Mason boosts training to prepare for new rounds of research awards

Patricia Sperry (left) supervised the Research Administration Certificate program completed by Mohamed H. Ahmed and Angel Washington.

George Mason University is building the foundation to grow the university’s research portfolio by training 100 research administrators this year in a new program designed to help them support faculty and navigate the complex rules and regulations of research grants and contracts.

Research awards can range from a few thousand dollars to multimillions over several years and touch on everything from finding a cure for HIV to healing war-torn communities.

More than 50 staff recently earned the Research Administration Certificate and 2.6 continuing education credits for the 11-session course that covers topics ranging from how to develop initial proposals to how to close out an award when it is finished. More administrators are expected to earn certificates in December.

Many research administration experts have been a part of George Mason’s growth into a research powerhouse. Last year Mason joined the ranks of top-tier, or R1, research universities as listed by the prestigious Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning.

Angel Washington began her career at Mason 26 years ago as a sociology student and knows full well the intricacies that come with major, and even smaller, grants as well as working with faculty to make sure all rules are met. She’s now a financial services specialist in the Department of Biology within the College of Science.

“The training for me was both a recap and brought me up to speed on new rules and regulations,” said Washington, tapping a thick binder full of information from the course. “As people have retired or moved on, it’s important to have everyone on the same page with understanding the regulations. You have to be very detailed because we have to be ready for an auditor to come in at any time.”

The university is focused on increasing the number of awards pursued and won. Mason currently has about 1,320 active grants and contracts (federal, state, corporations and foundations), totaling about $100 million in research expenditures.

Mason’s Office of Sponsored Programs, which supports the university’s external research funding, coordinates the certificate program and developed the content with the help of a multidisciplinary advisory committee.

“Especially with the new R1 designation, we want people up and running to support Mason’s research mission,” said Patricia Sperry, associate director, outreach and systems administration, for the Office of Sponsored Programs. “We thought if everyone could see the process from start to finish, they would see the whole picture and where their pieces fit in.”

Mohamed H. Ahmed recently earned his master’s degree in environmental science and policy and is the financial manager for the Center for Climate Change Communication within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. At Mason for eight years, he’s worked on research grants as a research administrator and as a researcher.

Now, thanks to the course, Ahmed has a larger team of experts to draw upon when he has questions.

“Research administration is a team-based discipline—we all need to work together and manage resources properly,” he said. “The research grant administrators definitely are the bridge between the researcher, funding agency and institution.”


College of Education and Human Development: Kim Howe, Kim Kalthoff, Francina Osoria, Patricia Reed, Petra Russell.

College of Health and Human Services: Joshua Bowen. 

College of Humanities and Social Sciences: Mohamed Ahmed, Ann Cheetham, Janice Cohen, Bradley Flood, Megan Ober, Katharine Rupp, Kenneth Santos, Olga Shchepina, Tyler Smith.

College of Science: Lisa Bair, Samantha Cooke, Kate Daie, Maryellen Daniels, Maria D'Souza, Jessica Hanna, Natasha Henrich, Jun Kim, Natalie Lapidot-Croitoru, Andrea Nikoi, Ute Shaw, Angel Washington, Ryan Wetter.                      

Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study: Jennifer Sturgis, Jane Wendelin.    

Office of Sponsored Programs: Kristofer Brown, Joanne Carter, Shamekia Davis, Jennifer Fortney, Eileen Gallagher, Karen Gentry, Elizabeth Hale-Salice, Deborah Hill, Lindsay Holyfield, Beth Ives, Jennifer Kasparian, Kimberly Maze, Heather Scruggs, Amy Speed, Yolanda Tamayo. 

Provost’s Office: Emily Bello, Kayla Hine, Jacqueline Kang.  

Safety, Emergency and Enterprise Risk Management: Amy Springfloat.      

School of Business: Margaret Dyre, Brandon Henrich.

Volgenau School of Engineering: Joyce Kong, Terri Mancini, David Oler.