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Staff Q&A: Juleen Morford, manager of research administration, IPHAM

Juleen Morford

Juleen Morford, manager of research administration at the Institute for Public Health and Medicine (IPHAM), oversees and manages nearly every aspect of award administration for the research institute.

Read a Q&A with Morford below.

Where are you originally from?

I am originally from Alpena, Michigan, a place my dad likes to say “no one goes to by accident”. It’s a small town with industrial roots on the shores of Lake Huron. Its claims to fame are the annual Brown Trout Festival, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and the fact that you have to drive for over an hour to find a Starbucks.

What is your educational background?

My education has focused on international and intercultural studies. I completed a bachelor’s in anthropology and African studies from Kalamazoo College, a Master of Arts in intercultural studies from Lesley University, and a Master of Education in international education development from Teachers College at Columbia University. I loved all of it, but as with so many research administrators, none of it prepared me directly to work this field!

What is your professional background?

I’ve been working in higher education for 20 years, and I’ve always worked to support members of the academic community — students, scholars and faculty — by demystifying federal regulations and university processes so they can focus on their academic pursuits. 

I spent the first 10 years of my career helping international students and scholars navigate the F-1 and J-1 visa regulations at schools in Boston and New York. When I moved to Chicago 10 years ago, I started working at Northwestern first at Kellogg as a program manager in Executive Education. While I enjoyed the work and the intellectual environment, I wanted to find a position that used a wider range of my skills and interests. I chose to move into research administration since it seemed to fit the bill and provided a path for career progression that can be difficult to find in higher education roles. I started as an associate research administrator at the McCormick School of Engineering and after two years moved to IPHAM where I’ve been for the last 5 years and am now a manager on a wonderfully dynamic and successful team.

I’m very happy that I chose to work in research administration. There is always something new to learn, new ways to engage with the field and the research administration community, and my work supports the innovative and collaborative research of IPHAM investigators.

Why do you enjoy working at Northwestern?

Northwestern is made up of amazing people. I’ve benefited immensely from a great group of colleagues and mentors in my career here. I also appreciate that NU has created so many programs to support employee well-being and development both within Feinberg and at the university level.

How do you help scientists or research students at the medical school?

From proposal submission through award closeout, I focus on the administrative details so investigators can focus on their science. When an investigator has an idea for a proposal, I review the funding announcement, create a timeline for preparing the documents for submission, and alert them to any special requirements needed for the submission. I especially enjoy working with early-career investigators — students, postdocs and junior faculty — as they launch their research careers. Submitting a proposal is no small endeavor, and I’m happy to work with and support them through the process.

What is your favorite part of the job?

I enjoy a good puzzle so I like when I need to dig into a project and try to untangle the threads. I’ve always been motivated to support individuals with their personal and professional growth through my work so I enjoy working with the training and education grants throughout the different centers in IPHAM. I’ve learned over the years that I have the most job satisfaction when I’m supporting research to which I feel a personal connection, so having the opportunity to work with these types of grants and the trainees is meaningful to me. There is fascinating and important research in all of our centers, and I’ve enjoyed working with them all but I find the most fulfillment in supporting these types of awards.

What exciting projects are you working on?

I’ve recently had the opportunity to become more engaged with supporting research administration in the broader Feinberg and university communities. I am currently working with a group of administrators from across the university to develop a resource for post-award administration of institutional NRSA training awards. I’m excited to collaborate with colleagues across the university to develop an impactful resource that will hopefully make the process of managing these types of awards less stressful and help trainees and departments maximize the value of these important training awards.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time, I enjoy reading, hiking in the forest preserves, dabbling in new classes (Chinese, painting, woodworking, salsa dancing — you name it, I’ll try it) and playing Wild Kratts with my son (he’s Chris; I’m Martin).