December 1, 2011

Emmanuel’s Graduate Studies + Nursing Program Welcomes First Students from Kenya

Robert Rono
Robert Rono in his office at Moi University

Robert Rono is a morning person.

One of only two current international students in Emmanuel's Graduate Studies + Nursing program in Research Administration, he studies in the quiet early hours before going to his job as the Business Official in the Research and Sponsored Projects Office (RSPO) at Moi University, a public institution of over 22,000 students that emphasizes science and technology in Eldoret, Kenya. The RSPO is a joint venture between the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH), Moi University School of Medicine (MUSOM), and their collaborators from the United States, Indiana University.

A Certified Public Accountant, Rono was working as a senior accountant at MTRH, supervising the hospital's budget, revenue, salaries and expenses, and had obtained an MBA to ensure that he had the academic certification to take on higher-level responsibilities. In 2003, he was selected to extend his accounting position and be part of the founding team that established the sponsored projects office at Moi University. The office manages all extramural grants and contracts awarded to MTRH/MUSOM and develops and strengthens institutional and faculty collaborations with universities, communities and other organizations in the conduct of research, teaching and service programs. Today, the RSPO has a robust staff of 30 that administers over 90 research and service grants and manages an annual budget of over $18 million.

"You will rarely encounter an office like this in Sub-Saharan Africa," Rono said.

Rono oversees all financial aspects of donor-funded projects, taking particular enjoyment in building a grant budget from scratch as the proposal is being developed by researchers. He gets great satisfaction in seeing a completed, submitted, funded and finally implemented research project. He also assists the grants manager in identifying funding opportunities, developing and submitting proposals, reviewing pre and post-awards, negotiating contracts, and ensuring compliance. In 2009, he was the Co-Principal Investigator on the International Extramural Associates Research Development Award (IEARDA), a five-year grant under the National Institutes of Health, which allowed the university to enhance its existing infra­structure to improve solicitation and administration of grants and to train in application and management procedures.

"As I engaged more with researchers, co-wrote and was awarded the grant, and discovered the breadth of research administration, I realized that a career in research administration is more exciting than just accounting and financial management," Rono said.
 
After a colleague attended a meeting of the Society of Research Administrators (SRA) and brought him a copy of Emmanuel's Graduate Studies + Nursing brochure on the Online Master of Science in Management with a specialization in Research Administration, he immediately began looking for a tuition sponsor and initiated the application process to become one of two international students admitted to the program this fall. Rono noted that his supervisors were initially hesitant to approve his undertaking the graduate program, concerned that his studies would interfere with his work duties. So far, Rono said, the course load, which is comprised of six graduate courses that are taken in one calendar year, fits well into his daily routine.

"They are actually telling me that I seem to do more now, after reading e-mails and receiving reports that I work on during my breaks when studying outside normal work hours."

The Graduate Research Administration Certificate was launched in fall 2008, created as a partnership between Emmanuel College faculty and sponsored research practitioners from the Longwood Medical and Academic Area (LMA) and beyond. As one of only a handful of graduate programs of its type, the fully online format was developed in 2009, allowing research administration professionals across the nation and now, around the world, to access Emmanuel's tailored graduate courses and expand their professional networks.

"Emmanuel really enjoys a premier position in the field of research administration," said Dean of Graduate Studies + Nursing Dr. Judith Marley. "We were the first to launch this specialized management graduate content as an academic credential. This extends the work of professional associations such as SRA and NCURA (National Council of University Research Administrators)."

The innovative program attracts strategic partnerships with employers in the field of research, with expert instructors from such renowned institutions as Harvard University, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Partners HealthCare, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dartmouth College. In 2010, Emmanuel College received an Outreach and Engagement Community of Practice Award from the University Continuing and Professional Education Association for recognition of excellence in "Employer and Association Partnerships in Research Administration."

Dr. Marley foresees the program growing as a global resource due to the rigor of the curriculum, expertise of the faculty and because of the addition of the flexible, asynchronous online format, which complements the option to study on the Emmanuel campus. These graduate programs are not only important to federally funded health projects, but also to align with Emmanuel's mission of transformation for global impact through educational excellence. Currently, the one-year program for working professionals who study part-time starts twice per year, in September and January. To date, students in the program hail from 20 states as well as the country of Kenya, creating a valuable network for graduates.

"Our students who study in cohort groups, both in the online format or the face-to-face model, bond and utilize each other's expertise to scale their institution's funded research," said Dr. Marley. "It's important for their careers, for information sharing in their profession, and for the impact on society which these funded projects support."

Rono expects the certification will enable him to confidently participate in the growth of the research enterprise at the MTRH/MUSOM and broaden the institutions they interact with in the East African region.

"I also expect that I will be able to advance our research administration efforts by better serving faculty members doing research, protecting the institution's reputation and finances... [providing] good stewardship of donor/agency funds and facilitating the discovery of new knowledge for the good of the general public, which I believe is the envisaged course output of Emmanuel College."

For more information on the Graduate Program in Research Administration, click here.