer.